Pretty purple trumpet flower at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Never write a letter when you’re sad

I’ve always heard that you should never write letters when you’re angry. That’s really good advice, because when you write a letter and you’re hacked off about something, your letter ends up matching your mood.

Now, granted, I recommend writing letters when you’re that upset. I just don’t recommend sending them after you’ve written them. For me, writing my feelings down helps me process. If I’m upset, I really just need to sit and write about it. Then, usually, I feel much better. But you’d better believe that document is subsequently destroyed.

But have you ever heard of not writing letters when you’re sad? I never thought about that until recently. I’m also a corporate communicator for my company, along with a marketing copywriter, so I was ghostwriting a letter for one of our executives. I sent it along to my boss to proof before it went to the requestor, and the note came back: “This is so sad! Did you write this when Katie left?”

Any of you new followers, Katie is my best bud. The other half of my brain. Almost literally. And in July, she hopped the pond to do amazing work in video ministry around the world. But she’ll be gone for two years. And, yes, she had just left before I wrote that letter.

I thought that was kind of funny. And then, you know what I did? I went and did it again. Katie got an opportunity to come home basically for a weekend since she was “in the neighborhood” doing some filming in Haiti. So I got to see her! Day made. But then she left again. Of course, she did. She had to get back to work, and so did I.

And I happen to be in the middle of a series of character posts on my book series blog, Morningstar, to promote the launch of my debut novel. So I was noodling a few days ago on one of the characters, just scribbling some thoughts down. I sent them to Katie, and she informed me that I am no longer allowed to write anything after she leaves…. because it’s just too sad. Yup. I’d done it again. That silly character post was so full of angst and heartache …. it’s actually kind of funny.

I didn’t even know I’d done it.

And that got me thinking about how I really handle sadness and grief. How do I react to it? What do I do? How do I manage it?

And, just being honest, I don’t necessarily know if I manage it at all. I don’t like drama. I don’t like emotionally overwrought reactions. They’re uncomfortable, and they make other people uncomfortable. And there’s just nothing worse than having snot running down your face when you’re trying to have a real conversation, you know?

But grief and sorrow and sadness are things you can’t run away from. If you try, they’ll eventually catch up with you, and they’ll be exponentially worse to survive. Christians are really bad at this. We think everything always has to be happy. We think even the worst things in our lives need to be celebrated. We think bad news should be cause to rejoice and shout hallelujah.

And you know what? That’s true. We have every reason to be happy. Even the worst moments in our lives are worth celebrating, but not because it’s bad news. The point is that bad news shouldn’t stop us from celebrating in spite of it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be sad.

There’s nothing wrong with grief. Or sorrow. Or sadness. Not when it’s needed. Not when it’s what you feel.

Today’s verses are Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

Pretty purple trumpet flower at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Pretty purple trumpet flower at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.

Life on earth is broken. Bad things happen. People die. Kids get sick. Families break up. Jobs get lost. Friends leave. And all of that just plain sucks.

There’s no getting around it. And trying to convince yourself that something horrible makes you happy? Trying to get your broken heart to rejoice when your life is in scattered pieces at your feet? That’s not healthy. That won’t help you. And I truly believe it’s not what God wants.

God knows when you hurt. God knows when you can’t take one more thing. And He knows you haven’t lost faith–you just need a minute to remember who He is. And that’s okay.

Recognize that you may be sad now, but you won’t be sad forever. And the sooner you let yourself be sad, the faster that day will get here.

So if you’re hurting today, if you’re sad, don’t hide it. Don’t run away from it. Don’t be afraid or ashamed of it. Believe me, all of us have been there. And if you need to talk to somebody about it, do it. If you need a write a letter, do it…. just don’t send it. 😉

aamilne_lucky

A sunflower and Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Facing discouragement with a question

Do you ever get to that place in life when it feels like everything is going wrong? I think everybody gets there at one point or another, and it’s not a fun place to be.

In some instances, we really do make our own trouble. The issues we’re facing in life sometimes stem from our own bad choices, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes the world is just broken. Sometimes people are just broken, and there’s no explanation for it. And, what’s worse, there’s nothing you can do to fix it. .

I think it’s harder to deal with the fact that you can’t fix it yourself than it is to deal with the actual problem. But I’m a fixer. And realizing my own helplessness is discouraging.

So what you do when you reach the point in life where everything is breaking and none of it is within your power to repair?

A sunflower and Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

A sunflower and Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 43:5.

Why am I discouraged?
    Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
    I will praise him again—
    my Savior and my God!

