But… is it well?

There are times when a post or other piece of writing just comes. Regardless of how long from the initial idea to when I sit down to write… sometimes it just flows freely, straight from the Lord.

And then there are those times when I know what I want to write about, when I’ve been thinking about it for days… and yet I still have to spend time planning, preparing, researching. Finding the right scripture. Praying over the whole thing. Don’t get me wrong, in these circumstances the words are just as much from the Holy Spirit – but they just don’t come as easily.

This is one of those times.

It’s been on my heart and my mind to write again for some time now. Not only is it a way that can help me grow and process and heal, I know it’s an avenue through which the Lord uses me to speak to others. The state of our world right now with the coronavirus is one that needs Jesus, and we need Him more than ever.

Over the weekend I discovered a new worship song, and I haven’t been able to get enough of it. It incorporates the chorus of the famous hymn “It Is Well”, and it does so through the theme of reminding us that God is still in control, no matter what.

Control – and the little of it that we as humans have right now – is a buzzword for sure. But not just in society and the world around me… it’s a buzzword in my own life. See, since moving to Virginia, I’ve been realizing that while I have grown and healed in some pretty incredible ways that can only point to Jesus… one of my, umm, unhealthy coping mechanisms of choice… one of them still likes to try and get at me. It likes to try and rent space in my head. I haven’t been able to shake it completely, and it has been the source of so much frustration.

That coping skill would be an unhealthy relationship with food.
That coping skill is an eating disorder.

Why do I share so openly, why do I name it… well, a few weeks back, sitting in therapy, I realized that the shame that surfaced a year ago… that same shame is wrapped up in this eating disorder. That shame is what’s keeping it around. And what’s the quickest way to start dispelling shame? To start shining the light in the darkest places, all in the name of Jesus.

This post isn’t to sit and talk about the eating disorder for days and days, but it is relevant to the overall theme I’d like to share today. Eating disorders are incredibly complex struggles, but one of the most common triggers, one of the most common needs that needs to somehow get met, one of the most common below the surface aspects to the whole thing…

… control.
An eating disorder, more often than not, is at least in part about needing a sense of control in one’s life.

So when I heard this beautiful worship song last weekend, and when not only it incorporated such a beautiful hymn but it did so by way of a theme that could not be more relevant in my life… well, one could likely understand why it has become such a favorite already.

But this theme of control. As I’ve wrestled with it in preparation to write, I wanted to find a scripture passage that could help convey my heart in all of this – a heart that ultimately wants to line up with His heart. I find it so ironic that the passage I decide on speaks so specifically to some of the themes and practices I share when talking about how I’m able to hold such peace and joy during this season… but then again, that’s just like God, isn’t it?

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:18-28 ESV

Some, if not all, of these words likely sound familiar. Romans 8 is one of the more famous chapters in the entire bible, and rightly so – it not only speaks to so many fundamental themes within the Christian faith, it also provides some pretty incredible promises that we can cling to throughout our lives here on earth.

I think it’s safe to say that these particular verses are incredibly relevant today. I mean, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the chaos that is all around us today. More unknowns than the world has ever faced. And yet… if we as Christians really stop to think about it, this life is temporary. There is suffering in front of us, yes. But our God promises us His glory, face to face, at the end of it all. As it says elsewhere in this chapter, if God is for us, who can be against us? He loves us so completely, so passionately… His love and God Himself is all we ever could need.

When I go back and read this passage in its entirety, I am reminded that in times of trial, in times of hardship, in times that just feel so out of control… the best thing we can do is turn our focus to Jesus.

Not to try and STOP being anxious.
Not trying to push away the fear and anger and questions.
But instead turn TO Jesus.

Whether it’s worship (music), reading scripture, remembering all that God has done for us… the best thing we can do in this season is to run TO Jesus. 

See, when we try and run FROM all those negative things… well, more often than not, we’re trying to run with our own power. And you and I both know that as long as we are the ones trying to move mountains… those mountains will never move.

I cannot tell you how many times, especially in this last year, that in moments of hardship or pain or anger I have said – you know what, these negative emotions and thoughts, they are what they are. But I’m going to turn my focus TO Jesus, to Him and nothing else.

And it’s amazing… when we stop trying so hard to NOT worry, when we just run to the foot of the cross? It’s amazing how the worry just… disappears. When we stop being worried about our worry, when we stop feeling like horrible Christians because we’re angry or because we don’t know where the money is coming from to pay the rent in April and May… when we let those things be what they are and say “Jesus, I need you”… it’s amazing what happens.

Joy happens.
Peace happens.
Jesus happens.

The song I mentioned is “Still in Control” by Mack Brock. The first verse is as follows…

“How can I say it is well when my voice can barely speak?
How can I sing You a song in the midst of suffering?
Jesus, will You meet me here? Let Your peace wash over me
I need You now more than ever, teach my soul to sing”

The words acknowledge that we cannot make the suffering go away. We cannot make the natural human emotions as a result of that suffering go away.

But… we can ask Jesus to come. We can tell Him just how much we need Him. And the moment that we do just that, He will be there.

