“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?