This week I have been reflecting a whole lot on how much life can change in just 2 years. On this day exactly 2 years ago I was laying in a hospital bed in the ICU at Phoenix Children’s Hospital fighting sepsis, which meant that my own blood was poisoning my body. I had just moved back to Arizona on my own and was working on navigating this new phase of life and all of the accompanying ups and downs. I was terrified that I couldn’t beat sepsis. It felt like my body was shutting down. I experienced so much unconditional love from family and friends who covered me and my family in prayer and support that week.
This life has been quite the rollercoaster from the very beginning. I was born 2 1/2 months early with fluid on my brain and without my right eye. I have been battling really bad anxiety, depression and an eating disorder for about 7 years now. I found out that I had POTS in 2016 which meant a lot of passing out and concussions because my body couldn’t compensate when I would stand up. I then discovered I had a paralyzed stomach which led to me being fed with tubes and through my veins for over a year. Then about a year and a half ago I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease which has included IV treatment therapy on a regular basis. I still have a central line port in my chest which is used for IV treatments, and a pacemaker in my stomach to help me be able to eat. I have spent the past 7 years in and out of the hospital, from blood infections to surgeries.
The hope was that all of the medical interventions would at some point be helpful and provide relief. The one thing I can tell you is that it did and that it does have a purpose, and things are slowly getting better. Everything in the last 22 years that has led up to this point happened for a reason. All of the pain, heartache and the struggle has a purpose greater than I might ever truly understand. I grew up going to church with my family but never felt like I really had a true personal relationship with God. When all of the medical chaos started about 7 years ago, I felt lost, angry that I couldn’t understand how a loving God could allow pain and suffering, not just for me, but for all of the people that I have met along the way who are struggling too. I didn’t understand why it often felt like it was one thing after another. When I was struggling, so many amazing people came into my life that walked alongside me and encouraged me in my faith and in the hope that I have today. I would never have had the perspective that I do on faith and what it means to me personally if I didn’t go through that experience.
It has been a gradual process of slowly being able to see the beauty and hope that can only be seen when you are in the depths of struggle. I see the beauty in the relationships I have made when we related to each other based on the things we were going through. I see hope in the progress that has been made over 2 years, and that the last time I was inpatient hospitalized was in April 2019! I am now able to eat with a lot less pain, which I am so thankful for because that was never a guarantee. I see hope in being able to travel to see family and being able to laugh more in 5 days than I have in a really long time. I see hope in being able to find some stability and finally start working on my degree and start taking classes again. I see a lot of hope in being able to look back at the past 7 years and know that I am so grateful for these little, but impactful things that have come from pain.
I promise there is even good coming out of COVID-19. It has encouraged us to be more caring, kind, and thoughtful to those around us. It has helped us slow down in some ways and spend quality time virtually and now gradually in-person with people we love. It has pushed us to be thankful for even the little things and to never take things for granted. It has even reminded us of the importance of covering our cough/sneeze and how to wash our hands 😉
My life is so far from perfect. I continue to struggle and am still sick. I still experience pain. Even still, I am so incredibly thankful because I have a good perspective on what hope continues to mean in my life. I have great peace in knowing that even if I am never “cured,” it isn’t for nothing. This life isn’t made to be perfect, it is how we find the purpose in the imperfect.
I recently read a book in which the author asked me to write down the answers to these four questions (you should do it too):
1. What is the worst thing that could happen?
2. So what if that comes true?
3. So what happens because of that?
4. So what happens because of that?
Take a minute. Write them down or make a note in your phone. It’s very telling.
When you reach the end of the ‘so what happens,’ there lies your greatest fear, the one that keeps you in bondage. When you can name that, consider this:
5. Would God be enough for your greatest fear?
It’s not hard for me to come up with the answers to those questions.
1. We lose our daughter
2. My heart would be broken
3. I would miss her and I’m not sure I can handle the pain
4. I would be sad for the rest of my life, and it would be hard for me to be anything but sad.
So there’s my biggest fear. I am afraid of being sad and being unable to be anything but sad.
I know every parent fears losing a child. It’s the worst thing we can imagine. And I know that at any moment I could lose any of my children. It’s different, though, when doctors tell you that you will lose this child because of a terminal diagnosis. It’s not a matter of if, but when. It’s a different kind of fear. It’s a day-to-day dealing with the fact that I love this child with every part of me, but there is a very real possibility that I may have to let go.
I held her a little longer last night. Sometimes I hold her and smell her and think I never want to forget this moment. My husband asked why I was crying and laughing with her at the same time. It’s because I know that I love her so much that it actually hurts. Joy and pain intermingling. Sometimes it’s an excruciating place to live—-between loving so deeply and knowing that it could end. But the beautiful part of it is that I know I’ve experienced a deep love. And I can be grateful for that. The kind that I think can only be found in brokenness, in mourning, in fighting for every little thing.
