“If Only” — The Two Little Words That Lead to Discontent and Misery

if only

My son was thrilled when, on his birthday, he got the gift he had been wishing for for quite some time: an IPod Touch!  He had great and exciting plans for how he was going to use it.  Being able to play a certain game called Minecraft was one of the most phenomenal aspects of owning his own device. The expression on his face was priceless when he opened his gift!! He was ecstatic!

A couple of days later, he crawled up on my bed and let out a heavy sigh.  “Mom,” he said, “I wish I had never gotten an IPod.”  Why the quick change in attitude?  You see, when we gave him the gift, we also clearly explained our expectations surrounding how he was to take care of it, the limitations relating to how long and when he could play it, and where he could take it.  This is most certainly not what he had in mind, and because our expectations were so very different from his, he was terribly unhappy.  He went on to say, ” IF ONLY there were no limits and I could have it whenever and however I want it. IF ONLY you and dad hadn’t given me rules I have to follow.  IF ONLY I could keep it in my room.”  His enchantment had turned to discontent and he was miserable.

I’m gonna be honest — I was furious with him.  Did he realize how lucky he was to get such a nice gift?  Did he understand it was a financial sacrifice on our part to buy it for him? Did he think about the little children all over the world who don’t have FOOD, let alone a super nice electronic device!  I did my best to capture the moment as a teaching opportunity, said my peace, and sent him to bed. (I didn’t pull out the “children are starving in Africa” card, but I was thinking it!) Much later, when listening to a Tim Keller sermon, I was convicted.  Oh my heavens, that’s me!!!  So much of my discontent, misery, and frankly my sin, begins with the two little words:

IF ONLY

For years my family of 6 (and all our animals!) lived in a tiny house.  If I said it once, I said it a thousand times … “IF ONLY I had a bigger house!  Everything would be better.  I prayed and begged and did everything in my power to get us into a position where we could buy and move into a bigger house.  Well, guess what? Finally, we moved.  We have a beautiful, much larger home that has provided us much needed space; a huge backyard in which my children run and play for hours and hours, great neighbors, and we’re down the street from my parents, who provide free babysitting.  I mean, seriously, it’s been an awesome blessing! Well, you know what I said about 2 months after we moved in?!?! This house is awfully big to have to clean by myself.  I’m exhausted trying to keep up.  IF ONLY we had the money to hire someone to come and help me!!!!

Isn’t this exactly what the Israelites did? They were in slavery in Egypt for some 400 years.  They were terribly mistreated. Their children were killed.  They were told to make bricks without straw.  They begged God for freedom.  And God heard their cry and miraculously brought them out of slavery. Fast forward just a little bit of time and in Numbers 11 we find them in the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land.  God has been providing for their needs guiding them with cloud by day and fire by night.  He has been feeding them with manna.  They have not gone hungry, even for one day.  Yet they cry out and say,

“IF ONLY we had meat to eat.  

Remember the fish we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic?” (11:4b-5)

These people had been rescued from slavery.  Some had been rescued from death.  Literal death. They saw the amazing things God had done to free them.  They experienced the truth of His Word when he said, “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today … The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent” (Exodus 14:13a, 14).   They saw the Red Sea part and then close back on top of the Egyptians, forever thwarting their attempt to capture God’s people.  And now they are complaining because they don’t have meat to eat?????

So often, at the root of my frustration, anxiety, moodiness, anger, etc. are the words IF ONLY.  

IF ONLY we had a bigger house

IF ONLY we had more money

IF ONLY my children would behave better

IF ONLY my husband wouldn’t act a certain way

IF ONLY I was skinnier

IF ONLY I had better health

IF ONLY that person would see things from my perspective

IF ONLY …

Reality is, these two tiny little words are sin. It’s a sin that quietly creeps into my heart, quickly penetrating each and every area of my life.  It feeds my anxiety, my anger.  It leads to discontent.  It leads to misery.  It breaks intimacy. At my core, when I’m saying these words, I don’t trust that God is in control.  That He is “working all things together for my good” (Romans 8:28a).  That through every circumstance in my life He is molding me and shaping me more into the image of Christ.  That He is “orchestrating the universe for my joy” (David Kizziah).

When the words IF ONLY invade my thoughts, I do not have a heart of gratitude.  I am focused on me.  I have lost sight of my First Love.  I have forgotten, even if just momentarily, that this life is not about me.  It’s about a God who saved me.  Not because of anything good I had done (after all, I was DEAD in my sin!), but because of His relentless, unstoppable, never-ending love for me (Ephesians 2: 1-9).

It’s all about You, Jesus

And all this is for You

For Your glory and Your fame

It’s not about me — as if you should do things my way

You alone are God and I surrender to Your ways.

(“Jesus, Lover of My Soul” by Paul Oakley (c)1995 Thankyou Music)

When this is my heart’s cry, there is a joy that overwhelms all of the “if onlys”.  In this place of surrender, I am able to grasp who God is, what He has done, and what He is doing for me.  From this realization there is gratitude.  And in gratitude, there is great peace.  What “if onlys” do you sense God calling you to surrender today?

Anchored in Christ,

Carrie

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The Gift of Pain & Disappointment (The View From 5 Years Out)

Well, our team of 5 sure needs these words on a day like today, at a time such as this. Thankful our precious friend, Kitty Hurdle, has shared her heart and God’s faithfulness with us today on the blog. If you don’t know Kitty, we promise you’ll want to head on over to her site linked at the end. If you do know Kitty, you are already aware of what a treat you’re in for whenever she puts “pen to paper”:

A few weeks ago, it occurred to me that October will mark the 5th anniversary of my husband and I trying to have children. To some, five years sounds like the first 100 meters of a marathon, but to me, this mile marker seemed like a badge of honor. Almost like, if I’d make it this far, then I had a legitimate excuse to wallow.

