I realized early on in planning this meditation that this was not going to be a happy, cheery, welcome to the New Year, kind of letter, and I think that’s okay.
For many of you, in private and more public ways, I have shared the history of hurt, abuse and trauma I have experienced in my life added to it with the somedays crippling anxiety and panic attacks that can come completely out of the blue. I know that these experiences and trauma have led me to rely upon through the years, unhealthy coping mechanisms, bouts of depression and a regular anxiousness that I daily contend with.
With all of that said, I am a Christian. I am a child of God. I am forgiven because of the blood of Jesus shed on the cross. None of my hurts or trauma or anxiety will ever take any of that away or make me less a Christian or less a child of God.
I say this for our New Year’s meditation for a number of reasons.
First, because I and you and every other Christian has been bombarded with such ridiculous notions as things called prosperity gospel, name it and claim it, living life to the fullest, the Prayer of Jabez, the Book of Daniel Weight Loss plan and the list goes on and on with each having the same underlying themes. Christians don’t hurt. Christians don’t suffer trauma. Christians don’t get sad or have maladaptive behaviors because of it. The whole point of being a Christian is happy-clappy and if it’s not it’s your own fault.
Lies. All of it is lies. None of it is Christian or even remotely Christian but strange meanderings of the covetous and willful heart. Instead, listen to God’s people from the pages of Holy Scripture:
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities… Of Jesus from Isaiah 53:4.
Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God… Psalm 13:1-3
My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle and come to their end without hope. “Remember that my life is a breath; my eye will never again see good. The eye of him who sees me will behold me no more; while your eyes are on me, I shall be gone. As the cloud fades and vanishes, so he who goes down to Sheol does not come up; he returns no more to his house, nor does his place know him anymore. … Job 7:6-11
All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun… Ecclesiastes 1:8-9
That is simply a sampling of the amount of and reality of trauma and grief that God’s people have experienced and spoken of. Grief, trauma, pain, anxiety, stress and the resultant ways that we deal with it, including the unhealthy and hurtful ways, has always been part of the experience of God’s people
Secondly, I share this because you are not alone in this. Trauma, abuse, grief, anxiety, withdrawal and the like are all experiences that make us feel like we are isolated and alone. Like we are the only ones who are experiencing “this kind of thing” or “others have it so much worse,” so why am I so messed up? We tend to keep it on the inside, away from everyone else, many times because we are afraid of what others will think of us and often because we don’t want to deal with or know how to express what we are experiencing. In all of that, you are not alone in this. Not only have others in the Bible experienced all that we are experiencing but your brothers and sisters in Christ have and are experiencing it right now.
Next, your faith gives you hope. Christianity is our Heavenly Father in the midst of our struggle, our Savior bloodied, beaten and buried in the tomb and the train of the saints who have gone before us who have shed blood and died in the coliseums and in the prisons for Christ’s sake. But Christianity is also about the promise that Jesus has won victory over all of our enemies and has prepared a sure refuge now and an eternal peace with Him. Jesus never leaves you or me, even when we can’t “feel” Him, He is as sure as His eternal promises that never end. Because of Jesus you are not alone either, but in Jesus we have “one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
Finally, for you and me. It’s time to start once again our healing, to continue our healing and to move forward to the next place of wellness and health. I have never believed that all of the things that we suffer from are simply things we “get over” and they never bother us again. Instead, I understand my own life as a journey and yes there are many dips and valleys in the journey and peaks that seem high and hard to climb but all of that is part of the journey. Not a step backwards but a moving forward, even when we hit the peaks and valleys.
For me, my emotional health consists of spiritual care and worship, physical rest (that’s a hard one for me with my anxiety), medication and at different times appointments with skilled therapists and conversations with good, Christian friends who are willing to walk with me. We are whole beings, with spiritual and material aspects and each need to be treated well, both body and spirit in the healing journey.
This new year’s is the next leg of that journey I’ve been on. It will hold new trials and new victories and throughout I want to take the steps and want you to take the steps necessary for our health. In all of this, we are hurt, broken people and we are children of God who are loved and cared for each step of the way.