Anyone that has been reading CB for a while has known that I have seen my dark days. I haven't hidden the fact that I have faced some major suffering, mainly in my marriage and the second in my health.
Being in the dark--and what I mean by that is being in a place and time in your life that is extremely painful emotionally, physically and mentally. Dark times come when we lose someone very close to us, or we struggle with our health, or we lose our homes and struggle to put food on the table, or we go through a divorce. There are many situations that bring us to a dark period in our lives, and hopefully, it brings us to our knees. I know that is where I ended up.
Darkness promotes many things: loneliness, hopelessness, depression, anger, bitterness, resentments, self-pity, frustration, blame. . .and the list goes on. I'm very familiar with it.
I believe we must let the times in the dark show us something we haven't seen yet. Let it teach ussomething we don't know yet. Look within. Dig. Seek. Ask. Beg if you have to.
I would consider being in the wilderness or the dark for probably 6 or 7 years. That's a long time.
My first bout of darkness came in my marriage 9 years ago. I've written about it on the blog here, here, here, here, here, and here so I won't rehash it all today, but it was torture for me, and my husband. I spent many days hiding in my closet and screamed and cried almost every day for a year and a half. After that mulled over, it was still chaos for 5 more years, and I thought the marriage would end. Man those were some dark, miserable days. Or years, rather. What torment.
The second piece of darkness has been my health. I have had 43 surgeries since 1996. And from 2007-2010 I had the worst of them. I've been recovering for the last 4 years or so, through various treatments and physical therapies. Those were some very pathetic years for me, extremely defeated and basically thought I was the worlds biggest loser. And not the trying to lose weight kind.
I consider myself a seeker "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." Matthew 7:7, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:13. When I was in the midst of these battles I always went to God's Word, it was literally ALL I HAD. The scripture verses on seeking had struck me back in 2002 when I became a christian, but when I was in my pit of hell, is when I put them to USE. So began my journey to "seek the Lord" and His kingdom first.
Here are 3 things I let the dark teach me, here is what I discovered as I sought the Lord and wisdom greater than my own. Because if I were left to my own devices, I wouldn't have learned what I learned:
1. I Became An Abider-
Most Americans don't get the concept of REST. And they have no clue that rest is important, no, vital for their lives. I really wish this would change, but our society is too focused on busyness, I just don't have faith that it will change much. Achievements and success is the american way don't ya know.
Well I was forced to rest. Being that I was laid up from 2007-2010 basically, made me an "abider". I use to be so focused on all I wanted to DO and how we all should DO it and what the RIGHT way to live was and on and on. I was focused outwardly. I was "trying" to live a good life. But in my time on the couch as I like to call it, I learned that what God wanted from me was just to rest in Him. To abide in Him, and connect with Him, and commune with Him. Learn to be a BEING. Learning to be a BEING helped me really become a real DO-ER. It was an inside out change, and my life naturally became a living sacrifice for others. Which is what Jesus was. Whether you have certain religious beliefs or not--you can still learn to be a BE-ER. Instead of focusing on being a DO-ER, God taught me to just be. And you can learn that too. I had an idea of what my life ought to look like, but God was calling me deeper, and saying, "No child, come here first."
As soon as I started to loosen my grip on the way I thought I wanted things to go, and as soon as I stopped clinging to trying to make my life look a certain way, was when I actually started to live. Truly live.
I could rest at His feet and learn more about His heart, and His ways. I could love on Him and He could love on me. Just right there, on the couch. Learn about your heart, learn the way you think, learn to rest.
"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. - John 15:4
2. Rise Above Circumstance-
It took all I had in me to find peace and joy in the midst of my marital uproar and my unstable health. I was fighting tooth and nail because I did not want either of these things happening to me. This wasn't what I envisioned for my marriage or my health! The word circumstance comes from things that are happening. It actually is traced back to the word HAPPY. Usually we are happy or not happy depending on our circumstances. But JOY and PEACE breed contentment and that is a whole other ballgame. We can have those without HAPPY CIRCUMSTANCES. For me that came in the form of course in reading God's word and seeing Paul! Paul was in prison and was an innocent man but because God loved Him that was simply enough for Paul to find joy. I was able to "rise above" my circumstances and not let them define me or bring me down because God showed me that I was more than what was happening TO me. I was loved by God and even if my marriage was falling apart and my health was a mess, I could still have an inner peace by knowing the Truth of God's love. I didn't have to be defined by my circumstances. I might not have been happy, but I could still have peace, I could still have a joy. I was able to cling to hope, which opened a whole new world! The world and it's suffering and pain will always try to bring us down, but the hope we have in God outweighs anything this life throws our way. God has His own profound purpose in our afflictions, but it's never to take away our joy. To maintain our joy we must adopt God's perspective regarding our trials. When we yield to the working of His Spirit in our lives, our difficulties will not overwhelm us. In all circumstances the Spirit of God produces joy, so there ought not to be any time when we're not rejoicing in some way.
"I count it all joy". Paul
"For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord. Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me." Psalm 27:5-7
3. The Battle Is In The Mind
Every morning, and I mean every morning for years I woke up and believed I was a loser. Gosh, what even IS a loser?
I believed I had no purpose, no plan and was useless. When I couldn't do all I wanted to do because I had to quit my job in 2007 due to all the surgeries I was having, I was angry. This is not where I wanted to be, and I found myself constantly fighting this battle of who I was in my mind. I believed lies about myself that I was no good. It was such a dark place to be. But again, I turned to the word and found scripture was literally my only Truth. It had become a way of life for me. It wasn't just words on a page anymore, they were real life for me. I found out amazing things about who I really was in God's Word and that that was what I needed to replace with the negative talk and lies I was believing in my head. I had to claim and re-claim the Truth of who I really was! The bible calls it "taking thoughts captive" and I learned in counseling that all that means is that the cycle is: THOUGHTS, FEELINGS, ACTIONS. So I had to start with the thought, and if it was negative, I would replace it with a TRUE or GOOD thought and therefore my feelings would change and of course then my actions would be different too. It's an amazing tool that I STILL do every single day! Email me if you have questions about it or want help with it!
It's been a good long time since I woke up calling myself a loser, but if I start to feel it creep in, I immediately change my thought pattern. I replace false thoughts with true thoughts. I replace cruel thoughts with kind, loving thoughts. Mostly which are from my heavenly Father.
I know the last place anyone wishes or wants to be is in the dark. Why would we? It's painful and scary and beyond not fun. But I also trust that it's in the darkness that better vision can grow. Better vision about ourselves, others, God and the world itself. We mature there. We become like fine wine, being in the wine skins for long periods of time, we get better with time and age. We push through the darkest days of our lives searching for a purpose in all of it. There is always hidden purpose or beauty. Always. We just have to be daring enough to find it.