When I was around 8, I remember standing in our kitchen holding my dad's sturdy, army green thermos. I dropped it and immediately heard the sound of shattering glass. I had no idea that the thermos had been insulated with glass! (I also remember my dad's patience with me and that he wasn't at all angry that I had just destroyed his fishing thermos of cocoa!) You couldn't tell the thermos was broken by looking at the outside of it. If you picked it up and shook it around though, you could hear the broken glass rattling around.
Sometimes I feel like that broken thermos. On the days when my hurts and brokenness are close to the surface, I feel like there is broken glass just rattling around inside of me.
On the really bad days, I feel certain that everyone can even hear it!
When I feel like I'm walking around with shattered glass on the inside, I tend to avoid people and drop off the map socially. It's isolating and just magnifies the sound of the inner brokenness ringing in my ears. Sometimes I think that part of me wants to hear the brokenness rattling around because putting on the facade of "being ok" is exhausting.
-It's always God that does the healing.
When I'm really struggling with emotional pain, I just want someone to fix it. But they can't. Sometimes God uses people to bring consolation in the midst of suffering. Their words or presence or prayers can bring a flicker of hope and respite from the pain, but is always God that brings the true healing.
It's totally natural when you are feeling broken to try and find some way to escape the pain. I can try to pretend it isn't there until it's so intense I can't ignore it.(I actually tried this with the physical pain of contractions during my labor with Andrew. As you can guess, it didn't work at all!)
I can try and stuff the pain in an emotional closet and lock the door, but it always avalanches eventually and makes an even bigger mess.(Emotional clutter is an ugly thing!) I can try to take the edge off of it by eating whatever makes me feel good at the moment but just ends up adding self loathing to the mix.(I may have some personal experience with this one as well!)
-Acknowledging your feelings and waiting on God is hard work!
Being willing to look inside yourself and acknowledge all those difficult feelings is not easy. It's in the acknowledgement of the brokenness and asking for God's help that we are truly able to work through the issues that are causing us such pain. Being willing to ask God for help and wading through that emotional hurt while God unravels and heals the brokenness is not easy. It takes time. I don't know about you, but waiting is not something I'm good at!(especially when I'm hurting)
-Don't stare at the waves, keep your eyes on Jesus.
In the waiting, there are all kinds of doubts that creep up and whisper in our ear...or echo loudly in our head: "What if this never goes away?" "What if this is all there is?" "Do I matter enough for God to help me?" It's so hard to trust in God's love and his timing when all you see is nothingness.
-Finding, and holding onto, the small, every day graces.
Maybe it's a kind gesture from your spouse, your child, or a friend. Maybe it's a smile or a kind word from a stranger. Maybe its a beautiful flower blooming in your yard or an eye catching bird that perches on your window. Maybe it's a song that comes on the radio or an article that you find in your inbox. These little signal graces are good distractions to keep yourself from focusing on the darkness. They are always there, we just need the eyes to see them. They are little reminders of God's presence and love when it's hard to see or feel Him.
- Offering your suffering for other's suffering.
It's not hard to find a family member, friend, or stranger going through something hard, too. (Just hang out on social media for about 5 minutes!) Offering up your suffering for other people gives it some meaning and purpose while you're waiting for healing. It's another way to keep yourself feeling trapped just looking at your own darkness.
-Lean on a friend.
Look around at the people that God has put in your life...and reach out to them. Let them encourage you. One of the biggest tricks of the enemy is to get you to believe the lie that you are alone---isolated people are easier to pick off. Don't fall into that trap. Stay connected and be vulnerable to a friend or friend group you can trust. Just knowing you have people caring about you and praying for you makes that brokenness a little bit lighter.
-Seek professional help.
A good Catholic or Christian therapist can help you work through some issues faster than doing it on your own. Knowing you have support and a safe place to be honest about your feelings and thoughts is important when you're struggling to work through issues that are making life a struggle.
-Christian music can be like a balm to your soul and some songs can touch your emotions so deeply that it feels cathartic. Songs can lift you up or help you to have a good cry...and sometimes a "good" ugly cry is a necessary thing!
-Ask God to put a good book in your path that will help you. I've read many books over the years that held answers and encouragement just when I needed them. Flipping through my journal earlier today, I found a quote I wrote down from the book Unseen:
"When we acknowledge the parts of us that are broken, we have significant growth spurts in God...the long broken parts of me don't disqualify me from His love. Instead, they catch His eye. He heals us-from the inside out."
-Always look for the open window when a door closes.
God gave me a little visual on this several weeks ago that I wrote about here.
Too often, I spend time staring at the darkness of a closed door and wanting it to open again. I have it set in my head what will make me feel better and take away the hurt and I'm focused on God answering my prayers in my way and in my timing. "God's ways are not our ways" and I trap myself in my suffering for longer than I have to staring at a closed door when God has a much better window open right behind me. Moral of the story...when life hits a road block, always look around for God to open a better path.
All of the above are just my own personal thoughts that come out of my own experiences and some honest hours spent journaling. I have some ideas about how to be a good friend to someone who is going through difficult times that I will share in a separate post coming soon.