Because, well, sometimes it feels good to feel bad.

Maybe if my pain is special and unique and if things are really hard for a sustained length of time, then certainly it means that I get a permission slip to be pitiful. As in the classic, don’t return phone calls to my mother; eat all the french fries; be offended by all the people type of pitiful.

Of course, everyone’s pain IS special and unique to the journey that God has them walking. But often I am tempted to hold on too tightly to my pain. To relish it and to keep it around when I need to feel cozy, understood and validated. Kinda like my worn out yoga pants that make me feel so known but so funky and frumpy at the same time. There is wonderful, necessary, God-given space for grief (and grody yoga pants) in the spiritual formation of every believer, but when I dwell longer on my pain than on the Provision and Person of God, I have misplaced my trust. We can’t rush past our pain. We must let God use it to do His good work. But I have the ability to make it into some sort of messed up idol. Clutching my pain close makes me feel safe temporarily, but the reality is that it keeps me far from trusting God.

Yeah…so, holding onto the pain was on my agenda for the entirety of my 12-minute carpool commute to drop my kids at school. (MY KIDS–the ones God gave me instead of giving me what I thought I wanted; the ones who have completely and utterly changed my views on God, life, love, calling and family; the ones I’d endure 60 more months of “no” again in an instant. Those kids.)

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So, my plan was to feel sad, but it was one of the first crisp Fall mornings (which I love!) and the Holy Spirit–the Comforter–just would not let up. He kept recalling to mind all the gifts these 5 long years have held. Friends who sent flowers, wrote notes, called and cussed with me on hard days. He reminded me of the countless ministry opportunities He’d given me and He reminded me how dear HE HAD BECOME TO ME during these years. He wouldn’t let up. So much so, that as I pulled onto my street, my heart was in a place of gratitude and worship. I could honestly and emotionally thank Him for the gift of infertility. Not because He had given me what I asked for, but because His “no” had become my greatest YES. Because He had peeled my white knuckles off of the pain and in exchange, gave me the Person of Himself.

And not to go all Garth Brooks “Unanswered Prayers” on you, but isn’t there something in your life that God has consistently said “no” to, in order to give you a YES in Christ Jesus? What desire is it that He is continually using to create within you a stronger desire for Himself?

Because He is God and we are not, could we, today (and tomorrow, and the next day; when the said “gift” feels like a dagger through the soul), ask Him to give us thankful hearts–ones of humble worship–that say together with the all-sufficient, all-powerful One, “not my will, but yours be done”? Because, when I open my hands to Him, it’s all a gift.

headshotsmallKitty is a missionary, (adoptive) momma and a majorly obsessed wife. You can read more of her adventures of following Him and loving them at www.joelandkitty.com or on Instagram @kitty_hurdle. If you are walking through infertility yourself right now, she would love to send you her favorite book, “Infertility: Finding God’s Peace On The Journey.” Email her for more information at Kitty.Hurdle@CRU.org

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Living Beyond My Circumstances

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Recently, I sat with a dear friend in the middle of a tremendously difficult trial. Facing deep hurt and loss, she said something that literally sent chills from the top of my head to the tip of my toes.

“I was born in the desert, I have lived in the desert, I might die in the desert. But I will still praise Your name.”

It was one of those moments where I could feel God’s presence. I saw Jesus in this precious friend in a very real way. Under the circumstances, there was no way that she could humanly say these words. Her response to this incredibly dark time in her life was one of peace, hope, and worship. She is living beyond her circumstances.

When facing a trial, when dealing with the hardships of living in a fallen, broken world, one of the most difficult things as a believer can be to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and not the wind and the waves. So, how do we stand firm when all around us seems to be crumbling?

Anchor for the Soul

“In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast . . .” (Hebrews 6:17-19)

Thousands and thousands of years ago, God made a covenant with Abraham. A promise that He would make him a great nation, that He would bless him, and make his name great (Genesis 12:1-3). This covenant was one that could not be broken and provided an assurance for Abraham that God would do that which He promised. And this promise provided an anchor for Abraham’s soul. An anchor that would carry him through years of great trial, disappointment, not understanding, and being instructed to do the impossible.

In the same way, God has provided for us an anchor for our souls. A promise. One that can never be taken away. One that can never fade. A cornerstone that is sure and steadfast.

“But now in Christ Jesus, you who were formerly far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ … So then, you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone.” (Ephesians 2:13, 20)

Our souls are secure in Christ Jesus. He is our firm foundation, our solid rock, our cornerstone. If we attempt to make anything else our anchor, when the storms of life come (and they will!) we will be tossed to and fro.

Ask yourself this question: where am I throwing my anchor? What am I looking to in an attempt to feel safe and secure?

  • spouse

  • children

  • job

  • money

  • relationships

  • position

  • my talents and giftings

  • the hope of a better future

  • school

When the circumstances of life are overwhelming, our only hope for security is found in Christ alone. He alone is unchangeable (Hebrews 13:8), His feelings for us never change (Psalm 100:5), He has saved our souls and has brought us near to Him where we can find mercy and grace in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

Believe God

As Tim Keller says, there is a difference between believing IN God and BELIEVING GOD. Abraham believed God. At His core, He knew that what God said was true. He knew that God would fulfill His promises and that He was trustworthy. It was this belief that enabled Him to be obedient when God told him to go with no destination in sight. It is what empowered him to be trust that God would give him a son, even when both he and Sarah were well past child-bearing years. It is what strengthened him to take his only, beloved son up a hill placing him on an alter, and being willing to sacrifice him because God said so. Y’all this is crazy faith. Abraham believed that what God said, He would do. This is the kind of faith I want to have — so deeply rooted in who God is and what He has done that I operate from belief that what God has promised He will do.

