“Are you alright?” My sister, who knows me well, asked. “You seem kinda blue.”
My first instinct was to feign a smile and pretend like everything was fine and dandy. But deep down, I really wasn’t fine. In that moment, I was feeling anxious about my future, not to mention lonely, sad and confused. I couldn’t really explain why. I just felt…down. And clearly I wasn’t doing a good job of hiding it. But why was I even trying to hide it in the first place?
Somewhere along the lines I adopted this notion that being a strong Christian meant that you had to be happy and cheerful all the time. While it is true that God gives us supernatural portions of joy when we know Him personally, there are times in life when we will inevitably experience pain and heartache, suffering and trials of many kinds. The Scriptures give us more than enough evidence of this fact as well. Just read the Psalms, or study the lives of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Paul, Jesus or any other major figure in the Bible. They didn’t live lives free from suffering or struggle, but they endured and persevered through them by the grace and strength of their God.
As I struggled to give my sister an honest answer that day, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper, “It’s okay to not be okay all the time.” I repeat the same statement to you: It is okay to not be okay all the time.
Here are a few things I have learned to help me through the ‘not okay’ moments and seasons of life:
Pour Your Heart out to God. Psalm 62:8 says, “…pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Whenever I am feeling down in the dumps, I literally imagine God lifting me up into His lap like Santa would an eager child before Christmas to listen to me as I empty myself of everything that is troubling my heart. Sometimes we assume God knows everything so there is no point in voicing it to Him. But when we truly trust God and look to Him as our refuge in times of trouble, we will go to Him and share everything that is in our hearts–the good, the bad and the ugly–like we would a best friend. This fosters closeness and intimacy with our Heavenly Father, which then brings comfort and healing during our times of need.
Learn to be Vulnerable. Yikes, this is the toughest one for me. In fact, it is terrifying. Who wants to admit to feeling down, defeated, discouraged or depressed? But as I am learning (slowing but surely) to let down my guard and let my loved ones into my inside world, I have felt the most free I have ever felt. As Paul says, “…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17). When we are living in the fullness of His Spirit, He will give us the freedom to be vulnerable, without fear of what others might think. We will be able to admit we need others to sustain us on this road of life and in turn, we will be able to receive strength and love from them. A true blessing that I missed out on for so many years!
Have the Courage to Cry. These past several months, I have probably shed more tears than I have at any other point in my life. Not because I have more things to cry about necessarily, but because I have learned to cry. I always thought crying was a sign of weakness so I held back my tears. But I now realize crying is a sign of our true humanness. It shows we are capable of feeling and expressing our feelings in a way that God created them to be expressed–through tear ducts! Jesus was a prime example of expressing His heartfelt emotions as they arose. John 11 records how his “soul was deeply troubled and moved” and how he “wept” after Mary came to him about her dead brother. That one always gets me: Jesus wept! If the son of God had the courage to cry, we should too. And we can be assured that while “…weeping may remain for a night…rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). Shedding tears can be a healthy release of emotion that can bring refreshing and renewal, turning our momentary sorrow into joy once again. Go on, let it out and cry like a baby!
Persevere through the Valley. Jesus says, “Every valley shall be filled…” (Luke 3:5). He brings us assurance in our lowest times that he will fill us with a fresh fullness of His Spirit and exalt us to a higher plain with Him. I have experienced that it is often in the ‘valley’ that God wants to do a deeper work in us. Though it might be tempting to shut God out during these times, we must persevere and continue to seek His face even when we don’t feel like it. Be ready to receive fresh revelation of who He is and what He is doing. Perseverance is the key to greater intimacy with God!
Are you feeling blue? A little down and out? Depressed or Discouraged? Whatever it is, take heed my friend because you are not alone. We all have times of feeling less than our best and sometimes there is no good explanation why, which can be frustrating. What we do know is that God doesn’t want us to stay in that place forever. But we also shouldn’t be too quick to run away from it or shove it under the rug either. Sometimes God allows moments of moaning, groaning, suffering, struggling, trials and tears to achieve His higher purposes in us, such as character growth or learning greater dependence on Him. But Paul says we should do nothing other than rejoice in our sufferings, “…because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4).
