The other day, as I was praying and dreaming over this blog, I was inspired to put down some truths for anyone who was going through a really difficult season of life. Little did I know that the very next day, I would need these very truths to cling to in my own life.
Whether it is disappointment, depression, or disillusionment, we can all feel like life sometimes hits hard and unexpectedly. And in these seasons, our emotions go all over the place. It can feel like riding a roller coaster with a blindfold on. In these difficult seasons, what do we do? Where do we turn to to find solid ground and a firm footing when our world seems to be crumbling all around us?
Here are 6 truths that we can hang onto in a season of disappointment, depression, or disillusionment:
1. What I feel is emotionally true. It is actually unhealthy to deny our emotions and not to grieve during seasons where we are experiencing loss or feeling negative emotions. It isn’t bad to admit that it feels bad. But often, it feels preferable to medicate the pain, dull the feelings, and reduce the intensity of the emotional experience in the hope of avoiding the incredible pain of a low season. What happens, however, when we resist the depth of an emotional bottom is that we also reduce the height of emotional highs. In other words, when we avoid the season of depression by numbing the pain with something else, we also lessen the experience of incredible joy or hope.
We can’t reduce our capacity to feel low without messing up our ability to feel at all. So, it is ok to admit the bad feelings. You don’t need to pretend they don’t exist. They are true. They are real. And they will pass. They are not permanent. They are not fake. And they are not who you are.
2. What I feel doesn’t scare God. One of the things that really comforts me is knowing that God saw this season coming…and he didn’t freak out or alter the course of history. He saw it coming, and he is with me in it
I love how Psalm 23 describes God’s oversight and presence with me in deathly seasons: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” (Psa. 23:4-5). In other words, God’s presence is with me in the bad seasons and his blessings follow me, even in the middle of daunting emotions and difficult situations. He is not scared. He has is all under control.
3. What I feel doesn’t alter reality. Here are a few things I know to be true, despite how I feel: God is in control. God is always good. God is just. This situation is temporary. These feelings have no power over me. These feelings will pass, eventually. The sun will still rise tomorrow. There are good things waiting for me in my future (Psa. 23:5). Jesus is still working this situation out for my good (Rom. 8:28). Heaven is still my home. The Holy Spirit is still with me. I can’t lose what God has given me. Others are watching me go through this. There are people who really love me. There are people who need me. My pain isn’t useless or wasted. I can waste this or I can grow from this. This is part of my testimony. The same God who saved me is watching over me. And I could go on…
All of those things are true. They are true yesterday, today, and forever. They never change. And they describe reality – a reality that I am currently existing within. So no matter how I feel, those things will always be true.
4. What I feel is a real experience with the brokenness of this world. Solomon said in Proverbs 13:12, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” Similarly, Jesus said in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” In other words, we are bound to experience deferred hope, sickness in our hearts, and troubles in this world. Those are real experiences promised in Scripture. But they are not things that will defeat us. There is a tree of life and an overcoming power available to us. There is real brokenness in this world. And often, when we go through a season of depression or discouragement, it simply indicates that we have had a real experience with the broken world we live in. It doesn’t mean, however, that we are doomed to stay broken. We can still overcome and taste of the tree of life!
5. God primarily works through brokenness in my life and in my world. One of the things that I love about the grand narrative of Scripture is how God primarily works through and uses broken people to bring his plan to reality. But he totally doesn’t need to. I mean, think about it: he’s perfectly good and all-powerful. Why would he need us – or even want us – to make his plan happen? I love how David says it in Psalm 8:4, “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?“
Take the family tree of Jesus for example. This is at the very focal point of the story of the Bible. This is a summary of how God brought eternal redemption to the entire cosmos. This is God’s crowning work in all of history. This, of all things, should be done perfectly. But in this family tree, we don’t see the cleanliness of perfect people; we see the beauty of broken and redeemed people.
Matthew 1 is the writer’s proof that Jesus of Nazareth actually is the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. So Matthew traces Jesus’ lineage from Abraham on…but in there are lots of jacked up people. for example, we are pointed to Rahab the prostitute, Judah’s incest with his daughter-in-law Tamar, the story of David’s adultery with Bathsheba, and so on… And as we read through this list, we realize that this is the way God works – that he brings grace through brokenness. The upside down paradox of the cross of Jesus Christ is that the very thing you’re trying to avoid most in your life – that point of pain, brokenness, and bitterness is the very point at which God is at work the most in your life. Jesus moved aside heaven and earth, entered a broken world through a messed up heritage, lived with and loved on awful people, took the fall for something he didn’t do, and drained his veins to make us his own. The cross is God at work through brokenness! This is hope for discouraged people and depressing seasons!
6. What I feel, thus, doesn’t have to scare me. If all this is true, then, I can have confidence and hope. Yes, these feelings are real. Yes, this season is hard. Yes, I am depressed. And yes, God even saw it coming. But he can also see what is ahead! And because he is still with me, I can overcome! I don’t have to scared of this depression. I don’t have to resent this discouragement. I don’t have to wallow in this disillusionment.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). I can overcome because Jesus is with me and he has overcome the world!
“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). I can move forward because he’s in me, giving me the hope of glory!