You probably are not in the same situation, but I am sure there is something that you deeply fear losing.
I spent yesterday asking God, “Will you be enough? Will I be OK if my worst fear is realized?”
And the agonizing answer was yes. God reminded me how he has been enough for me, living with my daughter’s terminal diagnosis, and He will be enough for me every day, no matter what comes. If I let Him. That’s been the key for me. He is enough for me when I allow him to be. When I ask Him to be.
If I try to carry my pain on my own, it’s messy and ugly. But I have to believe that no matter what comes my way, He will be enough and He can be trusted. I have to believe that. Our lives roll along and sometimes we get thrown a curve ball. That curve ball doesn’t define us. But what we do next can. In my experience, I’ve realized that I choose whether I trust God in each situation. I choose trust or fear. I also get to choose my perspective–to look for the goodness, or to stay worried and angry.
But the even cooler part is that it is God who makes our hardest things good. Not just OK and smoothed over, but He promised us that he would cause all things to work together for our good if we love him and we are called according to his purpose. He makes all those curve balls good for us. If we allow it. I think that’s why he added the qualifier “to those who love him and are called according to his purpose.” Because we all know that we can choose bitterness and anger and worry, which are places where it’s really hard for beautiful things to grow.
I’ve noticed something different about people who truly trust God. Their core identity is different from everyone else in the world. They are free to live and love and be in a way that makes people pay attention. When you meet someone like that, you just know. I remember when I was a teenager, I was flying with my parents. The plane was dropping and shifting and bouncing all over the sky. I was white-knuckling the arm rests and reminding myself to breathe. My mom was reading a book, unfazed. I asked her, “How can you not be scared, Mom?” She answered me, “I trust God.”
I asked, “But what if we die?!?”
She responded, “I trust God with that too.”
She didn’t give me stats about plane safety or weather conditions or probabilities. It was just that she trusted God with our lives. I will never forget that. Her life is defined by trusting God. It is the core of who she is, so she doesn’t worry about life and death. What a revolutionary way to live.
No more fear
And you know what the truth is? Just because some doctors say my child will have a short life does not make it so. The power of life and death is in God’s hands. She could grow up to be an old woman, and I don’t want to look back on my life and say, “Well, I sure wasted a lot of good days fearing death.” That would be a waste of a gift. That would be a stain on a miracle. I don’t want to do that. What does life look like, then, when we remove even our biggest fears from the equation? If fear is no longer holding us in bondage, then how would our lives look different? It seems to me, it is then that God sets us totally free. I know it’s possible, but it has to be a lifelong journey toward fully trusting God to be enough. Day by day, moment by moment, thought by thought. No more fear.
“Find a spot and focus on it.” If you’ve ever taken a ballet class or a Pilates or yoga class, and you were attempting to balance on one foot, you’ve likely heard an instructor say this. We know that staring at a specific spot on the wall or on the floor in front of us does something to our mind and our body that keeps us from falling over. I’m sure science can explain it. And we know it to be true in practice.
I heard my Pilates instructor say it the other day, and it confirmed what I know to be true, both about balancing on one leg, and about maintaining peace in my own life.
Our gaze affects our equilibrium.
What we are focused on significantly affects the way we live. It affects our thinking, our actions, our personality, our health and our well being.
So what are you staring at today? What are you focusing on? Where is your gaze?
There is a story in the Bible that holds a special place in my heart. It’s about this subject, actually. I was enduring a very turbulent season of life and this very story showed up three times in what I was reading and listening to over the course of two days. I don’t know about you, but if something keeps showing up in front of me, I give it attention.
The story can be found in Matthew 14.
Stop me if you’ve heard this story…
Jesus’ friends are out on a fishing boat in the middle of the night and a huge storm blows in, causing the boat to be tossed among the waves. Jesus appears out of nowhere, walking on the water toward the boat. Peter, one of his friends, asks Jesus if he too can come out to meet him. I mean, wow. That’s courageous. Can I come walk on the sea with you, Jesus? Jesus says, “Come.” And Peter does!
Peter sees the wind and the waves and looks away from Jesus and he’s overcome with fear. He starts to sink. He cries out, “Lord, save me.” And Jesus reaches out his hand to take hold of him, and returns him to the boat. And then Jesus tells the storm to stop.
