PART I of 4
Today I sent an email to two people I intensely respect. I opened the email with the same question you see as the title of this post. I told them very briefly how I’ve been feeling of late and asked if they had any advice or perhaps if they could lead me to a book on the subject of what to do when we feel like we are in a desert experience in our life. They did respond with a recommendation to read The Land Between, a book by Jeff Manion. Jeff’s book should arrive in a few days, but in the meantime, I will continue journaling here where I sense the Lord is leading me.
This Silliness ~ At this writing I’m not really certain what I want to write but I know I have to make a start. It was not easy for me to write that email, but I know intuitively that I must begin to share that I need some help and I need some prayer. Even as I write those words I feel a bit silly because there are so very many people in this world who desperately need prayer. Who am I that I should ask for prayer and even come to God with THIS SILLINESS But … I just don’t feel like my normal bubbly, positive, energetic, spiritual (full of God’s Holy Spirit) happy self, and it concerns me a little bit. I feel like I’m running on empty, like I have NOTHING to give. I feel like it wouldn’t really matter anyway because it seems no one is (in truth) seeks anything from me. Honestly, it feels almost like I don’t exist to anyone, other than my husband, and one or two close friends and even that seems somehow compromised. I’m old enough to know that feelings come and go, but feelings are powerful things, and I know (from experience) that if we are not careful we can act unwisely on them. So after I realized the emotions were not fleeting, I fired off that email mentioned above.
I want to see the flowers in the desert but right now all I can seem to see is the scorched earth! My life is not void of things to be thankful for. They are legion, countless. I’m sure the thing going on in our country (the election) and the unrest in our world do nothing to help right a ship (mine) which has somehow veered off course, but I think that writing may help me bring into focus my current optically challenged view. So: WHAT’S GOING ON? I’ve been feeling like I’d like to go away for a while, by myself, someplace quiet, away from phones, tv, “devices” of all kinds. Just. Be. Quiet. Have you ever felt this way?
When things like this crop up in our lives, we look to the wisdom of people who have gone before us in terms of what to do and steps we can take to remedy our situation. So, I’m being totally transparent for a couple of reasons.
ONE: It has always been cathartic for me to journal. It gives a clarity to my thoughts and a place for me to “go back to” when I need to be reminded of the things I’ve learned in life.
TWO: Perhaps what’s happening to me, and the answers God shows me could help you!
For the last four years I’ve been dealing with a physical affliction that has left me at best to consistently be mindful that I must “rise above”. But honestly right now I feel mostly exhausted at the work of it all. It shouldn’t be “work” to rise and be happy, motivated, confident, joyful, and rested to face another day. BUT IT IS !!! That is just the truth of it. It is not lost on me that chronic pain carries not just physical challenges but mental and spiritual ones as well. I’ve written extensively on that subject.
I’m currently reading through Ecclesiastes where in verse 11:10a we see “Remove sorrow from thy heart.” God stopped me at the word REMOVE and I decided to do a word-study on it. The word “remove” used in this scripture is a transitive verb. The heart is the object and remove is the action. So God is telling us (perhaps even commanding us) to take some action and that action is to REMOVE the sorrow. Remove can also mean “to get rid of” to eliminate. Synonyms: lead, length, distance, spacing, spread, stretch, way.
Let’s take that word eliminate for example. Let’s say I’m home alone when suddenly I see a really scary looking spider, and in fact I KNOW this spider could hurt me. Should I simply ignore that creature, hoping it will go away? Wisdom says I should “remove sorrow.” Okay, while I don’t feel sorrow at looking at that insect, I certainly could have some sorrow if it bites me or someone I love. So I TAKE ACTION, and ELIMINATE that thing.
Other things that could cause sorrow sometimes are best dealt with by “distancing” myself as quickly as possible and removing myself from the situation. For instance, an unruly mob, a dangerous area, etc. If I don’t use wisdom I could find myself immersed in a very unfortunate experience. Therefore my first clue in dealing with sadness or any negative emotion it seems would be to examine myself and discern if I’m removing or distancing myself from that which could harm me in any physical, mental or spiritual way. The point is that I HAVE TO TAKE SOME ACTION. I can’t just wish it or pray it away. God is teaching us that we have to do something!
BUT …. Removing emotional enemies can sometimes be and usually are more challenging than removing a physical danger. HOW does one remove sorrow? How does one remove fear? How does one remove insignificance? How does one remove loneliness from their heart? What weapon will accomplish those arduous tasks? Many years ago (over 30 now) I was experiencing deep loneliness. At that point in my life I was single, struggling financially, living in a new town with virtually no close relationships and in a job not best suited for me. My truest joy was going to church every Sunday and a couple of times during the week. I couldn’t afford a T.V. (probably a good thing) and mostly listened to Christian radio.
Radio broadcasts such as Walk With The King (Dr.Cook), Charles Stanley, (In Touch Ministries) Dr. Vernon McGee (now with The Lord), Chuck Swindoll (Insight for Living), Moody Bible evening Broadcasts “Songs in the night”, Focus On The Family and several others were a lifeline for me. I had a marketing job where I was in my car for hours daily and I always tuned in to Christian Radio. I listened to wonderful grounded teachers every chance I got. I was totally immersed in God’s word, and the teaching of God’s word. I heard the wonderful music of hymns and spiritual songs constantly. Within a couple of years I had the Bible knowledge equivalent to several years of formal Bible school. However, the problem was that it was all “head knowledge”. I had not yet begun to apply God’s wisdom to my life. So one day during this period of intense transition from the lonely life of an unbeliever to a believer WALKING IN FAITH, I heard a sermon about JOY and how to have a full
measure of it in one’s life.
But then one day I heard the wonderful acronym using the word “JOY”. J = Jesus, O = others, and Y = you. The advice was that if you are experiencing sadness, loneliness, etc., resist the urge to look inward and instead look outward to needs that others have. The teacher I was listening to said scripture teaches that we are to put ourselves last, and consider the needs of others above our own. There is ALWAYS someone worse off than me.
So am I being silly? Self absorbed? Indulgent? Much too much inwardly focused? Is it possible I am drifting? I think that the enemy of my soul (satan) would like me to think this is all “silly” that it will all go away. Well I tried ignoring it. It is NOT going away. No, God’s Holy Spirit has begun gently nudging me to “take action” .. If I don’t take action I will have no one but myself to blame for the sorrow that currently lives in my heart. My garden needs some tending. I’ve been down (albeit decades ago) this road before, but I do remember the lesson about how to escape. I can remain where I am and be sad, or at the very least not joyful, or I can remember
a lesson from long ago and apply it to my life. So once again, God is helping me to come out of this place that feels like a desert. He has heard my cry, he is perhaps answering prayers of others who are interceding for me. As always I’m reminded again that Christianity is not passive. It is active. Not unlike our physical bodies, our spiritual lives need constant attention, watering and nurturing.
So for now I’m awaiting the delivery of that book recommended to me (linked above), but I also know that I am on the road to recovery and even more discovery. I thank you Lord that YOU not only are My Father but that your endless supply of help in a time of need is ever present. You are my light in darkness, you are my water when I am thirsty and you will bring me through. Yet again. Always and forever.
PART 2 – Lessons from The Book by Jeff Manion “The Land Between” (coming soon)
PART 3 – What brings us down? (coming soon)
PART 4 – Am I drifting? Evidence of a drifting heart today (coming soon)
PART 5 – Remedies for lack of joy (coming soon)