It’s overcast outside. Yesterday it rained all day long! It feels like the weather has been a reflection of the emotions that I’m fighting right now. Dreariness…discouragement…disappointment…and a bit of disillusionment.
These are not emotions that I’m proud of…but they are real…and sometimes they are vicious. They wake me up at night. They torment me during my quiet moments. They disturb my conversations. Somehow, they seem to be at their “best” during the holiday season.
They sit on my shoulder and continually tell me lies. Lies like…
- …you are failing.
- …no one appreciates you.
- …what you are doing doesn’t really matter…you aren’t making a difference.
- …your struggles are so much more difficult than everyone else’s.
- …relationships aren’t worth the struggle and effort.
- …protect yourself at all costs.
- …no matter what you do, it will never be good enough.
- …you are alone.
- …things have changed, they will never be the same
And I respond with more questions of my own…questions that have lies cleverly disguised within them.
- …When will life ever get easier?
- …When will anything I plan go as I planned?
- …Do others even notice what I do?
- …Why doesn’t anyone ever say thank you?
- …Why in the world did I choose to go into ministry?
- …Why do I always feel like I’m the one left holding the bag?
- …When will buying Christmas presents NOT be stressful?
- …Why am I struggling while others appear to be thriving?
- …Does anyone really know what it’s like?
- …Why doesn’t anyone even notice that I’m struggling?
- …Why must I always be the the strong one?
- …Why does life have to constantly be changing?
The other day I asked a couple of my friends to pray for me…to pray that I could find my armor. I was struggling…struggling with all the things I have listed above and feeling like I was struggling with all of them simultaneously. You know, sometimes to survive life, you need a good suit of armor. Fortunately, I know where to find that armor. The problem is that sometimes I just feel too tired to put it on…too tired to even look for it…and sometimes, too tired to even remember that I have been given armor. And yet, the most amazing armor is waiting for me…
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God,so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. – Ephesians 6:10-18
Sometimes I think the battle would be easier if I could *see* the enemy. But instead, so many times, the enemy is unseen and seems to actually be my own mind and my own thoughts. It takes putting on the “belt of truth“…telling myself God’s truth and turning away from the lies that I hear in my head. The “sword of the Spirit” contains the truth and when I wield that sword, I can silence the enemy…I can silence my own mind and thoughts.
I know that to be true. You probably know that too! But sometimes amidst difficult circumstances, disciplining myself to put on the armor is difficult. This season is a busy time…a complicated time…a stressful time. It has a way of magnifying trials and challenges. Before long, I can find myself discouraged, disillusioned and disappointed in myself, in my life, and in those around me.
But I’m really working at it this year…working at disciplining my mind and my heart to focus on God’s truth. Sometimes I’m more successful than others and sometimes I fail miserably. One thing that is helping me this year, is to methodically take my thoughts “in hand” when they start veering to the negative…to the self-pity. Instead of cutting myself slack and allowing myself to wallow for even a bit, I’m deliberately and quickly turning my focus on things for which I am thankful and I’ve been verbalizing those things out loud to others. That probably sounds corny…but it is making a difference…at least for me it is.
Just this afternoon I came home from trying to squeeze the life out of an impossible Christmas budget (I’m sure you are too)…I was discouraged and frustrated on many levels and for many reasons. When I got home, John asked how I was doing and I had to admit that I was struggling with a root of bitterness. He took my face in his hands and acknowledged that he has been feeling the same way over the past few days. But, he also reminded me that even with all the trials and challenges that we have faced the past few years…health, job, finances, major disappointments and more…that he wouldn’t trade our life or our family for anything. We both ended up laughing. It was like “seeing through a glass darkly” and then seeing the circumstances face to face…in the light of eternity.
I know I’m not the only one struggling with emotions this time of year. Maybe we can lift each other up? Maybe we can help one another put on the armor needed to walk through the season victoriously…to walk through Christmas seeing HIM face to face…
What are the words to that old song?
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will go strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
So I’m going to keep trying to put on the belt of truth and wield that “sword of the Spirit” which is the Word of God. I want to walk victoriously this Christmas season. I want to focus on the right things. I don’t want to waste time or energy on things that would keep me from seeing what is most important during this season. I have a feeling if I do that I will gain a new perspective on my life and my circumstances.
What about you?