There is a lot going on in this story that is important. Walking on water, Peter’s courage, the waves listening to Jesus, etc. But the thing that really stood out to me in my particular season of being tossed among the waves was this…
Jesus said come, Peter. And as long as Peter had his eyes on his friend, the one he trusted, the one who was already walking on water, the one who is actually God in the flesh, he remained above the waves. It was when he looked at the storm that he was fearful. It was when he gazed at the big, threatening problem that he sank. His gaze affected his equilibrium.
When I read this story again, after hearing it for the third time, I felt like God was saying to me, stop looking at the problem. Look at me and you will be OK. Keep looking at me even when the waves seem to threaten you. Keep your gaze upon me.
The truth of the matter is,
You get to choose what you are looking at. You get to determine your gaze. Moment by moment.
Maybe you’ve heard these sayings…what you think about you bring about. As a man thinks so he is. What you magnify gets bigger. I believe all of these sayings to be true.
His last words
Jesus’ very last words on earth can be found in Matthew 28:20. Would you agree that a person’s last words are significant? I would imagine that Jesus really wanted us to remember this very important thing. He said this: “I will be WITH YOU always, to the end of the age.”
He knew we would struggle with fear. He knew that we would gaze at the wrong things. He reminded us that he would be with us. Always. He knows that our gaze affects our equilibrium.
He is with you now. Shift your gaze. Look at him and see if it affects your peace.
You were never meant to figure out life alone. He is with you. You can ignore him or your can look at him. Moment by moment. Turn your gaze and be with him. When you start to wobble, receive that as your reminder. Your gaze is the key to your equilibrium.
(You can get in touch with the author at firstname.lastname@example.org)
In 2016 I was flying high. My life and ministry were looking pretty good. I was pastoring a large, growing church in Phoenix. Things were really rocking on the outside. But, on the inside, they weren’t. No one knew just how bad it was getting.
Some call it the perfect storm. I would simply call it the breaking point—the cumulative result of trauma and stress in my life. Things blew up. Doors closed. Dreams were dashed. Relationships went sideways. It felt like everything was falling apart, and I was coming unglued.
Something Broke Inside
It all came to a head one night when I was traveling and had a severe panic attack. I never had one of those before and haven’t had one since. But it got scary fast. I freaked out; thought I was going to die. I called my wife to tell her that something broke inside. I just didn’t know what.
A few weeks later, I was preaching at church and felt like I couldn’t contain it anymore. I unloaded that day and told everyone publicly that I was depressed, burned out, and having suicidal thoughts about ending it all. I wept. The church went into a panic.
I stepped away and felt like I fell into a pit. I needed to get some help but had no idea how to ask for it. I never had. The church pretty much told me to go and get well. That’s it. I think most churches have no idea how to help pastors who crash. It’s not their fault. They just don’t understand.
Help Found Me
I didn’t ask for help. But, thankfully, help found me. I picked up a book called Emotionally Healthy Spirituality that rocked my world. Emotions? What are those? The only emotion I knew how to feel was anger. And, self-care? What’s that? Never did that either.
That awakening began to change everything for me. For the first time, I started caring. I started seeking what I needed. I had always taken care of everyone else except me. And, I couldn’t keep doing that. I had to make huge changes in my life.
I left my job; moved out of state; started over. I rebooted my life. Made new relationships and found a new community that was high on grace and low on law, empathetic and understanding, emotional and aware. It was a radical change, like leaving one universe and entering another.
Another Way to Live
Up until that happened, I didn’t know there was another way to live. I didn’t realize life is about more than just doing our duty and making a living. Life is about relationships and enjoyment. I spent the first half of mine on tasks and obligations, just trying to live up to ridiculous expectations and unreasonable demands.
Life is different for me now. I’m happy, for the first time in a long time. I’m rested. I’m relaxed. I’m connected, and I’m fulfilled. I’m getting therapy, I’m meditating more, and I’m getting what I need. I still give, but I’m receiving now too.
I’ve learned to ask for what I need from others. That isn’t easy. And, it feels weird at first. No one had ever asked me what I needed before, so I’d never really considered it. Now, I do, a lot. I think about what I need each day and go find it.
Life is Relationships
I’ve also learned to seek relationships that are life giving, not life sucking. Many of my relationships in my old life were transactional. So much so, that I felt like a commodity, to be bartered and sold by people who thought I was only there to serve them.
I choose friends now who give back too. I have fewer friends, for sure. But they are real friends. Not just the superficial kind who come and go when they need something from you. They care, and they show up. That’s my community now.
What Do You Actually Enjoy?
I’ve also started finding hobbies. I didn’t have any when I was so busy running a church. I have lots now. Hobbies aren’t time wasters. They are time spenders. And, I need to spend time doing things I enjoy. Things that fill my tank.
