Sometimes the past becomes very present. Because I still live in the same area where so many difficult things happened, I'm still prone to attempts by others to lure me back into that old way of life. Those who like to control others are not fond of losing control. As difficult as it has been for me to break free, it is more difficult for some (especially the Enemy) to let go. But God is so much bigger than any devil, man, or circumstance, past - present - and future.
"The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" Psalm 118:6, NIV
I am learning to walk on new legs of Victory and Faith, and while my legs may wobble and even collapse at times, God is always faithful to pick me up again. (In this illustration, God is Thumper from Disney's Bambi... but I think that's Ok...)
I wanted to share a couple of the things that God is revealing to me, because it is times like these - the harder times - that the true power of Christ shines through. Christianity, unlike any other religion on the planet, not only offers an explanation for suffering; it offers true, unparalleled hope in the midst.
I'm not a huge fan of uncomfortable feelings. Which, I suppose, by definition makes them uncomfortable. As soon as I find myself experiencing something unpleasant inside of me, I immediately want it gone. In the past, I would try to push the feelings away with substances, self harm, or emotional numbing. Even now, I try to push the feelings away by distracting myself with inane things, or demanding that God immediately rectify the situation. I find myself getting frustrated with God when He doesn't swoop down in the way I want Him to in the timing I want Him to and fix everything. A lot of those emotions are born of a legitimate fear that the discomfort will persist for a very, very long time. Spending the formative years of my life in a state of perpetual fear gave me the impression that feelings, once felt, linger for intolerably long periods of time.
God is teaching me that life is different now. He is showing me little crevices that I can slip into to weather out the storm. I am learning to trust that feelings are temporary, and even the feelings that don't seem temporary are bearable with God's help. Understand that I have heard this all before. "The sun will come out, TOMORROW!" But when the blackness lingers past what I felt I could tolerate, I created my own little sun in my own little way to try to push the darkness back. I had to get my hands on some real truth - some truth that would sustain me through anything.
Sometimes, I find it helpful to read the Psalms aloud. Psalm 118 above, Psalm 91, Psalm 31, and Psalm 23 are great places to start. They are honesty, born out of trial, that express the human condition without apology, but also point to the One who is able.
Music is another way that I fill myself with truth. Kari Jobe, Brooke Fraiser, Chris Tomlin, David Crowder, Matt Redman, Hillsong, Gateway, and Desperation Band all have amazingly appropriate songs for when we struggle. There are times, though, when the Bible feels too heavy and the songs start to blend together, and I've had to find other ways to refuel.
I've been blessed over the years to have friends and family that have written me encouraging letters and notes. Especially having been in the hospital so much, I've received some of the most uplifting words. God speaks through people still, today. I pull out those notes from time to time as a tangible, flesh-on reminder of God's love. I recently pulled out my "good-bye" book from Mercy, where many of the girls I lived with wrote messages to me when they graduated. Those words are prophecy of life to me. It was so encouraging.
Getting outside and experiencing Creation is extremely cathartic. My best friend and I used to wait for rainstorms and intentionally walk/play/lie down in the rain. It's like heaven pouring down, lighting up every sense in my body. I feel present, grounded, and alive. With all of the weather we've been having this summer, I should do that again!
Calling or texting a good friend, while praying specifically for encouragement is amazing. God wants to bless you. He wants to hold you in His arms. He will speak through His Word, through songs, through creation, and through others, if we listen. It is the moments of experiencing His love that make weathering the storm possible. Listening to music doesn't make the problem go away. It may not even change how you're feeling - but that's not the point.
The point is to listen for a touch from heaven, and to receive. God's done some pretty amazing things over these past few weeks - going out of His way to prove His love for me. Some mornings, I wake up overwhelmed and frustrated, and those feelings stay throughout the day. Some mornings, though, I wake up with hope, and that's a very new and different way of walking through a trial.
Grateful and always learning.
"When David and his men came to Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep... David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God." 1 Samuel 30: 3-6