Promises of God:

  •  Eternal life for all who believe (John 3:16)
  •  He will supply all of our needs according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19)
  •  Peace that surpasses anything we can understand (Philippians 4:6)
  • He goes before us and never fails us (Deuteronomy 31:8)
  • Nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39)
  • His love is everlasting (Jeremiah 31:3)
  • When we are tempted, He will provide a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13)
  • He will be our hiding place (Psalm 32:7) 
  • He will lead and guide us in Truth (John 16:13)
  • He will complete the work that He has started (Philippians 1:6).
  • He is near to all who call to Him (Psalm 145:18).
  • He is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in Spirit (Psalm 34:18).
  • He makes all things new (2 Corinthians 5:17). 

Notice that none of these promises include a happily ever after, financial wealth, or freedom from pain and suffering. But I find one of the greatest promises of all to be this – He promises us His presence, and in His presence there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).

In the moments when we are struggling to believe, let us be like the man from Mark who said, “I believe. Lord help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

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Walk in Faith

So much of being a believer is about faith. Faith to believe. Faith to persist and produce perseverance. Faith to run well this race set before us. Faith to endure times of trial. Interestingly, the word “faith” is used at least 250 times in the Bible (depending on the translation). While on this earth, Jesus both instructed people to have more faith and questioned their lack of faith.

“Without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). And without faith, it is impossible to live above the circumstances in life.

And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, It is a ghost!And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.

Peter said to Him, Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and *said to him, You of little faith, why did you doubt?

~Matthew 14:25-31

God brings me back to this Scripture over and over again. I am Peter. Confidently, I step out of the boat, my eyes fixed on Jesus, and then life happens. Circumstances are screaming at me, and I lose sight. Suddenly the wind and the waves are all that I can see.

As I picture this exchange between Jesus and Peter, I imagine that Peter frantically calls out to Jesus, “help me!” And Jesus’ response. I just love it. He IMMEDIATELY reaches out and takes hold of Peter and says, “why did you have such little faith?” I don’t think this was a harsh, condescending remark. I think it’s possible that it was a gentle tone that would have conveyed this message: “Peter, why didn’t you believe me and keep your eyes on me? Don’t you know how much I love you? Don’t you know that I can hold you up even when the winds and the waves threaten to swallow you?”

It’s that voice of Love that calls to each one of us.

Know God’s Love

Knowing and believing God’s love for us is absolutely an essential part of living beyond our circumstances. When the storm hits, the diagnosis comes, the painful conversation happens, the person we love leaves, the dream is dashed, Satan, who is the Father of lies, will try to convince us that if God really loved us, if He really cared, then our circumstances would be different. As that lie percolates in our minds, often all we can see are the things in our lives that aren’t good. The pain becomes overwhelming. We feel hopeless, alone, and angry. The question “Why me?” taunts us every moment throughout the day. That we are in the midst of circumstances we are can’t control and don’t understand, we feel unloved and alone.

In these moments, and frankly always, we must go back to what we know is true.

“Keep yourselves in the love of God, expected the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:21)

“We must invite our souls to plunge into His love like a dolphin romping in the sea.  Actively engaging in His unending, extravagant, no-strings-attached affection for you is not narcissism. It’s a necessity. It can mean our survival when we’re faced with loving the loveless.” ~Beth Moore

In order to know and believe that God is for us and not against us, to love those who have hurt us, to show up in relationship when we want to run away, to respond and not react, we must be firmly planted in God’s love for us. Sometimes that requires rehearsing the truth of His love for us in our minds daily. Perhaps minute by minute. Second by second.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18)

“Father God, if nothing can win Thy love, nothing in the universe can prevent Thee from loving us. Thy love is uncaused and undeserved. Thou are Thyself the reason for the love wherewith we are loved. Help us to believe in the intensity, the eternity of the love that has found us. Then love will cast out fear; and our troubled hearts will be at peace. ~A.W. Tozer

I have found it helpful to begin each day by focusing on and thanking God for His perfect, never-ending, sacrificial love for me. As I ask Him to show me the places of my life where I have seen His love, it is amazing how I, by His Spirit, know deeply to my core just how much I am loved by Him. Reminding myself of this Truth enables me to keep my eyes fixed on Him and not the wind and the waves. Like Beth Moore said, in order to live in a peace that passes all understanding, deeply knowing God’s love for us is a complete necessity.

As I think about my friend whose faith inspires me, I can say that each of these things is true about her. The anchor for her soul is Jesus. She believes God and His promises. She is walking in faith, even though she can’t see and doesn’t understand. And she knows deeply that God loves her. As a result, she is finding deep peace in the middle of extremely difficult circumstances.

My prayer is that I, and each of you reading this, will be so rooted and grounded in who God is, what He has done, what He has said, and how He provides, that we, too, will live our lives beyond our circumstances.

Anchored in Christ,

Carrie

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Emotions and the Enemy

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Do you ever feel stuck? Does it ever seem that things are completely out of control and you are being tossed to and fro by the circumstances of your life? Are you struggling to connect with God despite a deep desire to know Him more?

I can certainly answer a resounding YES to all of these questions during multiple periods of time in my life. I’ve wondered time and time again how it seems I am running the race well when suddenly I am hijacked. Rather than fixing my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith, I begin to fix my eyes on the circumstances of the day, or the things I don’t have which I desire, or the dissatisfaction of my life not going the way that I think I should. Can you relate?