I happen to live in an outdoor paradise. I ski, I mountain bike, I hike, I fish, I take walks in the woods just for fun. I enjoy my kids, and adventure with my wife. We play. We laugh. I didn’t do much of any of that in my old life.
Learning to Say No
And, finally, I’ve learned how to say no. I choose to live my life with rhythm, margin, and balance. I say no to a lot these days, and it feels good. It also gets easier. I used to say yes all the time, and I had nothing left because my life was used up by others.
I turn down good opportunities for better ones. I don’t go to things I don’t want to. I am okay with letting people down and disappointing them. I can deal with sadness, anger, and anxiety. Negative reality is part of life, and I can handle it now.
It Took a Breakdown
I used to fret about rejection and failure, about hurt and pain. Now, I’m okay with it. Good enough is good enough. And, I know that pain serves a purpose if I use it. Now, I feel like I’m really living, and it’s all been worth it to get here even if it took a breakdown to figure it out.
Kent is a non-profit director, executive coach, and leadership consultant. He is Co-Founder of the Love & Transformation Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to leveraging the love of God to transform individuals and organizations by providing resources and creating experiences to inspire change and influence society. Before starting LTI, Kent was a pastor and professor for 20 years.
I took the oxygen tubing out of my daughter’s nose and carefully lifted the medical tape, which had held it in place through the night, from her cheek. I lifted it as slowly as I could, the way I removed a bandaid from my own arm when I was little. I can remember that clearly—every tug on every hair hurt, and I’d lift it as slowly as humanly possible. And even though my dad would recommend ripping it off fast, I couldn’t help but lift it slowly, carefully. Because the thought of “ripping off the bandaid” just sounded like it would hurt a whole lot more.
I was careful, too, with my daughter’s cheek. Slowly, careful not to hurt her skin or get any of her long, blonde hair caught in the tape, I pulled it, watching her expression to make sure she didn’t wince.
I have a choice every morning—to rip off the medical tape quickly and move on with our routine, or to do lift it slowly, with lovingkindness and extra care.
This morning in particular, she looked at me with especially trusting eyes. And I saw something there.
She lives in a posture of complete and total trust toward me.
She trusts me to take care of every one of her needs. Because the fact is that she cannot feed herself or dress herself. She cannot stand up. She cannot speak. She trusts me to do all of those things for her.
And she also trusts me to not hurt her.
To be gentle with her when I lift tape off of her cheek. To care for her with lovingkindness. To watch her expressions and to be aware of how she is feeling. To do my best to minimize the pain in whatever way I can.
She trusts me to gently pull her shirt over her head. To brush her hair with care.
She trusts me to do that because she knows I love her.
She depends on me to take care of her basic needs. But she also trusts me to do it carefully. Why does she trust me to do that? Because she is confident that I love her. We have a relationship. And in that relationship, I have proven to her that I care about her well-being and I am most careful with her. So when it comes to my interaction with her, what does she have to fear?
God is also careful with us
There’s a difference between someone who cares for you because it’s their job and someone who cares for you because they love you. And you can feel the difference, can’t you? There’s also a big difference between someone who helps you out of obligation and duty and someone who helps you because they care about your well being. You know it when you see it. You know it when you feel it.
That look in her eyes moved me. That look of complete trust and total dependence… that is also what God has also planned for me in relation to him.
I’m reminded of this verse from the Bible that says,
“Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.”
The Amplified version of the same verse says,
“Cast all your cares [all your anxieties, all you worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection and watches over you carefully].” (I Peter 5:7)
Have you ever felt cared for in that way? Is someone in your life careful with their words toward you? Are they careful with you physically? Do they pay careful attention to your feelings, expressions and emotions, and adjust as necessary? It feels good to be treated carefully.
How does it feel to know that God, the creator of the universe, the creator of your body and soul, is also careful with you?
I hope it makes you feel loved.
What about when it hurts?
Let’s talk, also, about another side of this care. Because we do hurt and that can be confusing in this context. Let me offer an example.
Sometimes I have to do things that my daughter doesn’t like. I know they are painful for her, but they are necessary for her very life. I have to change her feeding tube button every three months. It is a piece of rubber that goes directly into her stomach. I have to remove the old one and insert the new one. At home! The first time I did it, my hands shook visibly. I hate doing it. I’m certain she hates it too. But without it, she would not be able to eat. This is a painful necessity that ultimately causes goodness in her life. The important point here is that I would not do it to her and for her unless it was totally necessary for her well being. Frankly, it is painful for both of us.
