Hurt and pain is inevitable to us all, but when we hold onto our hurtful memories and destructive stories, we prolong our suffering. The problem is that many of us don’t know how to process our discomfort and more often than not, suppress it instead.
We’re all familiar with the popular saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” Unfortunately, we’re all guilty of this. Even when it comes to our spiritual growth and development, we often believe that somehow, usually by divine intervention, we’re going to wake up one day and our lives are going to be different or changed for the better.
Whether we desire love, success, fitness, healing, peace, joy, and contentment, 9 times out of 10, it’s going to take at least “some” effort on our part. You might be that “one” in a million to win the lottery, but even then you had to buy a ticket! Also, as time moves forward and we enter new and different seasons in our lives, many times adjustments still need to be made. What may have worked for us 5-years ago, may be obsolete now. Therefore, we must change with the changing times.
Every now and then, especially when the spirit calls, we must pause, reflect, listen, before taking new action. Sometimes small changes will suffice. At other times, a complete makeover may be needed. It may be time to change how we eat, alter our current business model, change jobs, move, get back in shape, heal from a past relationship, fully grieve a loss, or begin to take our spiritual self-care more seriously. In every aspect, outer manifestation generally proceeds inner change that leads to new behaviors and actions, unless of course we’re thrown into an unexpected crisis. When that happens we must quickly find ways to adjust or cope. There really is no other way around it.
Right now, you, me and all of us, are living the lives of our dreams whether we recognize it or not. (Luke 6:45) The important question remains, “Is this really the dream life you want? If not, then it’s time to do some work on yourself, me included. It could be as simple as getting clear on that dream of yours (not really that simple) or making some small adjustments to get your closer (small always best). That discontentment and discomfort you may be feeling in your heart may be trying to get your attention. Our emotions are good at letting us know it’s time for change and transformation to happen, when we heed them.
I know this can be really scary. Uncertainty, I believe, is one of the greatest fears we face, right up there with death. The fear of uncertainty keeps us in our comfort zones, unwilling to take chances or make those changes longing within our souls. Have you ever said or thought when faced with a new or daunting opportunity or decision… What if it doesn’t work out? I don’t have the time or money? What if people don’t accept the newer version of me? Will I be rejected, laughed at, or criticized? Can I do it? What if I fail? Where do I even start? All of these can be real and valid concerns, yet all of them are based in fear, and fear is paralyzing.
Another issue is that “fear” brings torment. That torment can take many forms but most often you’ll experience it as that pit in your stomach, sweaty palms, shortness of breath, a maddening headache, overwhelming anxiety, and worst-case scenario, a panic attack, depression or chronic disease.
You see, we hold our issues in our tissues and denying our feelings, discontentment, discomfort, and unhappiness doesn’t eliminate them, it just buries them further into our bodies, vital organs, or energy field, causing a low-grade emotional fever just ready to burst at the right trigger or the next overload. Too many of us are emotional ticking time-bombs and it doesn’t take much to set us off.
Suppression isn’t healing! We begin to heal when we acknowledge our pain, process it, release it, and let it go. Unfortunately, many of us haven’t been taught how to do this in healthy, nurturing, and loving ways, both for ourselves as well as others. Instead of working through our pain or agitations, we either fight back (fight), withdrawal (flight), or shutdown (freeze).
Henceforth, we may carry our pain, hurts, and disappointments around unnecessarily for weeks, months, or even years. Now, instead of experiencing an event, it becomes a part of our personality, poisoning us with anger, bitterness, unworthiness, and a host of other toxic feelings and emotions. We all know individuals whom we had to ask, “What happened to them that made them so unhappy?” Life happens to all of us, but it’s how we handle it that determines if we just survive or thrive. Jesus came that we would have a more abundant life. A life full of peace, joy, and contentment that can be attained even amid the storms.
In my own life, I feel a transition taking place. At the beginning of 2020, I felt this overwhelming desire to pause, to be still, and spend the majority of this year working on myself and finding the direction that God was leading me to go.
There was a stirring within my heart that I just couldn’t ignore, nor did I want to drown it out. The knock was loud and clear, and I wanted very much to open that door. When it comes to my own spiritual evolution, I have discovered that large growth spurts are often followed by a grave darkness. Some of my greatest breakthroughs were preceded by an almost unbearable inner conflict, nail screeching uncertainty, tremendous doubt, and sometimes heart-quenching pain. I have heard some call this the night of the soul and I believe this to be true.
