When Our Hearts Are Overwhelmed

This year has been a roller coaster of emotions for many. Unprecedented changes hard to accept, violence and injustices hard to stomach, losses in so many various ways that are so hard to process.

Friends, I am so tired. Physically, emotionally, mentally… The storms around me and within me are driving me to deeper layers of pain I dismissed as not as important as others’ pain. I am becoming more aware that I lack compassion for myself and my own pain, the same compassion God has shown me and given me for others who are hurting.

I’m too often white-knuckling my way through life. I easily conform to others’ preferences or try to live up to their expectations rather than acknowledging my own preferences or needs out of fear of their anger, their disappointment, or their rejection. I can’t get past this fear of being hurt again without facing it head on and processing the deep reasons why my body sometimes tightens up and my stomach clenches and my mind says, “Run for your life.” I especially get anxiety, dread, and feel shame heaped on me in situations and around people who dismiss the deep pain abuse victims go through, who don’t support or validate them, and who even heap more false guilt on them, including myself.

“From the ends of the earth,
I cry to You for help
when my heart is overwhelmed.
Lead me to the towering rock of safety,
for You are my safe refuge,
a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me.
Let me live forever in Your sanctuary,
safe beneath the shelter of Your wings!”

Psalm 61:2-4 NLT

I have decided I need a longer break from blogging to acknowledge and process this mess of emotions storming and overwhelming my soul. I need to pause and allow God to help me heal more deeply. I just know God wants me to step back and allow Him to lead my heart and my life wherever He chooses, even if it means the way will be even more difficult. It fills me with anxiety and fear, but I feel God is nudging me to step past the wall I build around myself and take the risk, trusting He is my ever-present Rock of Safety, my Safe Refuge, and my Shelter.

I don’t know how long I’ll be pausing from posting. And it may be that I will still sporadically post. I’m just so filled with uncertainty right now. But I wanted to let you know. Thank you for your love, caring, and support.

I commit each of you to Jesus who knows infinitely better what we need than we know ourselves. And remember, even if your abuser or others you love don’t believe you or support you, it doesn’t eliminate the truth of your story. And even if others don’t understand why you can’t just “get over it already,” God does understand. He knows the truth and He cries with you and loves you so much.

My Prayer For You

by Alisa Turner

“For anyone who’s prayed a thousand prayers
And still can’t find the answer anywhere
Fighting off the lie that no one cares
For anyone who’s out there losing hope
Feeling you’re forsaken and alone
Clinging to the last strands of your rope
May God give you eyes to see, He’s still greater
Courage to rise and believe He’s able
May God be your peace in the fire you’re walking through
This is my prayer now
This is my prayer for you…”

How Do You Feel? Back to the Basics of Feelings

I.AM.SAD. There… I admit it. Too often I tell myself that I have no right to be sad. I should be counting my blessings or keep looking for hope sightings. Some say we should be looking for the silver lining in this crisis instead of seeing all the bad in it. That worry or anxiety about what may happen indicates a lack of faith. But these sad feelings inside of me keep multiplying as I see more lives this crisis is hurting in one way or another.

I do believe God does have a plan for good for us, but if we have a turmoil of emotions inside of us, that doesn’t mean we have no faith. God knows our every feeling, He hurts with us, and He never condemns us for any of them.

God has created in each of us a complex brain with all kinds of emotions. Our emotional health is just as important to Him as our physical health is. Stuffing our feelings down inside us and not dealing with them can cause harm to ourselves and others, even unknowingly.

I was not planning to post today as I told God I can’t because too many feelings are overwhelming my mind and my heart. Then yesterday morning, I felt nudged to “get back to the basics of feelings.” I was reminded, too, of how so many years ago when I volunteered at a social service place for children, there was a big chart on the wall with all kinds of feelings on faces. If a child could identify with one of the faces, it would sometimes open the way for him/her to process the why and start talking about it.

I found another relevant resource to help us with feelings through this corona crisis. Denise Daniels has written First Aid for Feelings: A Workbook to Help Kids Cope During the Coronavirus Pandemic. You can download it in either English or Spanish.

Even adults can find help in the sound advice this workbook has to offer. Perhaps many of us need to “get back to the basics of feelings.” We can help children within our families and/or social circles learn to be smart about their feelings and help alleviate their emotional stress, but we have to start with ourselves, don’t we?

God reminded me I need to quit ignoring or stuffing my feelings. So I acknowledged this overwhelming sadness in me and wrote out some specifics of this pandemic that cause me to feel sad. Perhaps I should write specific lists for other feelings, too, like fear, worry, and anxiety.