As I share all of this, please know that I am still learning more and more every day how to live under this understanding. It has taken me years of hard work, therapy, seeking the Lord… it has taken me a lot to get here. I was talking with someone recently and they remarked how I have all of this great knowledge of myself and the world around me, how I’ve managed to learn everything at such a young age. I replied and reminded them that for seven years after high school, yes I worked for most of that time, but really… this path of healing and learning and growing was really my full time job. God works a different timeline for each of us, and for some reason that only He can know, He has allowed me the time and space to have the knowledge that I do today.

That’s why in this season, with all of this chaos and uncertainty, I truly feel He has prepared me for just such a time. And not only that, but with as clear as He made it for me to move to Virginia last October? I firmly believe that He has me here in Virginia very specifically during this season. He has prepared me and brought me here to be a light, His light, filled with a peace and with a joy that can only come from knowing Him.

If someone, even the most “religious” or “devout Christian”, in the middle of all of this COVID-19 stuff did NOT have any worries or questions or fears? I would wonder if they’re okay. No, really. These are circumstances that are so very trying for the human condition. We naturally want to have control of as many things as possible in our lives, and right now… right now that can’t really happen. Like, at all.

So my prayer for you, dear friends?
That you would know just how okay it is to be human right now.
That you would know how much you are not alone as a Christian in being human right now.
And that, more than anything else, you would know just how much there is a seat for you at His heavenly table.

He loves us.
He loves you.
He even loves me.

I say we let that Love be bigger than all of the fear that COVID-19 could ever cause.

That Love… it already is bigger.

That Love is waiting for you.
And His name is Jesus.

somehow, He keeps making a way.

It’s been a week now since the PTSD first appeared at work, and nearly a week since I reacted in any significant way. The ten hour shift on Sunday came and went, and I felt… dare I say it, relatively unscathed.

I’m walking to my car, having a conversation with my co worker. The co worker who has expressed to me that he’s against religion because of all the hypocrisy in the church, the co worker with whom I’ve had some tension, but the co worker who just now wanted me to wait for him so that he would have company walking to his car at 1am.

I’m just about there… and then I hear it.
LOUD.
… a train.
The horn.
It’s really, really loud.

The walk to my car is maybe halfway over when I first hear it. As soon as it sounds, I’m not immediately triggered – I’m just pissed. Really, really pissed.

Why did it have to come? Why did I have to hear it now, as I’ve almost made it through the night unscathed?

I hear it again.
The anger in me rises.
I can’t handle it.
I just can’t.

I continue the conversation like nothing is wrong. I don’t say anything about it to him. In all honesty, it’s probably a good thing I was with someone when I heard it.

The long, cold walk is over, and I get into my car. I sit for a bit… reflecting. Stewing.

As I said, I’m angry.
This whole thing has left me incredibly angry.
Why does my safe place, my workplace, the place that brings me such JOY… why does it have to go and get spoiled simply because the train nearby is making noise?

The phrase repeats itself in my head, the phrase that’s been swirling around since this all began last week…

“That is who You are.”

Okay God, but this is just so… so stupi-

“That is who You are.”

It’s just so frustrating, nearly everything that formerly was a suicide trigger now triggers a very real trauma response. Textbook PTSD.

“My God… that is who You are.”

Fast forward nearly another week. Preparing for my work week, I’m grateful to be feeling… normal again. I haven’t felt this much like myself, this depression free in weeks.

But as my last night before I work again draws to a close… the anxiety sets in again. Perhaps because I’m thinking about it, reaching out and asking people to pray. Is this all in my head? Am I making it worse than it needs to be?

“That is who You are.”

I can’t get over that phrase. I don’t know why, but it just will not leave my brain.

So I ask myself… who is God?

  • Way maker – when there is no way, He does it anyway. He makes the impossible… possible. 2019 was my impossible, and yet it happened.
  • Miracle worker – after what God did a year ago, I firmly and fervently believe that He is still very much in the business of miracles, they just might look different than when He walked this earth.
  • Promise keeper – what He says, He will do. It’s as simple as that. I could look at just a small portion of my life and I would be able to tell you so many ways in which He has kept His promises.
  • Light in the darkness – even in the darkest of rooms, the darkest of nights… the flashlight or candle that, during the day, seemed incredibly dim? Suddenly that light is brighter than anything I’ve ever seen. He is the light that wants to shine in on our darknesses.

As I write, thinking to myself about how all of those names and titles for God apply in my own life… am I still anxious for work? 

Yes.
I don’t want to hear that train.
I really, really don’t want to hear that train.
I don’t want to get triggered.
I want to just… get over this.
I want to enjoy my job, I want to continue finding great joy in it.

That joy… the joy that, a year ago, I feared would never come.

So my heart still beats a little faster when I think about work tomorrow, yes.

“That is who You are…”

It slows again.
So does my breathing.

“You are here…
Touching every heart.
Healing every heart.
Turning lives around.
Mending every heart.”

God doesn’t promise that I won’t hear the train tomorrow.
He doesn’t promise that I won’t react, that the trauma response won’t come.

I will carry Immanuel with me to work tomorrow.
And I will be okay.

Because my God?
That’s who He is.