During these times, instead of fighting to keep things the way they are out of fear, whether old beliefs or even external changes, I believe we fair better with a quick and humble surrender, patiently and willing waiting on God to do his handy work (pruning, molding, and shaping) to prepare us for something new. Once I recognize that what I’m going through might be a “God thing,” it helps me to relax and just go with it, still I never know just how long it will last.
These times, for me, feel like the ripping away of old beliefs, attachments, and the like, which often make me feel extreme vulnerability and spiritually weak or naked. The only respite is to hold on to God, knowing that He will never leave me or forsake me. It’s so ironic that just the day before, I was singing and praising God for my awesome life and the next day feeling like the big bomb dropped or the rug was pulled from under my feet. Initially, I wonder, “What just happened?” followed by squirms, moan, complaints, and sometimes despair. Have you been there too?
Because I know that avoidance only increases and prolongs my pain, I increase my meditations, journal my thoughts and feelings, say affirmative prayers, eliminate negative self-talk, write gratitude and faith affirmations, use my healing tools to release anxiety, and talk to friends as a great way to release. If you have a therapist, even better. I also do not neglect to talking lovingly to myself, getting enough sleep (or sleep during the day), eliminating sugar and processed foods, and taking walks or even some light exercise. Just because you take a few days off just to be with yourself doesn’t mean you’re lazy, a loser, or a slob. To the contrary, you are listening to your body and saving your vital energy to deal with what’s showing up now. Getting comfortable with the uncertainty and “just being” can really help the process along. All of these activities help me to stay grounded in my body and faith while everything else feels like a swirl wind around me.
During these times it’s good to avoid activities that suppress your feelings or the process. These can include spending too much time on social media, overworking, or even trying to figure it out. Instead, watch an uplifting movie, garden, read a book, paint, write, or just spend time in nature. These times are so much bigger than us and difficult to figure out or work our way through right away. Even just acknowledging our lives just suck or don’t feel right at the moment can bring a lot of relief. Repeat a short prayer like, “Jesus, I’m not really feeling my best, but I am thankful and grateful you are working in me and through me, and I know that this will be a tremendous blessing in my life.” Then breathe.
Then just as quickly as the darkness descended, I’m visited again by God’s glorious light, divine peace, and joy along with a newer level of discernment, freedom, and clarity. And even though I have experienced this many times over, it’s never an easy time in my life, but it is one that I have come to understand and appreciate. I liken it to that seed that is buried in the ground, living in utter darkness; however, once it has received the necessary sun, water, and nourishment, it springs forth towards the light. I believe at various times in our lives, we become that little seed again and again. Jesus said, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But when it dies, it multiplies and blesses others.
My mom has a grapevine in her yard. Each year she cuts it back almost to the stubs and every year I am amazed that it grows back fully and healthy, bearing lots of grapes. Such are the seasons in all of our lives. We can save ourselves much pain to recognize the Father’s hand and then stop, rest, and be still when He calls.
In John 15: 2, Jesus said that, “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” At some point in each of our lives, our fruit can become barren and die out. It is only when we pause and allow God to cut off the dead branches, that we can experience new growth. This new growth eventually leads to more and better fruit. No tree bears fruit all year-round.
In life, as well as nature, there are seasons of fertilizing, planting, harvest and dormancy. We can’t do just one thing “all” of the time. It’s not the natural process of nature or life. We must take time to recuperate, recharge, and rest to spur inner growth and expansion. When we are depleted, we have nothing to give. Even Jesus told us, to first love God, the source of all strength and wisdom, and then our neighbors as ourselves. Living from the inside out is living purposely and with intention. Without the inner work and interaction with God, we’re just guessing. Even Jesus told us that unless we abide in Him and He abides in us, we can do nothing (of real value). The only way to know God’s will is to seek it, by clearing out and keeping our minds and hearts open and receptive to hear His voice when He calls.
In Deuteronomy 8:3, God told the children of Israel when they were facing great struggle, “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”
Too often we equate struggle with punishment or wrongdoing, when God is just trying to get our attention. He either wants to grow us or get us to redirect our attention back to Him. That hunger or empty feeling may just be a call from God, to come and listen. I’m reminded of the small boy Samuel who after hearing his name called numerous times throughout the night and running to Eli to inquire of him. Finally, Eli told him, Samuel, lie down and listen, God is speaking to you. (Samuel 3)
Please share any comments below. Do you ever experience this in your own life? What has helped you to move through it? What types of growth or changes has it made?
If it is time for you to pause, reflect, or experience new growth, check out a few of these programs that can support you: Be Still & Know Meditation Membership, Detox Your Life & Awaken Your Inner Spirit, The Christian Meditation Journal, or Introduction to Christian Meditation with Rhonda.