when the unseen cannot be hidden

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. (Proverbs 11:14)

As the months have gone by I have struggled in walking in obedience to telling my story. Why? It is painful. It is personal. I fear the scars I have will be judged. However, the Lord will not let it go and in obedience I step out trusting the One who led me through the pain the first time will give the grace I need to open up about the pain this time.

I have discovered over the last five years that it is only God that gives purpose to our pain. The pain Jesus suffered on the cross not only has purpose, it has great significance too. We glory in His suffering on the cross because it benefits our soul. Yet, we struggle to see His glory in our suffering because we desperately desire to be comfortable.

It is our desire to be comfortable or pretending to be comfortable that can lead to dangerous places. During these next several weeks or months, however long it takes me, I want to be transparent, using wisdom to address what should be addressed, and challenging the “lifeboat syndrome” among Christians today. (Lifeboat Syndrome is my personal made up term.) what do I mean?

Maybe you have been on a cruise ship and one of the first things you do is know where the lifeboats are located, how to get to the lifeboats quickly and effectively and how to wear the life jacket. It has been years since I have been on a cruise and so I am not sure if they continue that same safety speech or not. Nevertheless, if you are on a ship, you are all the wiser if you know how and where to get on the lifeboat. How crazy and irrational would it be if the ship you were on began to sink and you ran for the lifeboat and as you climbed in you immediately felt judged, ridiculed, misunderstood, and embarrassed. You realized there were only a few of you that had chosen the lifeboat option and the ones that remained on the ship seemed confident that the choice you were making was wrong. You heard the ones outside the lifeboat saying, “Have more faith”, “Read your Bible more”, “Pretend that everything is alright”, “We don’t see the problem so you must be over-reacting”. The confidence in the decision you are making to abandon the sinking ship for your own safety is now turning into confusion.

This is the struggle of the church. How do I know? As a counselor and one that has gone to counseling – I have sat in both chairs. I see it from the counseling side and I see if from the perspective of one seeking guidance. Just as Proverbs 11:14 states, “there is safety in a multitude of counselors”. Why do we shame those that seek it out. Why isn’t the church removing the stigma that the world has placed on mental health care? More importantly, why is the church helping place that stigma on those that seek help and desire to be “normal” and “better”.

You see, in 2008, I began to pray desperately for truth to be revealed in my own situation. My pain became greater than my fear and I no longer asked for relief, I begged for revelation. I knew things were not “normal” in my marriage. I had known it for several years. I too lived a long time refusing to get on the lifeboat because I thought if I pretended well and protected my image then the gaping hole in my marriage would never be noticed. In other words, I knew deep down that the lifeboat was there but to climb into that lifeboat meant I no longer participated in the games of denial, avoidance, pretending, and an unhealthy system. The hypocrisy I have to admit is I represented the lifeboat to many people by my own profession: counselor. However, I had to face the ugly truth that I believed the lifeboat was for “those other people”. I was afraid to enter the lifeboat myself.

Chronic pain of the soul will do one of two things: drive you to get in the lifeboat or jump ship in a reckless manner. Either way, your pain will become greater than your fear. The choice is what that pain drives you to do. I remember the day, I chose to climb into the lifeboat. What I didn’t expect is all that happened when I was in the lifeboat and on my way to safety.

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A Quiet Heart

Of course, being quiet is the most difficult thing to put into action when your world has fallen apart. Maybe this is why we read that Nehemiah took a ride in the dark to see the damage of Jerusalem. Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem and I imagine he was flooded with many different emotions. He had arrived safely and with no problem because of the letter from the king (Nehemiah 2:9). He had also had his first hint that not everyone was particularly thrilled that the people of Jerusalem were being cared for. In light of his journey, a time of quiet was compelling. Maybe he needed to be quiet because he could not separate himself from the damage. Maybe he realized he didn’t need (at least in the beginning) people talking to him all at once. In Nehemiah 2 he was with a few men and knew what he was supposed to do. The first few hours, days and weeks into your crisis are so significant. It is imperative that you
have the quiet times,the time to take in the damage,the time to cry when no one else sees our tears, the time to begin to have some hope and see the possibility of a life restored. It is not time that will heal your wounds. However, you need time.

You need to have time alone. You need to allow yourself to feel the weight of all that you have lost and experienced. So many times we like having busy schedules, noise, entertainment, chattering people, and any kind of distraction that will guarantee we are never left alone with our thoughts. If you are already giving into that tempting offer then you are robbing yourself of perspective and seeds of hope that can be planted during the times of loneliness and grief. Communion with El Roi, the God Who Sees (Gen.16:13), will give you strength to rebuild. Make time for the quiet reflection and the quiet realization that all is different but not all is lost. Emerge out of those quiet times with a deeper gratitude to the One who will direct your steps.

You do not have to tell everyone everything. You do not owe everyone an explanation. You do not have to give all the details of how your crisis has changed your life. Simply choose to be aware of what all has been devastated and while knowing, be quiet. After all, neither you nor I want to leave a legacy that begins with “Then it happened” and ends with “She or he never got over it.”

My prayer is to encourage you to do something with the crisis that God has allowed to enter your life. Take it all in. Stop hiding behind covered eyes. Look at the damage and call it by name. Maybe it is death, cancer, miscarriage, a stillborn child, chronic illness, addiction, divorce, or financial ruin; whatever it is, don’t run from it. Face it.

Nehemiah took a ride in the dark and realized that the descriptions “distress” and “reproach” was the only name fit for the damage he saw (Neh. 1:3, 2:17). That may have been what he called the city’s condition but it was not the people’s identity. Whatever name fits your crisis, it is a name only. The crisis does not define you! The ability to name something by calling the crisis what it truly is gives you the sense of knowing where you are. Nehemiah knew he was at the place of Distress and Reproach. He also knew he wanted to arrive at Restored and Renewed. Maybe your place is “grief and loneliness” or “sad and confused” or “shock and fear” or “tried and failed” or “hopeless and weary.” Whatever your crisis is, there’s a name that describes it perfectly.

Be encouraged and rest in Him. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZYPfYe77PA

(this is an excerpt from Joy’s book, Identity Crisis: Moving From Crisis to Credibility. you can pre-order your copy today at Amazon.com)