I post on perspective a lot because it’s something I struggle with. My brain runs so fast, I tend to jump from topic to topic to topic in rapid sequence, and if I don’t have a healthy perspective on life, the universe, and everything, my thought processes can easily spiral out of control and land me in a useless heap of negativity.

I love this verse because it starts with a question, and questions always get my attention. They’re good questions to ask yourself when life goes wrong.

Why are you discouraged? Why is your heart sad?

Don’t just let them hang. They’re not rhetorical questions. Why? God wants to know why. He wants to know what’s troubling you. He wants to know what has happened in your life to make you so sad. So tell Him.

There’s something cathartic in talking to God and telling Him what’s bothering you. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s just getting it off my chest, but I always feel better after I tell God what’s bothering me.

Maybe it’s because when I hear what’s bothering me said out loud, I realize that it’s not that big of a deal anyway.  Even my great big problems are nothing compared to God and His power and His grace. God can fix anything. God can help me accomplish anything. God can turn hearts around and change lives.

It’s important to remember that. It’s important to remember who God is and that even if your life is so broken you can’t fix it, He still can.

So why are you discouraged today? Why are you feeling sad? I know a lot of people who are, and I’m sad with them for a host of different reasons.  Ask yourself why. Then tell God about it. As you tell Him, just remember who He is and who we are to Him, and remember that there’s nothing He can’t do. He’s already won this war, and even if our lives down here don’t turn out the way we want them to, He’s making a place for us with Him. And that’s the life that matters more, the life to come, the life that will last forever.

So cheer up. Put your hope in God, and praise Him for being who He is. He’s got a plan, and it’s good.

Distant, lonely tree in the snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Enduring when God is silent

I like instructions. I don’t always read them, but it’s comforting to know they’re there in case I need them. So what happens when the instructions don’t make sense? A friend was telling me over the weekend that her husband bought her a desk and assembled it for her, but the instructions were missing pages. So putting the desk together was a nightmare. What happens when you’re missing the instructions and the things you thought would be easy turn into something difficult?

That’s a silly example, but many of us run into that question a larger scale when we’re trying to live. We lose our instructions or we encounter a situation where the instructions no longer seem relevant, and we ask God for guidance. And He doesn’t answer. We ask Him to tell us what do to, and He doesn’t respond. What do you do then? How do you endure when God stops speaking to you?

Distant, lonely tree in the snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Distant, lonely tree in the snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Job 13:15.

God might kill me, but I have no other hope.
    I am going to argue my case with him.

Job is one of those people I can’t wait to meet when we get to heaven. He’s one of my heroes. The story basically goes that Job was one of the wealthiest men at the time, but he was also one of the most righteous. He was a God follower, and he wasn’t afraid if everyone knew it. And God pointed him out to Satan one day, telling him about how no one could match Job. So Satan made a deal with God that he could convince Job to turn against God, and God allowed him to attack Job. Overnight, Job lost everything. His wealth. His family. His status. Everything that mattered to him was taken, and he was left with a bitter wife and friends who turned against him.

Job is a big book. It’s 42 chapters, probably the oldest book in the Bible, and the majority of it is Job questioning, until God starts answering. But God doesn’t answer right away, and Job is left to puzzle through all the horrible things that have happened to him without God explaining it.

Have you ever been there? Have you ever had to suffer through circumstances that you didn’t deserve? Okay, let’s be honest. Most of the time the really bad stuff we encounter usually has some root cause in our lifestyle or our choices or our past, and it’s our own actions bringing the trouble to our doorstep. But have you ever really run into situations where you have to suffer through difficult things and you didn’t do anything to deserve them? I have. I know others who have too. And it’s in those moments where I have been really tempted to get upset at God.

I mean, why would He let this stuff happen to me? I didn’t do anything to deserve it. Why is He punishing me for things I don’t deserve to be punished for? That’s not fair.

If you’re there, read Job. Because he was there for 41 chapters. We are all in a very different place than Job was. He didn’t have the Book of Job or any of the Bible. None of it had been written down yet. So he had nothing except his experience and his relationship with God to go on. But we have Scripture. We have the Holy Spirit.

And what Scripture will tell you about God’s silence is that it’s never actually there. God is never silent. We just stop listening.

Are you facing troubles today? Are you facing situations that you don’t deserve? Have you asked God to take them away and He isn’t answering? Do this. Go outside and sit down and close your eyes and listen. What do you hear? Do you hear the wind? Do you hear birds singing? Do you hear leaves rustling on trees? Do you hear other people and life in the city?