Let’s be honest. The reality of this fallen, broken world in which we live is that we will regularly face disappointments, losses, betrayals, illnesses, and other things that are completely out of our control. In these moments, it is enormously helpful to identify what we are feeling: sadness, fear, anger, disappointment, guilt, shame. Leaning into the pain and asking God to meet us in this place provides an opportunity to grow, to know Him more, to understand His sovereignty, His goodness, faithfulness, and love in a new and perhaps deeper way. It is an absolute necessity to allow ourselves time and space to grieve, to work through deep wounding, and to FEEL the emotions that God has given us. In her book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brene Brown talks about the beauty of discomfort and the truth that when we allow ourselves to feel our discomfort and sit in our pain, we are giving ourselves an amazing opportunity to grow emotionally and spiritually.

And, as with all things in life, there must be a balance.

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Feelings are like children. You don’t want them to drive the car, but you don’t want to stuff them in the trunk either.

One day recently, I realized my feelings were driving the car. I felt angry, resentful, and abandoned. I believed wholeheartedly that God is faithful, never changing, good, merciful, a mighty fortress, my rock, provider, and redeemer, AND, I felt like I was drowning. As I was journaling and praying, the truth hit me like a truck.

I had lost sight of Jesus.

Like Peter, when he stepped out of the boat to walk to Jesus in the midst of the tumultuous winds and waves, I was sinking because I lost sight of Jesus.

 

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Jesus Help Me!!

Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him and said to Him, ‘You have so little faith. Why did you doubt? (Matthew 14:31).”

The minute I cried out to Jesus, I felt the tremendous peace for which I had been so desperate. I found myself in the arms of Jesus.

I began to wonder. Why do I have so little faith? Why do I doubt? How do I so easily lose sight of Jesus? I know who He is. I know what I believe. How is it that I so quickly fix my eyes on the wind and the waves when Jesus is standing right there??”

Your adversary [opponent, enemy], the devil, prowls around [to make use of any

opportunities] seeking [meditating, reasoning] someone to devour [to drink down, to swallow up, to destroy]” (1 Peter 5:8).

Y’all. We have an ENEMY. And he IS seeking to devour us. He isn’t like some little red devil with a pitchfork sitting on our shoulders whispering that we should do what’s contrary to what we know is right. He isn’t a gentlemen. He is a ROARING LION.

Look at the verse immediately preceding this one.

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit.”

I find it interesting, and not at all a coincidence, that a verse about giving God our anxieties and having a calm, collected, temperate spirit, sets up this warning about our enemy. When we are living from a place of fear and letting our anxieties and fears control us, we are opening ourselves up to an attack from the enemy. He is seeking someone to devour, and we, in our anxious state, are the perfect target. Then, like a lion, he pounces. Attacking our thoughts, our marriages, our beliefs, our children — whispering lies in our ears.

But resist him, firm in your faith …”

There is power in the name of Jesus. He is stronger and greater than anything that our enemy throws at us. Just yesterday, I found myself starting to drown. The circumstances were closing in. I cried out, “In the name of Jesus, I pray for peace. I pray for protection over me and my children. I pray against the enemy and any attempt he is making to come against us and devour us right now.”

Unexplainable peace came right in the middle of pain,

chaos, and confusion.

Let’s not forget that we have an enemy. Let’s also not forget that our God is greater.

Be strong in the Lord and in HIS mighty power. Put

on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against

all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-

and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the

unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and

against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:10-12).

The fight is not against our husbands/wives, our children, a diagnosis, or our circumstances, whatever they may be. The fight is against our enemy in this fallen and sinful world in which we live.

The Lord Himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”

(Exodus 14:14)

Friends, cry out to Him today.

Standing firm,

Carrie

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Why are you downcast, O my soul?

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Psalm 42

For the director of music. A maskil[c] of the Sons of Korah.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God  under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.

Depression. It’s been a life-long struggle that comes and goes. In some seasons, the grip is so intense I feel as though I will suffocate. Other times, it’s a dark cloud in a holding pattern over my heart. And sometimes it’s a fog that settles quickly over the surface with no rhyme or reason. Occasionally, there is an easily recognizable cause – a major loss or life change. But there are also the periods of overwhelming sorrow or hopelessness with no justifiable cause. I’m not a counselor or a psychiatrist. I’m just a sensitive girl who loves Jesus and wants to seek Him in my struggle. I feel like God is calling me to be open here (though it’s highly uncomfortable). My hope and prayer is that if you also struggle in this area, you may be encouraged. If, perhaps, you are walking the long road beside a loved-one in the depths of depression, I pray my words may offer some insight. Everyone is different and everyone’s struggle is unique. There are so many factors to consider. I’d just like to share with you a few things the Lord has been teaching me as I continually seek His face.

Hugs,

Julie

1. Lean INTO the pain

For most of my adult life, my tactic for dealing with pain has been to numb out and to stuff. I stuff the bad feelings and pretend they aren’t there so they will go away OR avoid the burn of the pain by numbing – checking my Facebook status, scrolling through Pinterest, keeping busy – anything but actually feeling the hard emotions and pain. I have spent many years fearing emotional pain, trying to build walls that would protect me from future wounding.

Trying to control my circumstances to avoid the pain was exhausting and anxiety producing! Brene Brown, a leading sociologist, discusses this in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to be and Embrace Who You Are:

“The most powerful emotions that we experience have very sharp points, like the tip of a thorn. When they prick us, they cause discomfort and even pain. Just the anticipation or fear of these feelings can trigger intolerable vulnerability in us. We know it’s coming. For many of us, our first response to vulnerability and pain of these sharp points is not to lean into the discomfort and feel our way through but rather to make it go away. We do that by numbing and taking the edge off the pain with whatever provides the quickest relief. We can anesthetize with a whole bunch of stuff, including alcohol, drugs, food, sex, relationships, money, work, caretaking, gambling, staying busy, affairs, chaos, shopping, planning, perfectionism, constant change, and the Internet. Before conducting this research I thought that numbing and taking the edge off was just about addiction, but I don’t believe that anymore. Now I believe that everyone numbs and takes the edge off and that addiction is about engaging in these behaviors compulsively and chronically.”