So let me say it one more time: It is okay to not be okay today. May you have the willingness to pour your heart out to God, the humility to be vulnerable in front of your loved ones, the courage to cry a river of tears, the strength to persevere through the valley and the hope that God is doing a deep work in you and He will bring it to completion!
*Share your thoughts and join the conversation! How to you get through the valley?
Read: Philippians 4
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7).
My little sister called and in a muffled voice said, “I have kidney stones.” At the time, she was 20 years old and living in Spain on her own without anyone to care for her. As I hung up the phone, knowing I was leaving her alone in her pain, I was suddenly filled with worry and fear. What if she couldn’t get to the hospital? What if the doctors there didn’t have the right medicine? What if she doesn’t get help soon enough? What if…
Then the Holy Spirit crashed my “worry party,” reminding me of the verse in Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God…” In that moment, God was challenging me with one question: “Do you really trust me Ali?”
I thought I did. But given my anxious state, I was brought to my knees, asking for forgiveness. I realized that allowing anxiety to overrule, was just another way of saying, “God, I don’t really believe you can handle this situation.”
Is it possible to live a worry-free life? I once heard someone say it was “irresponsible” not to worry about our loved ones. But I don’t recall any instance in which Jesus was steeped in anxiety. Concerned, sure. Compassionate, absolutely. But when the storms were raging on the seas and the disciples were worried sick, Jesus was asleep! That to me says Jesus didn’t let His surroundings dictate or steal His peace. He had complete trust that our Father in heaven was in control.
God knows the destructive power of anxiety. That’s why we’re instructed so many times in the Bible, “Do not be anxious about anything…” It can consume us, swallow us up, destroy our quality of life. This keeps us from being able to hear God and living out fully what He calls us to do. It crowds out the space in our hearts and minds that God reserved for the fruits of His Spirit. He wants us to be “…filled with all joy and peace” as we trust in Him (Romans 15 :13), not anxiety and fear.
As I gave my little sister and her sickness over to God, ”by prayer and petition and with thanksgiving,” I realized it was possible to live in His peace, even in a worrisome situation. He desires nothing more than for us to surrender our control, allowing Him to carry our cares, worries and concerns for us. But it’s up to us to let Him.
Dear Lord, I am sorry for letting fear and worry consume me. Please help me to deal with any anxiety by giving it over to You, trusting that You are the healer, comforter, and ultimate problem solver in all situations. Thank you that as I put my trust in You, you will guard my heart and mind with Your peace. Amen.
*Take-away Treasure: What are you tempted to worry about today? How can you give it over to God?
I walked to the front of the room, my heart beating a little faster than normal. Okay, a lot faster–like it was going to beat out of my chest. I usually held back from asking for prayer at these kinds of events. Surely there were people who needed it more than me. But something that day propelled me to the front. I had just made a major decision that would steer my life in an entirely new and unknown direction. I was terrified, confused, and in desperate need of some prayer. Even if it was from a complete stranger.
Finally it was my turn and I stepped forward to receive prayer from a woman who looked kind and caring. Immediately my nerves melted away as I saw the love and compassion of Christ in her bright blue eyes staring directly into mine. I expected her to ask what I needed prayer for. But she didn’t. She just smiled, put her soft hands over mine and began to pray:
“I see you swinging on a trapeze.” She said. “You just let go of the bar…and you are flying through the air…waiting for the next bar to come.”
Admittedly, the imagery seemed a little far-fetched at first, a little ‘out there.’ But never before had a person so accurately described how I felt in that moment: swinging on a trapeze…flying through the air… waiting for the next bar. The words danced around in my head like an elegant ballerina gliding across the stage. I stood there in awe and wonder of how the Holy Spirit was moving through this woman I had never even met.