God doesn’t have to speak in an audible voice for us to know that He’s talking. He speaks through the Bible. He speaks through Creation. He speaks through provision. He speaks through other people in our lives. He’s never silent, but we often let our troubles distract us.

Job was fortunate enough that God responded to him. God spoke to him. And when God was done speaking to him, this is how Job responded in Job 42:1-6:

Then Job replied to the Lord: “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you. You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me. You said, ‘Listen and I will speak! I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.’ I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.”

We don’t know why God chooses to do the things He does many times, but we know that He is fair and just and good and sovereign, which means He has the right do what He wants with what He made–and that’s everything. We know how the story of Job turned out. God blessed him with twice what he had before, and while Job had endured tremendous suffering, the second half of his life was more blessed than the first ever was.

So if you’re going through difficulty right now, think about Job. It’s okay to question God. It’s okay to wonder. It’s okay to talk to Him, to be honest with Him, to tell Him how you’re feeling, but remember who you’re talking to.

Everyone struggles through dark times. Everyone faces situations that seem unfair. And, yes, it’s frustrating and upsetting. But the more you focus on how God isn’t speaking to you, the quieter He’ll get. But it’s not that He’s speaking softer; you’re turning His volume down.

I’m not all right but I’m still peachy

Does God have to hit you over the head with a tw0-by-four on the rare occasion to get you to pay attention? He does that to me an awful lot. I think He does it to help me remember that I don’t know everything and that I’m still very young.

Yesterday I didn’t really go into my thoughts on the verse of the day because I didn’t want to get emotional before I went to work.

Today, since the verse of the day is basically talking about the same thing, I’m going to write down what I’m thinking about it even if I end up crying about it becuase I’ve learned not to ignore things like this. When God is obviously telling me to deal with something, I need to deal with it and not ignore it.

Psalm 18:1-2

1 I love you, Lord;
      you are my strength.
 2 The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;
      my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
   He is my shield, the power that saves me,
      and my place of safety.

What do you do when you feel threatened or scared? What do you do when you get upset about something that’s happened in your life?

If you’re anything like me, you hide it. There’s something inside me that hates displaying any sort of weakness to anybody. I know it’s prideful, but it’s my first instinct. Something upsets me–makes me feel like crying–and I automatically shut that part of myself down and ignore it. Like taking all those emotions and shoving them down deep until I can function without really feeling them.

But I think that’s a lie I tell myself. I still feel the emotions I’ve hidden, but they come out in different ways. I get snappier. I get sharper with people. I can’t focus.

I live in denial in a way, I guess. I don’t deny that it happened; I just refuse to think about it. And that’s not healthy.

It’s not managing my emotions. It’s hiding from them. And that’s not healthy.

When I’m threatened or scared or upset about something, I run away from it and bury myself in diversions. I don’t actually face the problem.

What this verse today (and the verse yesterday) tell me is that I’m looking at it all wrong. I shouldn’t run away from the things that upset me. I should run to God with them.

I need to run to Him and tell Him everything that’s bothering me without letting my pride get in the way, and He will take care of it. He’ll protect me. I don’t have to be strong because He is strong for me.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;
      my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
   He is my shield, the power that saves me,
      and my place of safety.

I can take my sadness to Him and He won’t wonder why I’m sad. I can take my weakness to Him and He won’t think less of me. He’ll just listen. He’ll just be. He won’t try to fix anything or explain why I shouldn’t feel the way I feel. He’ll just love me and let me be sad, and I think that’s what I need. I need to feel safe being sad, to let myself admit that it’s okay to not feel all right about things.

There’s a song called “I’m Not All Right” by a group called Sanctus Real. I was thinking about it just now. There are so many Christians out there who think that we have to be happy all the time and that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be sad because it’s a bad witness. And that’s foolish. Even the great heroes of the Bible mourned and grieved when someone they loved died or when something terrible happened. As a follower of Christ, we are always to have joy, but being joyful doesn’t mean we always have to be happy.

I’m sad. I’m sad that Grandma Bea died. I know that we weren’t close, and I know that I probably shouldn’t be as upset as I am. But I’m still sad. I don’t really know why. It was expected. I knew it was going to happen, and maybe it’s more that I’m sad that time is passing faster and faster every day and there’s nothing I can do about it. I just know I’m sad and being sad is okay for now.

So I’m going to be sad. And I’m going to grieve. But I won’t stay that way. Because God is my refuge and He is also my Healer. And what I don’t understand, He already figured out before He made the world. That’s why I’m always peachy, even when I’m sad.