So you know you are supposed to be all happy about the upcoming holiday activities but maybe - just maybe - you aren't. Or, perhaps you are acting like you are, but secretly you just want the holidays to be over.
I am about to be really open and honest here. My intention in sharing is not to gain sympathy or get encouragement. I just want to share my experience because it might help someone going through the same kind of experience or about to go through the same, or has gone through the same. Remember, it's just my experience, and I'm sharing what I have learned and am still learning. I don't have it all figured out yet. But God does.
For the longest time, I considered myself a people person. After being with people, I felt energized. If asked, I would say I was an extrovert rather than an introvert. But, over the last few years, I've wondered what happened to the old me. Often I feel more like an introvert. Sometimes, it takes me days to recover emotionally and physically from being with people.
This is really hard to admit. Oh, and please, please if you are reading this and wondering if it is you that has left me drained, it's not about you at all but rather what's going on inside of me.
I’ve been reading Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst. As I was reading chapter 4, which is entitled “Alone in a crowded room." I highlighted these sentences: “In these situations, I’m with people. But I’m so very alone…It was me not being prepared in advance with a fullness that can only come from God…Do I walk into situations prepared with the fullness of God in me, free to look for ways to bless others?”
In the margin, I wrote BINGO. Can you relate?
You see, I'm acknowledging that these past few years I seem to have lost my joy for being with people. So often I feel awkward in groups and just want to hide. I just don't seem to be good at small talk anymore. A fish out of water. Yes, alone in a crowd. I beat myself up over these feelings and honestly wonder why...what's happened to me? I talk to the Lord about all this - a lot! Oh, I get spurts, and I reach out wanting to pour into others and have fellowship. So, I'll schedule times to meet for coffee, lunch or open my home. I realize now what I long for during these times is to process with others the deeper things of life and God. But at the same time, I find myself retreating and pulling back as if to protect myself. Who am I? And why would I be retreating, pulling back or protecting myself?
Good questions and ones I've been asking the Lord to help me answer. Here is some of what He's shown me. Maybe it will help you.
It's been a decade of loss and sorrow, and I'm still recovering emotionally, physically and spiritually. While I've had some significant losses before, this last decade has been intense. Allow me to share some of my highlights with you.
- My parents moved in with us, and a week later we find out my mom had brain cancer. For three months, we would care for and watch my mother die.
- Then there was the adjustment to life with a blind daddy with lots of doctor appointments and an evil little dog who caused chaos. I lost much of my freedom as well as peace in my own home. As precious as this time was with daddy, I had to die to myself a lot and realized I wasn't at all the person I thought I was.
- God asked us to leave our home of 20 years, follow Him and move to another state.
- I had to walk away from a ministry God had allowed me to birth because of His calling on my life to make sure every woman within my reach and influence knew God through the study of His word.
- We left a community, friends, and a church family we loved.
- At the same time financial markets crashed, and so I was left in one state for a year waiting for our house to sell. Tom was in another state working.
- My brother-in-law was diagnosed with ALS and passed away a few years later.
- My daddy got very ill and after several months passed away.
- On the heels of daddy’s death, Tom had quintuple heart bypass surgery with complications.
- Tom's mother became ill and passed away.
- I saw and experienced things that deeply, deeply grieved my heart and rocked my world.
- I lost friends and experienced rejection and isolation without ever knowing why.
What is on your list of sorrows?
Honestly, there are other things and more details, but I think I've shared enough for you to understand. Thank God I had two decades of digging deep into God's word before this intense decade of sorrow took place.
Oh please know the Lord sustained me in every moment of the above. He moved in miraculous ways by giving strength, wisdom, grace, peace, and on the list could go. Paul in Philippians 3:7-11 describes what's been going on spiritually during this decade of sorrow.
"But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead."
You need to know that I can and do praise Him for in each loss because I truly did gain more of Christ. Oh, my goodness...the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord is worth every suffering of loss.
But here's something else I want to share. Suffering loss is suffering loss. It takes a lot out of you emotionally, physically and spiritually. If you and I aren't experiencing the surpassing worth of knowing Christ in the midst of our suffering losses, then you and I will be a big hot mess. “Alone in a crowded room" ...
Suffering loss without gaining more of Christ will leave us empty, confused, bitter, angry, with a guarded heart, emotionally closed off and well...surely you get the picture.
This decade of sorrow has taken a lot out of me. The sorrow easily wells up inside of me, and I find myself mourning. I think I should be beyond the tears and over the sorrow. I get frustrated with myself for wanting to - and frankly needing to - retreat. You see, I get to dwelling on my sorrow rather than dwelling on the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Oh, don't think I don't already know this is what I should do. But, it's just that in my damaged state of sorrow, the doing of what I know seems to escape me.
I'm not saying we deny our sorrow. We just can't dwell on it. We need to fix our eyes on Jesus. We prepare ourselves and fill ourselves up with the fullness of God. We count our "gains" or blessings so we can be a blessing to others. In our sorrow, we are able to serve.
Perhaps you are in a season of suffering and sorrow. Maybe you are depleted emotionally, physically and spiritually. Yes, you need to ensure you are getting the physical and emotional rest sorrow requires but at the same time you need to feed your soul. With a burdened, frustrated, or sad heart, just cry JESUS. If all you can say is His name, say it. If at first a broken whisper - keep saying it until you can shout His name. Acknowledge to Him every loss remembering He takes account of your sorrow, misery, wandering and collects your tears in His bottle (Psalm 56:8). But, please, please please don't forget to turn your own sorrow into rejoicing by shifting your focus off your sorrow and on to the glorious One. Remember His suffering and His blood shed for you. Recount to your soul all his marvelous deeds. Feast on the truths of Jesus until your soul is full and refreshed. Repeat as often as necessary.
I know the sorrows I have listed above are nothing compared to what many of you have and are suffering. Let's just help each other learn how to count our losses and gains! By that I mean, let's help each other learn how to suffer loss while gaining more of Christ in the process. Oh, to personally experience the surpassing worth of knowing Christ! It is a sweetness in the midst of suffering that we do not want to miss.
I pray this makes sense and encourages someone's sad and weary heart. Remember, this is the place I process and babble the things I ponder with the Lord. Be blessed and know I wish you more of Christ this Christmas.