When she was finished, she opened her eyes and told me to go home and do some research on what trapeze artists do in the ‘hang time’ of going from one bar to the next. Fully aware of how silly and random this whole circus metaphor seemed, I somehow felt moved to follow through. Interestingly enough, what I discovered was that there were three key things that kept trapeze artists from falling flat on their faces:
3. Holding their position.
Wow. Immediately I knew there were some spiritual insights from which to draw here. God seemed to be speaking directly to me through the visual imagery of circus acrobatics. As strange as it may sound, something about it was powerful and it pierced somewhere deep in my heart and soul. It was as if God was saying, “I see you Ali, I know you feel as if you are flying and flailing through the air like an out-of-control acrobat…you are uncertain of what is next and wondering if that next bar will ever come…but I have you right where you are…just stay there and trust Me and know My timing is perfect…the bar will come.”
This may be a Word from the Lord for you too. Maybe you just left a job… made a career change… moved churches… left a ministry position… walked away from a relationship. Whatever it was, you did it because you felt it was what God was calling you to do. And when you finally took the step of faith, when you officially let go of that bar, you found yourself flailing through the air, unsure of exactly where God was leading you. You thought the other bar would be there, visible and ready for a smooth transition to the next thing. But the bar didn’t show up right away. Suddenly you wondered if there even was another bar or if you might have missed it all together. Maybe, you wonder, I should have never left the old bar. At least it was safe. Secure. Comfortable…
If this describes you–in transition–right now, take heed my friend. You are not alone. Embrace the ‘hang time’ and become the master trapeze artist that God is calling you to be. It’s all about trust… it’s all about timing…and it’s all about holding your position until God chooses to reveal that next bar for the taking. But be encouraged, it is this transition time that will lead to transformation.
A friend of mine shared with me a quote she heard from Andy Stanley at the Catalyst Conference a few weeks ago. He said,
“Sometimes we are tempted to stay somewhere because it would be easy. But if we are willing to step out in faith and leave, God can do something He’s been longing to do in our lives.”
God is longing to do something in your life. Something new, something great, something that will lead you to the next phase of your destiny in Him. But He needs you to let go of one bar before you can grab onto the next…
Are you willing?
Food for Thought:
1. Are you doing what you are doing out of comfort or calling?
2. When’s the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone and tried something new?
3. Prayerfully ask God what steps of faith you can take to bring about the fullness of His purposes in and through your life.
Recently I was feeling really blue and regretful over a decision I made a few months ago: rejecting a really all-round-great-guy Christian brother who asked me out. I felt we barely knew each other. Now I am kicking myself wondering what would have happened if I would have said yes, but now it’s too late. I have this fear that I missed out on God’s will by making the wrong decision. How can I overcome this?
Thanks for sharing your heart my friend. I can totally relate to what you shared. Sometimes things just aren’t so black and white! Or sometimes we just make foolish decisions that leave us with that awful feeling of regret in the pit of our stomach. You waver, wonder, doubt and question, “Maybe I should have done the other thing…maybe I should have gone the other way…maybe I totally screwed up…maybe I…”
I have experienced this within the realm of relationships as well as other areas of my life. Here are three practical tips on how to move forward in the midst of uncertainty or regret over a certain decision.
Choose to Move forward. Paul says, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Sometimes we just have to make the choice to forget what was behind. Forget what the ‘other’ decision was and press on to what’s ahead. Life is full of decisions, both big and small, and sometimes a circumstance will call for action even before we know the complete picture. Scary huh? That’s when we must choose to live by faith and not by sight, trusting that He will give clarity as we move forward, one step at a time.