Sometimes a good parent has to do things that might cause pain in the short term because they know they are necessary for the child’s very life, or at least for their well-being in the long run. And so it is with our heavenly Father. I know that he allows pain in our lives because he knows that it is necessary for our well-being and for goodness to develop in us. And I believe it is often painful for him to watch. Did you know that the Bible says that He collects our tears in a bottle? He cares about your pain. Every single tear, even. That is tender care. That is lovingkindness.
How about you?
What pain are you going through right now? Could it be necessary to create goodness for you? To soften you? To redirect you? To lead you to a real relationship with God? Your Heavenly Father is a good father. He does not leave you alone in your pain. He does not allow your pain to be wasted. There is purpose in it. I know it may be hard, even impossible to see right now, but is it possible for you to make a shift in the way you see God and see yourself in relation to him?
I believe there is a shift that occurs in a human when they truly see themselves as loved. Do you know that that is your identity?
If you are nothing else, you are one who is fully loved.
In my experience, most people do not fully believe this, or they do not live from this place. I know this because they hustle around, looking for validation from other people. Demanding respect. Proving their worth. Creating ways to derive love from people around them because they don’t believe or accept that they are already fully and completely loved by God.
If you truly believe that you are loved, and that God is most careful with you, how would that change they way you live?
If you truly believe that God is love, and that He can cause every single thing that has happened to you to turn into something good, how would that change the way you respond?
If you truly believe that God is chasing after you with goodness and mercy every day of your life, how would it change the degree to which you trust Him?
If you live as one who is loved, how would your life change today?
God is careful with you, and you can depend on Him
In the same way that my daughter trusts me, we can live in full dependence on God. For all of our needs. For all of our hurts. To take care of our emotions. To take care of the big things and the small things. And to be careful with us.
He is a careful caregiver because of his profound love for us.
Our part involves trusting Him and believing He is good. If we can master that, we can live a life free of fear and worry. A truly carefree life. A life of joy and freedom.
The next time it feels like the proverbial tape is being removed from your cheek, remember this: God’s strong hand is on you…He is most careful with you. You are in good hands because you are loved.
You can get in touch with Kerry at email@example.com
When our son walked in and said, “I don’t want to live anymore,” we were stunned and frozen. The world went dark, and we found ourselves in a horrifying place we had never seen or even imagined. It was like an instant flood of fear, panic, shock, hopelessness, and confusion. Not only did we have our own sudden fear and darkness to deal with, but we could also sense our son’s deep pain and darkness as well. Every time he would walk in the room, I could actually FEEL the energy and life leave the room, and the dark cloud would creep in. I just wanted it ALL to go away, but so did he. I felt trapped and lost in this new place, but so did he. I was overwhelmed with dread and fear, but so was he. I realized a few things in that place, and I’d love to share those with anyone reading this who might be there now.
What am I even looking at??
It is VERY EASY to ride the wave of emotions and let it take you into your own dark place when your child is struggling so greatly. I was being flooded with all the worst-case-scenario bunny trails in my head. I was bombarded with terrifying thoughts of guilt and confusion. But the reality was, he was sitting in SO MUCH darkness of his own, and the last thing I wanted to do was add more to the scene. I just wanted to lift all the darkness. I just wanted to help.
His depression and pain was so deep that trying to say things like, “It’ll be okay” and “You should go do something that makes you happy” were more hilarious than helpful. This was real and raw. My efforts weren’t helping. I was in over my head, and so was he. I could tell this wasn’t going to go away any time soon, so I had no choice but to sit in that darkness and look at my options, as calmly as possible.
What can I do??
Sitting in that cold, cruel, shocking place, I started to look around and ask questions. How can I keep these terrible thoughts and feelings away? Is there any possible way to bring some relief and light into this awful place? What options do I have against something that makes me feel like I’m an inch tall and am about to be crushed? Is there ANYTHING available to us? Are there any tools? Anything at all? I’m the mom, isn’t there ANYTHING I can do here?
Of course we sought the help of professionals, which was HUGE. It is so important to get help and start talking and bringing it into the open. It is way too much for a parent to deal with and manage without trained help and support. The counselors began the healing process for us, and helped us unpack it all. Please get help. Find a professional Counselor or LCSW who works with kids in their age group.
Even with the amazing help, it takes time, and the darkness doesn’t lift overnight. Between counseling sessions, we had HOURS every day and night to spend in the dark. It became clear to me that this was WAY bigger than I was. But thankfully, I believe in a BIG God. I knew that God created my son and loved him more than I ever could. I realized that any of my efforts to run, or avoid, or fix were not going to make a dent and would only end up causing more pain. I knew that if any light was to come into the space, it would have to be from God, because I had none to bring. I knew if anyone could truly save me and my son from being crushed, it would have to be God.
