Theatre gal now working in full-time ministry. Here to encourage you as you figure out a life lived pursuing Jesus.
I wrote this at the beginning of this year, long before our world was turned upside down by this pandemic. I thought about modifying some of my points and language to adapt to our current climate, but I decided against it. This is a practice that proves more true now than ever but it is something we must discover in every season.
We all come to seasons of our life when we are hit with the reality of our human fragility.
A few years ago, I stepped into a season of emotional distress and depression. I had just graduated from college, I was thousands of miles away from my friends, starting over in a new state, and trying to find a job. I felt lost, insecure, like I was a failure. I’ve learned now that this is relatively common when undergoing phases of transition. You feel unsettled like you have no control or grounding, and you’re naturally more prone to depression and anxiety.
I’m guessing many of you are feeling this in some way. Maybe you’re gearing up for graduation, or a job transition. Maybe you’re dreading the upcoming wedding season as you remain single or you’re just stuck in a monotonous loop of everyday struggles or mental illness. I’ve been there. We should acknowledge that these feelings or circumstances are common. It’s typically easy to understand why you feel lonely, anxious, depressed, lost, etc.
I’m the kind of person who likes to wrap her head around the logic of a situation. Like a genealogical map, I want to trace back the roots of my emotions and find their source, their parent. And typically, I can. I can understand why I’m hurting, but that doesn’t mean I’m always okay with it, though.
One of the most famous miracles Jesus performed was walking on water. We find a narrative of this event in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 14. Jesus’ disciples leave a crowd of people who came to hear Jesus teach and sail off on a boat while Jesus recedes to pray alone. During the night, a storm arises as the disciples are still out at sea.
Jesus, in true mic-drop fashion, walks on the water out to the disciples in the midst of this storm. The disciples, on the verge of peeing their pants in terror, crying out. Jesus calls back, telling them to not fear.
“And Peter answered him, “Lord if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me!”Matthew 14:28-30
Jesus lifts Peter out of the water, and without a word, He calms the storm.
There have been many times where I’ve felt like Peter at this moment. I’ll feel like I’m walking towards Christ, my eyes fixed on His face, and suddenly my focus is engulfed by the storm around me. It feels like I’m sinking, and I cry out, “Lord, save me!”
But here’s what I think we often mean when we say, “Lord, save me:” We don’t mean, “Carry me.” We mean, “End the storm.” I know that’s what I meant. The intention of my prayers wasn’t, “Let me find more of You in this season. Let me become reliant on You and You alone.”
What I was really saying was, “Send me a job so I can feel financially secure and important. Send me a boyfriend so I can feel loved. Speak over me a career or a city to move to so I can feel like I have a direction in my life.” In seasons of storms, we often choose to pursue relief before reliance.
We don’t look at our unemployment, our breakup, our mental illness and say, “Wow, thank you, Lord, for this trial. I am so grateful because I’m going to seek You in the midst of my confusion and pain.” Do y’all pray like that? Maybe after years of spiritual cultivation and growth, but that is 100% not my knee-jerk reaction to pain.
When I was unemployed, I spent my time praying for a job. When I was dealing with anxiety or depression, I prayed for healing. As I continue in my journey of singleness, I pray for a good and godly future husband. That seems like a natural response, and, I’m not saying you can’t pray for your desires. But we’re missing the point.
The point of God allowing us to walk through valleys isn’t so that He can answer our prayers, make everything better, and we can look back on that time and think, “Oh, yeah. That was cool of God,” and then two seconds later forget it ever happened. I’m not saying God won’t answer your prayers. Keep praying, because He listens.
Often times, the purpose of our struggles is so that we might become fully engulfed in scripture, that our knees would become calloused and worn from meeting God in prayer. That slowly, as the pain drives us to seek Him, we would be transformed into the likeness of His Son.
If you’re thinking, “Well, that’s just not me. I’m not dealing with my hurt like that.” Me too, fam. As much as we read scripture and try to prepare our hearts and minds for what life throws at us, we are weak and inexperienced creatures. We are going to lash out, search for healing in the wrong places, and overall, fail. But as we start to evaluate and pray over our trials, as we seek spiritual counsel and guidance, we can begin to learn and grow, in order that we might respond as Jesus calls us to respond.
And you know what? God doesn’t expect perfection. His mercy offers us second chances. I recently went through a large life transition similar to the one I previously mentioned. I had to do the whole process all over again: scroll through Indeed, find a new church home, etc.
One day, weeks before the move, I was sitting in my office thinking about these changes, and I started to feel those same emotions I had felt the last time around. Daunting fear and anxiety started to creep into my mind, and I was tempted to once again cry out, “Lord, save me.” This time, however, I paused.
I paused and remembered how the Lord had orchestrated everything before and it truly did work out for my good. I remembered how I had cried out for Him to take away the pain, but how that pain had been the very thing that had grown the intimacy of our relationship.
And so this time I prayed, “God, I don’t want to just push through this. I want to press in and rely on You.”
Now, don’t think highly of me just because I prayed that prayer. I’m still navigating how to do this with my whole heart. I am still prone to anxiety and worry.
It takes time, experience, and endless amounts of grace to handle trials with spiritual maturity. But I want to encourage you to make the choice to press in and not escape. When the storms hit, stay fixated on Jesus’ face. Don’t get distracted by the wind.
Choose to read God’s word over scrolling through social media. Choose to spend time in prayer and silence instead of watching Netflix. Surround yourself with wise, God-fearing friends rather than those who feed your unhealthy behaviors.
It’s scary and hard, I know. But it is not pointless.
“…[W]e rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”Romans 5:3-5
Let me say it again: your storms are not pointless. They are also not eternal.
I also want to share with you some of the negative habits I was holding onto that were pushing me further into depression and anxiety. If you’re already in a heavy season, these choices are going to keep you in the pit even longer.
You will probably hear me say this frequently because it deserves to be repeated often: comparison kills the goodness of your life. Stop wishing your life was someone else’s. If that was the road the Lord had for you, you would be on it.
If this is something you really struggle with, then maybe it’s time for you to start setting better boundaries. Unfollow people whose newsfeeds spiral your mental health. Don’t watch that TV show if it does something unhealthy to your thinking patterns. It’s not worth letting your life be robbed of gratitude.
In general, this is something I’m very bad at. I’m that person who doesn’t really like to tell people when I’m having a rough time. I swallow my emotions, carry the burden alone, and try to deal with it.
Y’all, this is not what we were made for. We were made for community. We were made to shoulder this pain together. And I promise you, there’s nothing quite as healing as sharing your heart with people and hearing the words, “I’ve been there, too.”
So, whatever storm you’re facing, you will come out to see the other side of it. But, don’t waste this time. Don’t look for the escape route. The storm is scary, but this is where the magic happens. This is where we are empowered to do miraculous things.