Thorny emotions that expose my vulnerability? No thanks! I would rather shield my heart and keep it from being broken, thank you very much. Well, at least that’s what I thought until two years ago when, through major life changes, I found myself in a deep pit of depression and realized the unhealth of my stuffing. As Brene Brown also points out,“When we numb the dark, we numb the light. While I was ‘taking the edge off’ of the pain and vulnerability, I was also unintentionally dulling my experiences of good feelings, like joy…. We can’t make a list of all of the ‘bad’ emotions and say ‘I’m going to numb these’ and then make a list of the positive emotions and say ‘I’m going to engage in these!’ You can imagine the vicious cycle this creates: I don’t experience much joy so I have no reservoir to draw from when hard things happen. They feel even more painful, so I numb. I numb so I don’t experience joy. And so on.”

Lately, I have been trying to lean into the pain rather than fearing it. This concept is actually one I learned in childbirth. Wanting to have natural childbirth, but not being able to for various reasons with my first three children, I did a lot of research before child #4 came along. One of concepts I stumbled upon was the fear-tension-pain cycle. The basic premise is that the more fearful you become of the pain during labor, the more your muscles will tense, and the more pain you will actually feel. If you can keep from fearing the pain and relax into it, you will actually feel less pain during contractions. Easier said than done, right? But it worked. Knowing that it would be painful and what to expect during the process, having supportive people holding me through the pain, and having a very long playlist of praise worship on my ipod, I was able to deliver sweet baby girl #4 naturally.

Fearing emotional pain causes me to live in great tension. Knowing to expect pain (“in this world you will have trouble”), having supportive people to coach me through (more on that later), and playing worship music constantly (my new playlist), I can breathe and cry and lean into the pain and not fear it.

Why should we lean into the pain rather than fearing it and numbing it? Perhaps there is healing to be found in the honest feeling of emotional pain? When we exercise, our muscles become stronger, even though there may be some measure of pain. In labor, we birth something new through the pain. It is often through pain that growth occurs. If we avoid emotional pain, we may also be stunting the growth and rebirth that could occur if we didn’t stuff or numb. Relationships can be strengthened and new ways of relating can be formed. Over time, sinful patterns can be replaced with new ways of behaving and thinking. By leaning into the pain, we may learn more about the nature of the pain – its possible causes and possible cures. We can become stronger and better equipped to handle future pain in a healthy manner when we are honest about our emotional pain with ourselves and God.

2. Cry OUT to God in the pain

Our God is omnipresent. There is no dark pit deep enough to separate us from His love. Our God is omniscient. He knows us better than we know ourselves. Every thought, every tear – everything is seen by Him. Over and over again in the Scriptures, we see God’s children crying out to Him. There’s an entire book entitled Lamentations – the passionate expressing of grief or sorrow. The Psalms are filled with heart-wrenching honest outpourings of emotion. We even see our merciful Savior cry out to God in the garden, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38).

I used to think that I couldn’t come to God in my pain. That He would be displeased with my lack of joy, so I got really good at praying from my fake self all the while wondering why God felt so distant. But when I fell into a deep pit, God met me in the pain. When the only thing I could do was cry, God held me. When I didn’t have the strength to keep on the mask, I experienced God’s love in a way I never had before. He loved me in my broken mess. I didn’t have to do more/try harder to fix myself, or do anything but sit and rest in the truth that I am His redeemed child.

When we feel like God is far away or we are drowning in a sea of hopelessness, we can bring those feelings to God. His love is greater than our emotions! There is freedom in being vulnerable and honest before the throne of grace.

When condemnation grips my heart

And Satan tempts me to despair

I hear the voice that scatters fear

The Great I Am the Lord is here

Oh praise the One who fights for me

And shields my soul eternally

Boldly I approach Your throne

Blameless now I’m running home

By Your blood I come

Welcomed as Your own

Into the arms of majesty       

Boldly I Approach by Rend Collective

 

In addition, journaling really helps me get the thoughts out of my head. Being a natural introvert, I can process stories and thoughts in my head ad infinitum. Once they are written down, I often gain a new perspective and can refocus on truth. Speaking of truth…

 

3. Talk to yourself OVER the pain

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In Psalm 42, we see the Psalmist in deep despair. He feels as though he is drowning in the waves of his life. He asks himself a series of questions. He repeats truth back to himself. This is really hard for me when I’m depressed. I often become trapped in my own thoughts. I have to fight to turn down my own voice and turn up His voice of truth. The theologian Martin Lloyd Jones in his book Spiritual Depression, writes this about Psalm 42:

“The main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self. Am I just trying to be deliberately paradoxical? Far from it. This is the very essence of wisdom in this matter. Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problem of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment [in Psalm 42] was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself, ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul?’ he asks. His soul had been repressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: ‘Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you’.

The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’– what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’– instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: ‘I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God.'”

Of course, in the depths of depression, talking truth to yourself over the lies becomes almost impossible and that’s why it is so imperative to have friends to speak truth into your life….

 4. Reach out THROUGH the pain

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This is perhaps the hardest thing for a depressed person to do, as our sorrows often trap us in loneliness and isolation. We feel that people can’t understand our pain or that they don’t care. We fear their condemnation and more wounding. As C.S Lewis writes in The Problem of Pain, “Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say ‘My tooth is aching’ than to say ‘My heart is broken’.”

The empathetic support of loved ones is essential for our battle. We need friends who will pray for us even when we don’t have the words to pray for ourselves. We need friends who will lovingly preach truth to us when all we are preaching to ourselves is lies. We need friends who won’t minimize, condemn or try to fix. We need friends who will offer encouragement, gracious words, and perhaps even a shoulder to cry on. We need to know we are not alone!

