When It’s Hard to Let Go and Trust God to Catch Us

Courtesy of Jeanne Takenaka

Heavy emotions can feel like an undercurrent tugging us down into discouragement and depression, can’t they? We can keep trying to desperately cling to our only HOPE. But sometimes… Lord, I can’t hang on anymore…

I sometimes feel so overwhelmed with sadness over all the sorrow and suffering in the world, and this Covid pandemic has my emotions all over the map. But I often trap them inside. I feel compelled to show others I am strong enough to handle them on my own. Including God… I allow burdens, that of others and of myself, to weigh me down too much instead of truly surrendering them over to God who alone has the power to rescue, redeem, and restore.

I even fight against the way God chooses to redeem and revive. I forget not a tear is wasted. I forget that our hearts are transformed the most through suffering. I forget God has the power to paint beauty out of ashes.

Before this Covid crisis hit us, I downloaded a free devotional book about Finding God’s Presence in Everyday Living. When Jeanne Takenaka wrote it, she had no idea how fitting it would be for such a time as this.

One morning my heart nudged me to get back to reading it. The first words I read expressed my feelings:

“Have you ever felt like life was overwhelming you? Like thing after thing was piling on you, stealing your strength and leaving you gasping?” (Jeanne Takenaka)

Oh yes, that is how I feel, Lord! Please help us!

Then towards the end of the devotion:

“When the ground beneath us shifts, God’s mercy upholds us. He is always with us, in every season. 
 
We can find reassurance knowing our Father’s got us. He’s holding our hands and sharing His consolations with us when we need them most.” (Jeanne Takenaka)

Yes, Lord, I want to believe
Your mercy will hold us up!
I believe, please help my unbelief!

The ground beneath us has shifted drastically throughout this entire world. We may feel like we’re free falling into a deep, dark hole. Simple everyday things we thought we had control of have been taken out of our hands.

But God…

God’s got us, and His mercy will uphold us, no matter what we’re going through. So why am I still afraid?

You know how a well-adjusted child jumps into the arms of a loving father? Trusting with all his heart that Daddy will catch him?

When our trust has been so broken in life, even when we have come far on the journey of healing, fear can suddenly pop up. Lack of control over our lives may trigger fear of trusting others, even our Heavenly Father. Even when He invites us, “Come, My child. Jump into My arms. I’ll catch you and I’ll hold you closely in My loving arms. I won’t harm you. I’ll fight for you. So trust Me, My child! I’ve got this! Trust My way and My timing. Relax, let go of your grip on control, and surrender your heart and life to Me. Let yourself fall into My arms!” 

Desperately, we keep holding onto some form of control. Is He really safe? Will He truly catch us? Will He hold us and get us through this?

God has promised He will!

“The eternal God is your refuge and dwelling place,
And underneath are the everlasting arms;
He drove out the enemy from before you,
And said, ‘Destroy!’”
Deuteronomy33:27 AMP

And you know what? God doesn’t condemn us when we slip and find ourselves not trusting Him again. He understands that struggling journey far better than any person in the world does. He accepts us just as we are in all our humanness. He understands how our emotions can take us all over the map. But He never gives up on us, even when we give up on Him. He holds His arms open wide and keeps coaxing us to let go and fall into His arms of mercy and unfailing love that He has promised will support us!

“Unless the Lord had given me help,
I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.
When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
Your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.”
Psalm 94:17-18

Just Be Held
by Casting Crowns
“Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on
And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There’s freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go
So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held…”

Jesus Will Be With Us in the Storms of Life, Even When We Doubt

“Lord, if it is really You, then tell me to meet You on the water,” Peter called to Jesus who walked on the water to be with His disciples.

“Come.”

Peter boldly stepped out of the boat and started walking on the water to Jesus. But then he took his eyes off of Jesus. He focused on the boisterous waves swirling around him.

“Lord, save me!” he cried out as fear and desperation choked him and the sea threatened to swallow him.

Did Jesus let him drown? No, He Immediately reached down His hand and caught him.

I can almost imagine the sorrow in Jesus’ eyes as He said, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

I don’t believe Jesus said it to condemn Peter but to plead with him to keep his eyes focused on Him, not on the storm. And He questioned him, so Peter would question and examine himself.

This story (Matthew 14:22-34) has often been used by God to strengthen me. I identify with Peter and his dancing back and forth between faith and fear. And yet, even though Jesus knew Peter would grievously deny Him in the future and even though Peter doubted His power to keep him on top of the water when he saw and felt the power of the storm, Jesus didn’t give up on him. Jesus will never, ever abandon us and let us drown, no matter how much we doubt Him. His faithfulness, love, and compassion are limitless.

It’s so easy to be swallowed up in the storms of life, isn’t it? As I look back on my life, there were many times when wave after wave crashed over me and the undercurrent of doubt and despair sucked me under. 

But God! I know now that He was keeping me from drowning even when I felt like not even He cared or understood me.

Relief from my troubles and despair didn’t always come immediately. Often it was just a quiet strength to help me keep putting one foot in front of the other. In hindsight I see more of the depth of His amazing love and faithfulness that upheld me. How He reached out and pulled me up, how He brought my limp body and spirit to the shore of His grace and breathed life into me, how He carried me when I had no strength to keep going. Again and again… And He still does…

May God strengthen and calm you with His love
and grace in the midst of life’s storms!

Are you in one of life’s storms right now?

What has been the greatest storm in your life?

What verses calm you in the midst of the storm?