Believe God was in the decision. If we are praying and seeking God for direction, we have the assurance that He is right there with us in our decisions, even if we don’t know exactly where He is leading. Just like when Joshua was faced with having to make important decisions after Moses died, God said, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Even if we do make a mistake, God is still right there with us! And we know that “…in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Believe He will intervene if you’ve gotten off track. God sent a whale to get Jonah back on track. And he was rebelling against the will of God! I was faced with a huge decision recently. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do, and earnestly wanted to do what God wanted so I prayed, “Lord, with everything I see with my human eyes and all the information I have regarding this situation, I am going to make this choice. But if somehow it is NOT the way you want me to go then please send a ‘whale’ to get me back on the right track.” If we truly are seeking to live out God’s will, we can rest in the fact he will do everything in His power to get us back on His track. One of my favorite verses is Isaiah 41:13, “For I am the Lord your God, who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.”
If you’re facing a tough decision right now–in a relationship, career or otherwise– and you don’t know which way to go, be encouraged with these words from Isaiah 30:21: ‘Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”’
Whichever way you turn, know that God’s voice will be there to guide you in the way you need to go. It’s a promise!
It was an ordinary cold and snowy winter night in Bozeman, Montana when I jumped in the car to drive across town. I was going to stay at my friend’s house and watch their dogs while they were out of town. I pulled up to the driveway and I saw something I didn’t expect: a person kneeling in front of the garage fiddling with something, though it was unclear what it was. The man was probably no older that 18 years of age. I rolled down the window to ask him what he was doing, but as soon as he saw my car pull in, he scampered off and into the trees across the street.
My heart felt like it was going to pound out of my chest. Fear took it’s paralyzing grip and I could hardly move a muscle. Who was that? What was he up to? Was he going to try to break in? Why wouldn’t he come up to the car and explain what he was doing?
I tried to shake the experience out of my head, but it remained there, etched in my consciousness. I kept playing the image of the unidentified man over in my head. Thankfully, nothing bad happened, but I still felt… scared. I sat in my bed awake that night with the two dogs next to me, my insides still shaking. I was hoping they could serve as my ‘guard dogs,’ but seeing as how they were no bigger than stuffed animals and they were buried under the covers, my hope quickly fizzled. With every sound the house made, I jumped, thinking it was something or someone.
Fear, no matter what the cause or culprit, is no way to live. It’s debilitating. Paralyzing. Unsettling and downright unpleasant. So the question is, how do we loosen it’s grip once it’s gotten ahold of us?
I didn’t know all the answer that night, but what I did know was this: the only kind of fear we are instructed to have in the Bible is of a holy kind – fear of God. So that meant any other kind of fear–the kind I was feeling–was not from God. I took out my Bible right then and there and wrote out the following verses in my journal and then personalized them to my situation:
“The Lord is my helper and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:6).
God, thank you that you are my helper. I will NOT fear. What shall man do to me?
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).
Thank you Lord, that you have given me a spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind. I receive those gifts from you right now in Jesus name and I renounce all fear!
“My peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
Thank you Lord that you have given me peace. I feel your peace right now and am allowing it to enter my being from head to toe. I am filled with your peace and have no room for fear. I will not let my heart be troubled. I will not let myself stay afraid, but I will swim in the sea of your peace that you have laid out before me this moment…
After meditating on these verses of Truth a few times over, I realized that God’s peace completely replaced my fear. I slept soundly that night and the fear has not returned since!
God never promised we wouldn’t experience negative emotions like fear, but He does promise to pull us through. He gives us His Word as a powerful tool and it’s effective if we give it a chance. That means reading it, studying it, meditating on it, living, breathing, and speaking it until it transfers from our head to our hearts.
What are you facing today? Is it fear? Anxiety? Worry? Confusion? Despair? None of those things are a part of the perfect will of God for you or for me. Take out the Word of God–right now–and start declaring God’s Truth over your life and your circumstances. Keep saying it until you see it and believe it.
God Himself says, “Be still, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10).
Be still and know, yes, but we also gotta let Him be God. It changes everything.