But Is God really enough??
Don’t get me wrong, I had some PRETTY BIG questions to wrestle out with God first. Why our son? If you are really good, then how can you let this kind of stuff happen? We believe in you, so how could this happen to us? (news flash for me, being Christian doesn’t make you immune to hard times-Christians are still humans). I exhausted all of the “why’s” and finally went to the “who.” I begged God to meet me in that dark, yucky place and He did. He doesn’t promise us a life of no troubles, but he promises to MEET US in the troubles. He was waiting for me to invite Him in. I prayed REPEATEDLY, God if you are here, and you say you are, then please help. Please bring peace. Please bring even a ray of light. And he did. The more time I spent talking to Him and reminding myself that He would never leave me, the more peace began to come in. I was able to breathe a little better, think a little more clearly, see a little more hope. We can’t force peace and hope on someone else, but we can find it for ourselves and bring light into dark situations in that way. My son didn’t suddenly get better right away, but the entire situation was lighter because I chose to see and believe that God is good, even in the utter darkness. Even when I could not see anything good, I knew I trusted God to be good. His love and light are infectious, and He penetrates darkness. He spills over and flows into our deepest messes if we let Him.
There is a God who made you and loves you and has treasures in darkness waiting for you, if you are willing to pause in the pain and look for Him.
Isaiah 45:3 “And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness—secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the LORD,the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.”
I heard my pastor say that what we do in the face of pain and fear really comes down to what we believe about God. Do we believe that God is bigger than it all, and that He truly IS good, and that he really does love us and wants what is best for us and our children? If we believe that, then we stay in the place of pain, and reach out for his hand in the darkness. We don’t run, we let Him protect us and love us and walk us through it, picking up treasures along the way. What are some of those treasures? Unshakeable faith, not-of-this-world joy, and a peace that passes understanding. If we don’t believe that, then the options are pretty sad. Running, fixing, and avoiding might temporarily work to dull the pain, but we forfeit the chance to see God work a miracle.
My prayer is that you will read this and will LEAN into God. Cry to Him. Read what the Bible says about who He is, and His promises, and how He loves you and your family. BELIEVE Him. When the panic thoughts come in, slap them down and say MY GOD IS BIGGER. I pray that you don’t run, but that you let God meet you right where you are. I pray that your hurting loved one will see the presence of God residing in you, and will be healed and made even stronger. I don’t even know you, but we share this common ground. I have felt all the ugly feelings, and I have thought all of the ugly thoughts that you are thinking. But I have also seen God step in and make that same ground holy.
One more thing. God can step into our darkness with total sympathy and mercy because He lost His only son. He is well acquainted with the pain of a suffering child. He watched His son die an unspeakable death….for us. Jesus died to make a way for you to be set free. He offers you a future with no pain and death for eternity with God. I pray that you will receive this GIFT, and you will trust Him now in this dark place, and with the life of your loved one. Talk to the D2L team!! They can answer any questions you have about this. I love you. Jesus loves you. BE HIS! BE LOVED!!!
Written by Ben’s mom, Haley
***If you want to read about how this story turned out, read what Haley’s son wrote here
When I was walking through my darkest season of life, I came across a quote that said, “Worship will get you through the roughest times in your life because it shifts your focus from the problem to the problem solver.”
I knew this to be true because worship music had gotten me through some unbearable days. I just hadn’t ever thought of it as a strategic way to shift my focus.
My season of darkness began with an ultrasound in which the technician reported cysts on our baby’s brain. This was 14 weeks into the pregnancy. The fear and uncertainty of the next 5 months threatened to steal my peace, my ability to sleep, my health, and my beliefs about God. My husband and I blasted worship music and sang at the top of our lungs in what seemed like a way to survive the pain and fear. Honestly, it wasn’t as much about lifting up God’s name as it was finding a way to fight overwhelming fear by petitioning the only One who could actually do something about my baby’s brain.
In the subsequent years, we struggled through the realities of a terminal diagnosis, seizure disorder, severe disabilities, and the fear and anxiety that came with each day. Worship became my breakthrough. It became vital to my ability to function outside of overwhelming fear and sadness.
The other day, while listening to an interview with pastor, Louie Giglio, he described his own 4-month-long period of depression and anxiety that rendered him helpless. He couldn’t leave the house. He also couldn’t sleep. This is a man who has led large churches and spoken to tens of thousands. One day, he felt like he was dying under the pain of anxiety. When asked what led him out, he was careful to say he needed physicians and still does, and he also added: the weapon of worship. He said he realized there is power in shifting the focus away from himself and to the faithfulness of God. And even though sometimes the faithfulness of God cannot be seen while we are waiting for healing to come to fruition, worship reorders our thinking and the atmosphere around us.