I’ve taken great comfort in the words of other Christians who have struggled emotionally, specifically Randy Alcorn and Charles Spurgeon. Spurgeon is one of my favorite preachers and theologians. Every word he wrote and spoke is so poignant and filled with metaphoric depth. He preached and thousands were saved. His theological works are tomes of rich truth. Yet, this great man of the faith fought his entire life with depression. Spurgeon also offered an important perspective on the purpose of our pain – that reaching out to others through the pain can also mean reaching out to those that need YOUR help. Spurgeon wrote about his experience:

“One Sabbath morning, I preached from the text, ‘My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken Me?’ and though I did not say so, yet I preached my own experience. I heard my own chains clank while I tried to preach to my fellow-prisoners in the dark; but I could not tell why I was brought into such an awful horror of darkness, for which I condemned myself. On the following Monday evening, a man came to see me who bore all the marks of despair upon his countenance. His hair seemed to stand up right, and his eyes were ready to start from their sockets. He said to me, after a little parleying, ‘I never before, in my life, heard any man speak who seemed to know my heart. Mine is a terrible case; but on Sunday morning you painted me to the life, and preached as if you had been inside my soul.’ By God’s grace I saved that man from suicide, and led him into gospel light and liberty; but I know I could not have done it if I had not myself been confined in the dungeon in which he lay. I tell you the story, brethren, because you sometimes may not understand your own experience, and the perfect people may condemn you for having it; but what know they of God’s servants? You and I have to suffer much for the sake of the people of our charge … You may be in Egyptian darkness, and you may wonder why such a horror chills your marrow; but you may be altogether in the pursuit of your calling, and be led of the Spirit to a position of sympathy with desponding minds.”  –An All Round Ministry, pp. 221-222

Who needs to hear your story? To whom can you reach out today? There is great freedom to be found in living in the light! Perhaps today you need to lean into the pain, cry out to God in the pain, talk to yourself over the pain, or reach out through the pain. Let’s fight like crazy together to fix our hearts firmly on the hope we have in Christ Jesus!

“Every Christian who struggles with depression struggles to keep their hope clear. There is nothing wrong with the object of their hope – Jesus Christ is not defective in any way whatsoever. But the view from the struggling Christian’s heart of their objective hope could be obscured by disease and pain, the pressures of life, and by Satanic fiery darts shot against them. We all have to fight the same way, by getting our views of Christ and his promises clear every hour of every day. All discouragement and depression is related to the obscuring of our hope, and we need to get those clouds out of the way and fight like crazy to see clearly how precious Christ is.” – John Piper

 

Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul

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The Gift of Grief

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I remember that morning like it was yesterday, the image and feeling permanently burned into my heart and mind. Just coming out of the new mother fog into a whole different way of life, I was beginning to adjust to my dizzying new reality. The constant fatigue from lack of sleep, the non-stop feedings and care of an infant, the joy of holding and kissing and loving this amazing gift of life and the fumbling to find the rhythm and routine with a precious little boy now in our care. And there he was in the back seat. This happy, joyful, laughing baby. His eyes caught mine in the rear view mirror as the sun poured in… Smiling right at me! My heart was overwhelmed with love and gratitude for our first-born son, having no idea this moment was a gracious parting gift goodbye.

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Everything can change in an instant. If it hasn’t happened yet, it will.  That moment when the bottom drops out. When everything you knew no longer is. 

“There’s been an accident.”

“I’m having an affair.”

“You’re fired.”

“It’s stage IV cancer.”

“He’s not breathing…” Those three words changed my life forever. And I knew it the first moment they registered in my brain… my world would never be the same. On that same sunny day, our 4 ½ month old child stopped breathing during a nap and could not be revived. Our world was turned upside down.

Many psychologists say there is no pain so deep as the loss of a child. It is excruciating. Some moments it physically felt like I could not breathe. There were times I begged to never take another breath of air again. And still there are days when the wave of grief crashes over me out of nowhere and I crumble beneath it’s weight. How does a mother continue to live when her child is gone? 

As devastating as the death of our son has been, there are other losses I’ve experienced which, while different, have been almost as brutal and life-altering in their intensity of pain. Rejection and betrayal are particularly overwhelming griefs to bear. I’ve come to believe that the depth of our grief is in direct proportion to the depth of our love and connection. Simply, the more we love, the greater the loss.

Grief is defined as a keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret. The longer I live, the more I experience it and see it in the lives of those around me. Everywhere I turn, there is profound loss. The loss of dreams, of health, of relationships, of loved ones.

In this world you will have trouble” John 16:33.

For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” Matthew 5:45.

I used to believe it was Jesus’ plan to fix our broken hearts. That His intention in the lives of His children was to fit each piece of our shattered hearts back together, good as new. And one day God dashed my dreams of wholeness and gave me a new vision for His mission in my life and in the world. As I cried out to God to heal these broken places and make me whole again, He whispered, “That’s not how it works at all. My mission is not to fix what’s been broken as if it never happened.”

Behold, I am doing a new thing” Isaiah 43:19. A deeper work. Because in the kingdom of God, healing doesn’t mean fixed, healing means changed.

“I don’t put the pieces back together as if your heart had never been shattered.  I fill in the broken places with Myself.”

I have never in my life felt the presence of God more powerfully than in my moments of deepest grief. In fact, this is one of the greatest proofs of the existence of God to me. That in my moments of utter despair, I can testify with certainty that these promises are true…  

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” Isaiah 43:1-2

For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock.” Psalm 27:5

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

The GIFT of grief is the PRESENCE of God.

There is a sacred space in the agonizing prayers of God’s beloved where He meets us with His divine presence. Because there is no loss, no grief, “no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still” (Corrie Ten Boom). It is more REAL than anything we’ve ever felt. Not only does He flood our souls with peace that passes understanding, but He gives us a glimpse of the magnitude of His love for us. That He willingly entered into the agonizing pain of this world and endured grief beyond description on our behalf.

