One of the hardest things we can be challenged by is developing balance in our lives in really every area. Many of us experience a tendency to want to throw off the limits that we are faced with, or we believe are imposed on us. Not unlike a wild mustang, we don’t want to be reined in. Some of us are more tentative and play things “close to the vest” and much of what we believe or feel most strongly about stays tucked inside much of the time. Developing a balance that is not all or one of these takes time, practice, and discipline. And all these have been tested more often over the last few years when we had limits imposed upon us and spent far more time isolated.
“We entered the pandemic of 2020 already worn out from the craziness of modern life. We went on to experience global disaster, loss of loved ones, and high-stakes disagreements. We drew on deep wells of endurance – until those wells ran dry.”John Eldredge
Whatever our own personal experience has been, each of us has been trying to regain some of what we lost. We have recognized that to manage life in 2022, we somehow need to take hold of our thought life as one potential crisis or another will undo us in this state of depletion. We are in a battle of tremendous proportions, and it is one that is best handled by acknowledging where we are and how it is impacting us because the enemy of our souls would seek this vulnerable time to wreck us further.
One of the challenges we face is dealing with how often we tend to speculate. We can speculate good things that we hope for but most of us will be more prone to speculate about the worst things that might happen. Since 2020 that has been easier to do (despite our best efforts) because of the fear and anxiety stirring the pot hour by hour daily. Some I know took that time to memorize scripture that helped rein in those speculations, things like Psalm 91 and many others gave us a mooring for what was happening over which we had no control. We see speculation as a weakness, but it is more than that. It challenges our faith and its foundation.
The Apostle Paul knew we would face such times when he wrote these words in a letter to the believers in Corinth:
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)
Easier said than done, right? It’s a good time to look at what our internal dialogue (self-talk) is telling us and confront the lies the enemy of our souls and most of the media would want us to focus on. We need to tell ourselves the truth while we acknowledge our emotions and chaotic speculations.
“Start with speculation, something we all indulge in. And I do mean indulge. Speculation is like a wild horse running wherever it wants – without bridle, halter, or any sort of restraint – and we just let it run wild…
Bring your thoughts back under control: I’m not indulging speculation. It’s godless. Turn your thoughts to God. You are good, Father. You are with me. You are still in control. Putting a bridle on speculation builds mental resilience.”John Eldredge
Not easy and especially so if you have not believed God is good for a host of reasons. But what if you’re wrong?
If what you have believed about God hasn’t been helpful, it’s time to consider you might not have your perspective about Him in line with the truth. A good Father doesn’t allow a child He loves to operate without boundaries and risk running into the street or burning a hand on a hot stove. A good Father doesn’t allow the child He cares about to eat candy all day. A good Father reins in the child He loves and teaches that child how to navigate through a dangerous world that isn’t always predictable or easy to understand. He teaches the child skills and truths to lay a foundation for that child to stand on as he or she grows whether he is present in person or not. God is like that. Have you noticed the stars at night, the way the sun’s rays glimmer on a stream, the beauty of dew on a rose in the early morning, the sound of birdsong no matter the weather outdoors? Those are God’s gifts to us to remind us He is here with us.
Rebuilding out mental resilience is key to helping with our emotional resilience getting replenished. We can neither let our emotions run wild or try to bottle them up.
“We honor our emotions by acknowledging them. We bridle our emotions by keeping them subject to truth.”John Eldredge
When I read that, I am reminded of two different persons whose choices and words have impacted me greatly. One was a woman who went home to be with the Lord in 1999 and had come to my office to process the journey she was on toward dying in the midst of great pain. When she left this pain and entered heaven, she left me a gift of her last journal and the following quote contains her wise words about not holding emotions inside:
“God gave us our emotions and He gave them because He knew we’d get angry. He felt angry. He understands. He knows how I feel. And I know He’s still here! Holding it in can make it worse, it will come out one way or the other. Shake a can of pop, then open it…it goes all over – spraying in lots of directions.
Anger’s like that. Pressure builds till that last straw comes, then WHAM – it’s everywhere!
God has taught me – it’s okay – let it out, vent it, write it, say it, whatever! Then give it to Him! He knows just what to do with it.”Linda
She wrote about it, expressed it to me in tears and anger and most importantly, she expressed it to God in the unvarnished peak of her emotions. After all, David showed us that he did the same thing in the Psalms.
The other woman who impacted me was our youngest granddaughter who faced an agonizing surgery in 2016 at the age of thirteen. She had a strong foundation of faith as she approached surgery and knew what she was about to face, but she had no way of knowing how bad the pain would be. Family watched as she struggled and cried out in ways that broke our hearts. Then at one point she dug deep and began to pray out loud beginning at Genesis and on through to Revelation reminding God of his promises to her, proclaiming the truth and in those moments her faith stood tall to face the pain that required endurance to walk through. She was the smallest and weakest, but her mental resilience forged on years of believing God helped her acknowledge her emotions while bridling them in.
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.”Psalm 121:1-2 (NIV)