“Worship pierces the darkness and leads us back into the light. Worship changes the narrative. Worry and worship cannot be in our mouths at the same time.”
In my own life, this looks like music (but it doesn’t have to be–worship is defined as the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for God). I have my favorite bands, but many mornings while firing up the coffee maker, I say, Alexa, play worship music. Interestingly, when I was pregnant in 2007, the album I played over and over was Chris Tomlin’s, Arriving. One song in particular gave me more peace than any other. In “Indescribable,” there is one line that says, “You placed the stars in the sky and you know them by name.” The fact that God knows the name of each one-in-a-billion stars, he knows their location, and he knows everything about them assured me that He also knew every mystery about my child. There is nothing hidden from him. Even though the doctors didn’t know, He knew. It redirected my thinking over and over and over.
Giglio talks about the night he thought he might die under the weight of depression and anxiety. Laying in bed at 2 AM, God reminded him of a verse he had memorized years before. “Where is God my Creator, He who gives songs in the night?” Job 35:10
The next night at the same hour, he awoke with this song running through his mind, words he had never heard before: “Be still, there is a healer. His love is deeper than the sea. His mercy is unfailing. His arms, a fortress for the weak.” Later, Louie Giglio’s friend, Chris Tomlin, would set those words to music in his song called, “I Lift My Hands.”
Colossians 3 tells us to set our minds and keep on setting them on things above, not on things of earth. God knows that our minds can get caught up in fear and lies and panic. Do not allow your fear to set the narrative in your mind. Don’t allow the enemy of your soul to determine the soundtrack of your thoughts. You can set your mind. Keep on setting it on things above, the heavenly realm, what Jesus is doing in you and for you. Worship him in song, in nature, in his creation. Ask him for a song. Pierce the darkness and let him lead you back into the light. You have a weapon at your disposal any time you need it. You have the weapon of worship.
I have worked in churches for the last twenty years or so. This may or may not come as a shock to you, but I got really good at faking things and pretending to be OK. You see, when you are employed at a church you can’t exactly vocalize when you are struggling. There is a higher expectation to have it all together and figured out. We’re the ones trained to be ready with all the answers for everyone else which usually sound something like this: “I’ll pray for you”, “You just need to have more faith”, “God never gives you more than you can handle”.
Deep down I struggled with Jesus loving me. If you spend any amount of time at church, you most likely will hear the phrase “Jesus loves you” (if you don’t hear this at your church, you should find a new church). I really wanted God to love me but knew how screwed up I was. If I couldn’t be real at my church how could I be real with God? How could Jesus love me? What can I do to get Jesus to love me? Ok, forget love. What can I do to get Jesus to simply like me? Tolerate me?
Maybe help some old people…save a few kittens…recycle? Maybe if I cuss less or stop drinking (hard liquor)? I could become a vegan or donate blood or plant some trees. Or what if I listen to really terrible music like they play in church, with lots of piano and loud out-of-key singing? I’ll give up listening to Beastie Boys and Metallica and only listen to Christian Radio. Ready for the brutal truth? You can’t do anything to get God to love you. He doesn’t love you because of who you are or what you’ve done (good or bad). He loves you because of Who He is. You will never earn God’s love, you’ll never have to. God loves you so much He made wiener dogs and sunsets; things that don’t have to be near as cool as they are but are so cool. Whatever mess is going on around you, rest in this truth: God loves you in spite of who you are because of Who He is. Jesus really does love you. You don’t have to pretend. He loves you even though you are going through some pretty heavy stuff. He loves you even if you don’t love Him. You will never do anything that will make Him love you more and you will never do anything that will make Him love you any less. His love for you is perfect. Jesus loves you, exactly the way you are in this exact moment. You can rest in that.
Guest post written by Tim Beal
I’ve been hearing about Marty Sampson and others who are questioning their faith Story HERE. A lot of people have weighed in and/or commented on posts and… I have a read a few comments. There were actually some good comments I read, but of course the ones that stood out the most were winners like these:
“I believe it’s much deeper than this. There are imposters and they were never with us… And their whole point of boldly stepping away is to bring true followers with them.”
Nothing New to me….
Unfortunately, I am not shocked because for years I’ve been used to heartless Christian comments online sounding nothing like the Christ they say they love. So many people are so quick to quote a verse or write a comment dripping with a judgmental, self-righteous spirit: “well, Marty Sampson wasn’t really a Christian or else he wouldn’t have fallen away.” I can’t even tell you how many foolish, heartless comments I read about Marty alone that were completely devoid of Christs’ nature.