In one of the most moving accounts of His humanity, Jesus shows us how He deeply identifies with the pain of His children. As Mary and Martha grieved the death of their brother Lazarus, so did Jesus. When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled” John 11:33. Jesus wept vs. 35.

What a baffling reaction. Why was Jesus so troubled? Why did he cry and mourn along with his beloved friends? Jesus knew not only the eternal ending of this story, but even the earthly miracle He was about to perform that would take away their sorrow in an instant, yet, He stopped to grieve.

Christ has put on our feelings along with our flesh,” writes John Calvin. While Jesus experienced joy and love and friendship and peace, He also felt the deepest pains of rejection, betrayal, loneliness, and loss.  He was truly “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” Isaiah 53:3. We suffer no pain He was unwilling to endure Himself. Our own grief then leads us to the reality and power of the gospel. That the Creator drew near. He entered in. Immanuel, God with us. He not only paid the penalty for our sins, but He bore the weight of our griefs and afflictions. As God in the flesh, He actually experienced our sorrows. As God the Father, He is intimately acquainted with the loss of a child, His only Son. 

He has promised a time will come when He will wipe the tears from our eyes forever, when joyous reunions will leave the past as distant memories. When “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” Revelation 21:4.

Until that day, what do we do when our hearts are shattered by loss?

Where do we go for comfort?

Who can understand the depth of our pain?

“Even the glories of Christ afford no such consolation to afflicted spirits as the sufferings of Christ. Christ is in all attitudes the consolation of Israel, but He is most so as the man of sorrows. Troubled spirits turn not so much to Bethlehem as to Calvary; they prefer Gethsemane to Nazareth. The afflicted do not so much look for comfort in Christ as He will come a second time in splendor of state, as to Christ as He came the first time, a weary Man, and full of woes. The passion flower yields us the best perfume; the tree of the cross bleeds the most healing balm. Like in this case cures like, for there is no remedy for sorrow beneath the sun like the sorrows of Immanuel…

Let us go, then, without reluctance to the house of mourning, and commune with “The Chief Mourner,” who above all others could say, “I am the man that has seen affliction.” Charles Spurgeon

What a friend we have in Jesus, bearing not only our sin but also our grief. 

Held by Him,

Leslie

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The Hurt and The Hope

I wrote this on Easter, but it is a word for today as well….

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As I come into church this Easter, my heart is so heavy.

It breaks for a friend whose marriage is falling apart. I weep for a friend who has been in so much physical pain for months and is not improving. I weep for the widow who gets the Easters baskets made and bow ties put on all alone this year. I hurt for the conversion van that drives by with one less precious child in it this Easter.

I put on my brightly colored dress, but I don’t feel like rejoicing. I want to KICK and SCREAM and beat the air with my fists. The brokenness. The sin. The mess of it all is just too real this year. The darkness seems too big.

We sing familiar choruses, and I follow along, until these words knock me to my knees…

“No power of Hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from his hand. Till he returns or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I stand. And as I stand in victory, sin’s curse has lost its’ grip on me. For I am his and he is mine, bought with the precious blood of Christ.”

Yes, Lord!

I remember.

Your light and love are bigger than the darkness.

I have your power to STAND,

not crawl, not cower, but STAND in victory. The victory won by your precious blood on the cross.

And I have HOPE. Till He returns or calls me home- I have HOPE.

If this broken, messy life is all there is….

Well, I can’t even imagine…..

If the tomb wasn’t empty and the disciples made the whole story up…

“Your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life, we have hope in Christ, we are of all people to be pitied.”- 1 Cor 15:17-19

BUT if death is dead, and if dead are raised.

If Christ is risen from the dead- brothers and sisters-

Let us feast and celebrate, for the dawning light of inextinguishable and inexhaustible eternal pleasures have broken into darkness, offering us a life of joy in Christ that cannot fade or rust or be stolen away.”- Reinke

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This hope is REAL! “No power of hell or scheme of man” can snatch it away. No amount of sin or pain or illness or loss.

“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.”

 

Where is your hope built?

 

Hugs,

Julie

 

 

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Seeing It In Black and White: What God Has and Has Not Promised Me

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I’m in one of my what I like to call this is where the rubber meets the road times in life. Those times when I am struggling to put into practice what I’ve only known in theory. I can almost feel myself working out my salvation with fear and trembling- the burn of heavy lifting that builds solid, hard-core faith muscles. It’s painful, exhausting and I hate it. This one is a major lesson in trust. (Aren’t they all???) I’m determined to persevere so that this awful exercise produces the results God intends. But before I consent to trust Him with my family’s future, my husband’s career, basically the entire course of my life, I’ve realized that I am in need of some serious Jesus Followers 101 review. I need reminding of what this whole “take up your cross and follow me” business is all about, of what God has and has not promised me. And I need to see it black and white.

GOD HAS NOT PROMISED ME:                            

Financial Success                                                         

Career Achievement                                                    

A Fulfilling Marriage                                                  

Physical Health                                                            

The House of My Dreams                                         

Obedient Children                                                      

Healthy Children                                                         

Successful Children                                                    

A Good Reputation                                                      

Happiness              

                                                      

GOD HAS PROMISED ME

Forgiveness of Sins

New Life

Eternal Life

Spiritual Fruit

His Presence

His Comfort

Living Water

Unconditional Love

Daily Grace

Joy

Seeing it in black and white reminds me how radical this whole Jesus thing is. How counter-cultural. How narrow the road. And I signed up for this; we all signed up for this or we aren’t really Christians. This trial brings me face to face with my own version of the toxic American prosperity gospel. It reveals that so very often my hope and happiness are tethered to promises God never, ever made me. My mouth will tell you all day long that it’s a sham, and I don’t buy into one single ounce of it. But my heart tells another story because my anxiety doesn’t lie. My husband hit the nail on the head when he said, “The anxiety comes from trying to bend God’s will to mine.” I want God to reign in my life AND I want what I want. The cold, hard truth is that He never promised to give me what I want, even when it’s good.