Sometimes He Calms the Storm
by Scott Krippayne

“…Sometimes He calms the storm
With a whispered peace be still
He can settle any sea
But it doesn’t mean He will
Sometimes He holds us close
And lets the wind and waves go wild
Sometimes He calms the storm
And other times He calms His child…”

My Mom, Depression, and Love

Depression often plagued our mom, and it sometimes blinded her to our own pain, but she still loved us so much. On February 18, it will be 12 years since we lost her, so I’m reposting a revised article from 5 years ago. I’m sure many of you haven’t read it yet.

“That’s where all the crazy people go!” blurted one of my fellow grade-school students as our bus drove past the Mental Health Institute on our way to a field trip of a museum and planetarium in Cherokee, Iowa. False shame reached out its grubby hands and strangled me as I stared out the window at that unfriendly brick building, my enemy. The razor-edged words sliced into my heart, slashing the scream begging to give voice, “My mom is NOT crazy!”

My mom often battled bouts of depression when I was growing up. She wanted to be there for us kids, but she couldn’t. Several times throughout my childhood she would have stays in various hospitals.

Sadly, shock treatments and pills were the norm in those days. She didn’t receive quality counseling to enable her to work through the deep-seated childhood rejection and emotional abuse that added to her depression. Inevitably her pain kept festering inside, ready to shove her into debilitating illness time and again.

What especially hurt her was that even the minister and elders of the church we attended at that time didn’t offer comfort. Whenever my mom was in the hospital, they wouldn’t even visit her, even after she came home. Their silence and lack of support pierced and twisted a knife into her heart and further stoked the fire of shame that undermined her self-worth.

Add to that shame… Fear. Raw fear. We often heard about hell, and we perceived God as a distant, furious Judge ready to punish us. We didn’t hear how the love of Jesus offers hope, how Jesus hurts when we hurt.

In spite of her periodical battles with depression, I still knew Mom loved us. But when she disappeared, emotionally and sometimes physically, it was so difficult to convince my child’s heart. Sometimes I felt so abandoned.  I’d see her crying or in hysterics, and it tore me up. Like many children, I somehow felt guilty for her illness. Why couldn’t I make Mom happy? What did I do wrong?  When she was suicidal, it devastated me. Weren’t we worth living for? When she was again taken to a hospital, I was lonely and afraid.

Subconsciously I began to believe it was my job to make everyone happy. I became a people pleaser to try to quiet my longstanding belief that I helped cause my mother’s depression. If anyone around me was unhappy or upset, I would try to “fix” it. If I couldn’t make someone feel better, my load of guilt became heavier. What is wrong with me that I always mess up people’s lives?

It took years before I worked through my guilt and feelings of desertion. But the more I healed, the more I realized what a wonderful mom I really had. Although depression sometimes snatched her away from us or plunged her into inescapable self-absorption, she loved us deeply. There was nothing she enjoyed more than to be surrounded by her family, and I believe she would have sacrificed her own life to save ours. In fact, she nearly did.

One day I was curled up with a book on the couch. My little brother was in the playpen in the kitchen next to the doorway leading to the living room. Mom was in the kitchen heating oil for french fries in an aluminum pan on the gas stove burner. When she lowered the basket of frozen fries into the hot oil, an explosion of light and a bone-chilling shriek shattered my serenity. I snapped out of my frozen-in-fear moment and raced to the kitchen to see fire climbing up the curtains next to the stove. Oblivious to the burning flesh on her hands, Mom screamed, “Get the baby out! Get the baby out! Get Dad!”

I grabbed my little brother and rushed out to the barn. Meanwhile, Mom worked feverishly to get the fire out; and if my memory serves me correctly, she succeeded before Dad arrived. But then the pain took over and consumed her, and Dad rushed her to the doctor.

The 2nd and 3rd degree burns on her hands took time to heal. But later on, it was those love-scarred hands that soothed my fevered brow and brought me tea and toast when I was sick and patted my back with encouragement to pursue interests I enjoyed.

Sometimes her loving hand became a safety belt. A sudden step on the brakes would spring her hand out to hold back the one in the passenger seat. We had some special moments when this continued even when I was an adult and we had seatbelts. As my mom became older and I was the driver, we chuckled when one day my hand sprang out.

How I loved my “crazy” mom! I’m so proud of how she broke the abuse cycle of possibly generations of moms. She had to battle the monster of depression and she couldn’t always protect us from harm, but she still managed to show us a mother’s love.

I am so grateful that in the later years of her life, Mom was blessed with a counselor who nurtured her and encouraged her to find her identity in Christ Jesus. She was finally able to experience Jesus loves her and know she has priceless value in His eyes. Her faith in a Savior who sacrificed His life for her grew and blossomed like a rose. Deep-seated thorns of insecurity and depression still tried to inhibit her from full bloom, but she was still, oh, so beautiful. Yes, depression often dominated her life, especially when we were growing up, but I still picture the deeper scars on one of her hands. Scars of love. Sacrificial love. Even when a spinal stroke paralyzed her and took away her freedom to hug us, she still wanted us to know we were loved. Fighting for breath, some of her last words were whispered in succession, “I love you, I love you, I love you!”

I wish I could go back in time to those kids on that school bus. I would stand up to them and proudly tell them how much my “crazy” mom loved us and how blessed I am that she was my mother. I am a better, more caring person today because of her. And I know she is now with Jesus where she can forever bloom perfectly. There is no more depression and no more pain!

“When God Has Another Plan”