There seems to be a pharisaical addiction rooted in the fallen nature of man that countless so-called Christians have been possessed by; an addiction that pre-judges situations and rushes to self-righteous conclusions that they hope will make them seem so “biblically sound” and full of “unshakable faith.”
But the obvious truth is that they have not come into union with the Christ they say they know and love, and it clearly shows as the spirit coming through their words is shouting, “I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.” (Luke 18)
The Luke 18 Pharisee is one of the main failures we should try to stay far away from, because who did Jesus have the biggest problem with?
I personally know of a couple/few very public Christian leaders who have had major dark seasons where they lost their faith for a time; or even their minds. One leader even went so far as to apologize to his children that he taught them God was active in their family’s lives. In his confused mental state he was convinced that God wasn’t real and he felt horrible for steering his kids into faith.
But guess what Jesus did?
Or should I say guess what Jesus didn’t do? HE DIDN’T ABANDON HIM like we so quickly do to our brothers and sisters who walk through dark seasons!!! Jesus gathered a few of His true followers who knew His heart and walked with this man through his darkness and this man of God came back stronger than ever after his complete mental break down!
We need to stop acting like mere men and start displaying who Christ truly is! GOD IS LOVE. Jesus understands our dark seasons, with all of our doubts and hard questions. He leaves the 99 to save the one! Don’t we sing songs about this very fact?! He doesn’t say, “well, Marty Sampson wasn’t really a true Christian or else he wouldn’t have fallen away!”
I believe God is saying something like, “Marty, (or whoever the doubting brother or sister is) I will never leave you or forsake you, I love you because I am Love, and I can handle all of your doubts and questions.”
“Well, Jesus said if you deny him before men, he will deny you before His Father in Heaven.”
Some of you will comment.
STOP! WE ALL KNOW THE SCRIPTURES! BUT DO WE KNOW HIS HEART?!
I know of many Christians who have denied Jesus and walked away. Guess what? Jesus was perfectly capable of loving those people right back into His arms!!! Don’t let the scriptures that Jesus spoke to His disciples 2000 years ago speak into every single situation on earth! You have to get to know Jesus in 2019 and what His heart is saying in each unique situation!
CHRISTIANS…. PLEASE GROW UP, GROW IN LOVE AND GROW OUT OF THE KNOW-IT-ALL SELF-RIGHTEOUS PHARISAICAL-ADDICTION THAT PRE-JUDGES SITUATIONS YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT!!!
My God, help this discombobulated church that You love so dearly.
I just want to remind you of one thing. It won’t always be this way.
I think it’s important for us to remember this. You won’t always feel the way you do today.
Perspective Depends on Position
I’m 46 years old. Depending on where you’re standing right now, I’m either an old lady or I’m still young. It all depends on your perspective. And that too is always changing depending on where we are positioned. You see an airplane very differently whether you’re inside it or standing on the ground below it. Perspective depends on position. Your position will always be changing in life, whether it’s your age, your relationships, your location, your job, or your mental health, and so your perspective will too. You will not always see things the way you do right now. Bank on it.
Over the years, I’ve learned that life ebbs and flows. Always. And if you’re in a valley of darkness right now, I want you to know that you will not always be there. You will not always feel the way you do today. Someday you will come out of that darkness and you will look back and be so glad that you hung on.
It is normal to fall in and out of love
We fall in and out of love. With everything. That is our nature and I believe it is a very normal part of being human. One day we love our work and the next day we wonder what in the world we are doing. One day we dream of moving to a new city and then we ask what we have done. Ask anyone who has been married for 20 years or more. You will fall in and out of love hundreds of times. Some days you will think I could not love this person more. And other days you will think I literally cannot stand your face right now. But if we hang on, we will come back to love. We are a fickle bunch, aren’t we. The same is true of almost everything. We ebb and flow and fall in and out of love. How can our feelings change so much?
You guys. You will not always feel this way. There is one thing we can count on in life and that is that it will change. So what will you do with your one beautiful life? What will you do with your 25,000 days? How about this one?
My advice to you today is hang on. Hang in there. This is your sign that things will get better. You will not always feel this way.
A shift in perspective might change your life
What can life expect from YOU? We are used to wondering what we can expect from life. Maybe what you need today is just a shift. Most of our dissatisfaction comes from expecting certain things from life and waiting for something good to happen to us. What if you shift that today?
“What if instead of waiting for good enough things to happen to us, we could be the good thing to happen to someone else who’s waiting?” –Ann Voskamp
How about today. Someone is waiting for you to be the good thing. You will not always feel the way you do today. Possibly the first step is for you to focus on being the good thing in the life of someone who needs you.