Sometimes a mixture of emotions overwhelms me, and I can’t even figure out why, so I start to write to God about it. Then the feelings sometimes pour out and I start processing them as I am praying to our God who understands. As I sort out my mess of feelings with Jesus, I also remember He is a Savior who cares about each one. There is not one hurt we have that He hasn’t been through Himself on this earth. Not one tear, whether on our cheek or in our heart, escapes His notice and compassion.

“When Jesus saw Mary’s profound grief
and the moaning and weeping of her companions,
He was deeply moved by their pain
in His spirit and was intensely troubled.
Jesus: Where have you laid his body?
Jews: Come and see, Lord.
As they walked, Jesus wept.”
John 11:34-36 VOICE

P.S. Just as we sometimes need a doctor for physical ailments, we sometimes need a therapist to help us process our pain and emotions. There is no shame in that. Do you need further help?

Crisis Hotlines and Resources

Each of us is unique.
What works for one does not work for another.
What feelings are you experiencing today?
What helps you to acknowledge
them and work through them?

Tears Are a Language God Understands
by Heritage Singers

What About the Victims?

Someone came to buy our stackable washer and dryer some years ago, and I was nervous about being the only one home. My nerves upped a notch when a man came alone. I was handling it fairly well until he mentioned he is a pastor, and my body responses kicked into panic mode – like an automatic switch kicks into high gear – “Run for your life!” My insides shook like a frightened puppy, and I wanted to cry.

Deep breaths… You’re stronger now. This is not the same one who hurt you many years ago. Help me, Jesus! As I zoned out and talked myself through it in a matter of seconds, my body and spirit calmed down.

Before he left, he started talking more about his church and what they believe. As God breathed power into my heart and loosened my tongue, I asked him, “So if someone would come to you and tell you he/she was abused by one of the pastors, what would you do?” Gulp! Did I really just dare to say that?!

He dodged my question…

In another instance, a sincere Christian woman said, concerning news of sexual abuse by leaders, “I don’t know why they bring all that up. It’s in the past. We’re supposed to forgive.”

Ouch! What about the victims? Where is the support for them? What about the victims who have never received justice? Who are still suffering and struggling from the trauma? What if the perpetrator is still using his power towards evil? Why are abusers sometimes protected while victims are rejected and silenced?

Some people and communities want to shove this important issue under the rug. Others may be well-intentioned, but they don’t realize that even if we make it to the process of forgiving, our bodies still subconsciously remember trauma.

It’s not easy to write vulnerably, but God is nudging me to speak up for those who have been silenced, those whose rights are trampled on, those lonely souls who inwardly cry out for validation, caring support, and justice.

“Speak out on behalf of those who have no voice,
 and defend all those who have been passed over.
Open your mouth, judge fairly,
 and stand up for the rights of the afflicted and the poor.”
Proverbs 31:8-9 VOICE

When any person or community is more concerned for the protection of the abusers than of the victims, it hurts. Big-time. When victims are ignored, not believed, or treated as the one who did the wrong, it hurts. Big-time. When Christians tell us we don’t have faith if we can’t forgive and forget and move on, it hurts. Big-time.

Love cares about the grief and suffering of victims who are hurting. Love cries with them. Love sits in the pain pit with them. Love protects  and defends them. Like Jesus does.

Jesus understands suffering more than anyone does. He bends low with us in our suffering and whispers, “I’m so very sorry.” His tears mingle with ours. He never dodges or minimizes our pain. He doesn’t treat mental and emotional pain as less important than physical illness. He doesn’t tell us we aren’t trusting Him if we need therapy or medicine. He blesses these means to help us through. He gives us grace and strength to work through the gut-wrenching grief of being robbed of the very essence of who we are. His never-failing compassion wraps us in the safe and cozy blanket of His love where it’s ok to voice our emotions. His caring support  gives hope that we can be restored to who we are in Him. Through His grace, we can become survivors and finally victory dancers as His healing works in us.

RAINN – Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network – Get Help 24/7 by calling 800.656.HOPE(4673)

What Is a Girl Worth? – Lesley’s moving review of Rachael Denhollander’s memoir of her journey of courageously fighting for justice for herself and other victims.

Cecil Murphey: Abuse Survivor“As long as I kept the abuse a secret, I still wasn’t free. But as I shared my experiences and what I had learned as a survivor, people resonated with those words, and I experienced healing.”

The Hope of Survivors – Support, Hope, and Healing for Victims of Clergy Sexual Abuse

Healing Is In Your Hand