Dear Weary Friend, Are you in a place in life where you feel darkness closing in around you? Does sunshine feel like a distant memory?
I can relate.... In my twenties, my main goal was to keep my ducks in a row. As long as my ducks were in a row, things would all come together and life would be perfect... I worked hard to keep my ducks in a row. I measured every detail in my life against perfection: my career, my marriage, how others perceived me, my home, my ability to become a mom... Honestly, I grew exhausted trying to achieve this dream of the perfect life. Let's just say, things did not go as I had planned- that snapshot of the perfect life faded. My false sense of control faded. I grew weary. I grew weak. As Christians we are not immune to heartache and hard times. James 1:2-4 says: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work in you that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything." It does not say IF you face trials, but WHEN you face trials. And, joy, really!?? In the midst of trials, joy sometimes seems far fetched!
I only share all of this because I was recently reminded of this period in my life- a period where I struggled to find joy. A few weeks ago, my daughter was diagnosed with the flu, two days later, my son began showing symptoms as well! It was a rough few days around our home! We survived and everyone is doing well now, thankfully! But I can't help but think how things have changed for us the past few years. Our daughter, Marley, has a seizure disorder and diagnosis of Dravet Syndrome. One trigger for seizures is related to her inability to regulate her own body temperature. Any sudden change in her body temperature leads to a seizure. Please keep in mind, Marley is on the mild end of the Dravet Syndrome spectrum and she is currently doing better than we ever imagined.
There was a period of time when seizure control was poor and she had many other triggers. There are studies that support being a parent to a child with special needs is comparable to a war veteran with PTSD. The constant anxiety and stress is like nothing I'd ever experienced. These anxieties were intensified when Marley was sick. Would we be able to get the fever down, would there be prolonged seizures, what if her airway became compromised, what if this awful disease takes my baby... These were the things that kept me awake at night. It wasn't long before these anxieties grew and I became anxious about pretty much everything in life. The dreams I once had became more and more distant. I was good to survive each day.
I've come to the conclusion that fear is rooted from a desire for control. At the time, I thought that if I could somehow stay in control, everything would be ok... the truth is, I became even more aware of my lack of control. This lack of control spiraled into a sense of hopelessness and depression. And let me tell you, that is exactly where the enemy wanted me. But it took this total loss of control for me to learn I was never intended to be in control.
The enemy wants us in a pit where we feel alone in the world- pushing away those closest to us. He feeds us shame making us believe no one understands the place we are standing. He cloaks us with a dark cloud so we believe that sunshine exists for others but not for us. He wants to overwhelm us with pressure leaving us feeling literally breathless. Does this sound familiar for anyone else?
Here is the TRUTH: HE IS A LIAR! HE IS A THIEF!
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10 NIV
How did I overcome my battle with fear?
1.) Recognize my desire for control and the dangerous pattern to seek control. "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." 1 John 4:18 NIV
2.) Keep my focus on the LORD! Accept I'm not supposed to be the one in control! "He said: "Listen King Jehosophat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem. This is what the LORD says to you: "Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. The battle is not your's but God's." 2 Chronicles 20:15 NIV
3.) Put Satan in His place... In all seriousness, OUT LOUD- I tell him to FLEE! In those moments that fear has a grip on me so tight I can't catch my breath- I speak aloud and tell him to leave, there is no room in my life for his pettiness. My God is BIGGER AND BETTER AND is the UTMOST HIGH! No one even comes close!! "For the LORD, Most High, is awesome, the King over all the earth." Psalm 47:2 NIV
4.) SURRENDER- Hand the reins over. Jesus take the wheel. Pray to God, handing over the details that are ailing me. This is not just a one time event. This is a daily commitment to letting go. There were days I had to literally minute by minute remind myself to hand over my problems. "Cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7 NIV
5.) GRATITUDE. Praise Him. He is worthy of our praise! You know all of those catchy quotes you hear- See the good.. Choose Joy.. Yes, those!! Train your mind to look for the positive things in your life. Look beyond your hardships and things that are out of your control. Make a choice to be grateful for the everyday blessings! Meditate on and memorize verses that encourage you! I write verses and prayers on notecards and post them throughout my house where I see and read them often. These little reminders help keep my focus in a positive direction. For a couple of years now, I've kept a quote from Lysa Terkeurst as the screensaver on my phone. This quote is a constant reminder that I may not have control in this life, but I do have control over my thoughts. "The mind feasts on what it focuses on. What consumes my thinking will be the making or the breaking of my identity." Oh, I can't leave off music!! I choose to listen to music that is uplifting!!
My Meme, my Dad's mom, passed away when I was 16. Part of her legacy is her love for God and His Word. I am so thankful for her influence in my life. Her most favorite hymn is entitled, "Because He Lives." The song by Bill and Gloria Gaither is reported to have come during a difficult time in their lives. The lyrics are simple, yet powerful and have become a huge source of comfort for me.
"Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing... Do you not know what you have heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths will grow tired and weary, and young men will stumble and fall; but those who HOPE in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40:26-31 NIV
The details included here may seem too simple, believe me, I tried every way on my own. Once you are able to remove the focus from yourself and onto Him, and His goodness, I promise you will be overwhelmed by His presence. You will have a new sense of hope you've never known before. It may not be today or even tomorrow that you catch a glimpse of that sunshine, but keep hanging on, with the Everlasting God by your side, there is sunshine ahead. In sunshine, there is joy, there is freedom. Not because life is in control, but because you know the one who is in control will never leave your side. We are not called to be perfect, we are called to be faithful. Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. BECAUSE HE LIVES, ALL FEAR IS GONE!