God loves me enough to continuously redirect my eyes and remove idols from my heart. He wants me to want what I want AND to willingly surrender it because I love and trust Him. Ultimately, I want to want Him above anything. (I’m kinda thinking that might be the whole point of it all anyway.) And it’s still hard, hard, hard in the difficult circumstances of my every day life. I need constant reminding of the truth. Paul tells me in Colossians 3:1-4 how important it is to make and meditate on this list; to fix my mind and heart on what He has promised me and not the temporary blessings He has not.

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above,

where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” 

A huge part of my sanctification is the process of God teaching me to bend my will to His instead. To love the Giver more than the gifts. To live for the kingdom of God, which is where I’ll spend eternity, not the kingdom of this world, which is quickly coming to an end. The foundational truth of Romans 8:28 that we cling to with all our might reassures us that each storm and every difficulty, in fact,

“ALL THINGS work together for the good of those who are called according to His purpose.”

I was reminded this week that in verse 29, Paul goes on to clearly define just exactly what that “good” looks like.

“FOR those whom he foreknew,

he predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.”

My good doesn’t mean it all works out as I hope and pray it will. It means I come out looking more and more like Jesus. That is the promise. That is the happy ending in this life. And an unfathomable glory awaits me on the other side. So when cancer or divorce or teenage rebellion or chronic pain or career failure or bankruptcy or death or betrayal or tornadoes (I live in Mississippi) threaten to shatter my dreams in a thousand pieces, I get to anchor my hope and happiness not into earthly dreams, but deeper in to the truth of His ETERNAL promises.

“For He who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23

Held by Him,

Leslie

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When I Just Want To Make It All Better

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I recently read about a gal who had experienced both a bout with cancer and a 2 1/2 year nurse anesthesia program. When asked if she was forced to endure one of the two again, her choice was clear. She would chose cancer. The sentiment is both terrifying and oddly comforting as my husband is in month 10 of a 27 month crna program. So we aren’t total weaklings who just can’t hack it. It is stinkin’ hard. And in one student’s opinion, harder than cancer.

In addition to the fact that my husband is the ripe old age of 41, married with 3 children, and attending a school three states away from our support system of 20+ years, the program requirements themselves are monumental. It is, without a doubt, one of the most difficult challenges he has ever faced. And I am pretty much just a spectator of the roller coaster ride from “you know where” that is crna school. Day after day, I witness the physical, emotional, mental and, yes, spiritual battles my husband endures. The truth is, we were warned about how difficult it would be and we still chose this battle. And the other truth is, it’s still worse than bad. I hurt deeply watching my husband’s struggle. And I just want to make it all better.

A few weeks into this third semester, my husband came home from a particularly awful day in the OR. He had, once again, been berated in front of the entire staff, his first exam was coming up in a few days, and he needed to spend hours preparing for upcoming cases the following day. I could almost see the weight of the world sitting there on his shoulders as he slumped down on the couch with his head in his hands. He was reaching a breaking point. In 14 years of marriage, I had never seen him like that. And it terrified me. Immediately, I did what I do best… I started talking.

I reminded him of all the good things that were happening, the progress he had made, every positive I could think of. Then I listed all the “at leasts”. I told him how bad it could be but wasn’t, perhaps implying that he should be feeling grateful instead of defeated. Finally, I optimistically reminded him that he only had a few months in this, the worst semester, and that the time would fly by. He just sat there as I rattled on and on. His posture didn’t change and he said nothing. Then, from out of nowhere, I heard a voice loud and clear in my head. “Stop talking.” Huh? “Just be quiet.” What? How could that possibly be helpful?

Whatever I was doing didn’t seem to be working, so I might as well give it a try. (It was harder than I thought.) But I did it. I bit my lip and I shut up. Then I moved over closer, put my hand on his knee and just sat there. Instead of my help, I gave him my presence. And in those next few moments together, we had one of the most bonding experiences of our marriage. It was a moment of deep connection to each other and to God.

It turns out that the last thing my husband needed was for me to make it all better. He didn’t need my list of positives vs. negatives or words of encouragement or calendar countdowns to the end of the trial. What my husband needed was for me to just sit with him in the hard stuff, in the struggle, in the sadness. What I didn’t realize is that he needed to feel the weight of his burden and the enormity of the task ahead. Because it was in his helplessness and despair that God met him. In his weakness, he realized his deep need for God’s strength. He was then able to surrender that which he could not control and cry out to God for strength to continue.

This little scenario has made a profound impact on my idea of what it means to come alongside and support those I love. I recognize that my need to talk my husband out of his fear and pain has a lot more to do with my own unease than it does with actually helping him. I am starting to see that I often need him to be okay so that I can be okay. Because his pain makes me uncomfortable. And that, my friends, is classic codependence. 

I now realize that while I so desperately want to make it all better for my husband, my children, and my friends, that may not be what they need at all. Maybe God is actually leading them into the valley where they will hear the voice of their Shepherd and a deep work of the Spirit will move them forward on their sanctification journey. And maybe instead of trying to minimize and move them past their pain, God is calling me to courageously enter into the valley with them. I am learning that what they need most from me is a listening ear, compassion, and most of all, my presence. They need to know they aren’t alone in their struggle. And I need to learn to stop trying to rescue them from their struggle, which might just be exactly where God wants them.

Held by Him,

Leslie

 

 

 

 

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