Some of you may be reading this because the title caught your attention and you can relate to it. Others of you are curious about what will be written and the reason for this publishing of this blog article. Regardless, I hope you will find encouragement and hope within the next few paragraphs.
Shadows are caused by an object coming between your sight and a light-source. It blocks your ability to see light and can cast you into a place of shade and even darkness. Others around you, in different places, can bask in the light while you remain in the shadow. Some of them may not be able to understand why you are unable to see light even though they may be able to see the object blocking or the shadow it produces. But for you, living in the chill of the shade, it can be a very dark place and, at times, be without hope. This can take several different forms. It can look like discouragement, frustration, depression , anger and even delve into suicidal thoughts. The deeper you find yourself being sucked down the more desperate you become for someone, anyone, to understand you. You may even reach a point of feeling shame for your feelings and thoughts which actually cause you to huddle even more in the shadow. Often times you may feel misunderstood and completely alone. You may even come to recognize that some of how you are feeling is extreme and not even accurate and still it has sunk into your bones and being and you cannot seem to shake it.
Here are four thoughts I hope will encourage you in this midst of this darkness:
1) You are not alone – there are others around you living in the shadows hoping no one else can see their struggles. To believe that you are singular in your experience and struggles is simply a lie which can further alienate us from our support structures. We never can know who around us is in the midst of struggle and shame. They may not be as far along the path as you are. They may be able to bury it or hide it better than you can. That doesn’t mean their struggles are any less real or debilitating than yours. Truthfully, it can mean they actually weigh heavier. People in leadership positions be it in the home, at work or in the church, often push down their struggles because people depend on them. In their roles they feel they cannot reveal the struggle and must push forward giving the outward impression of stability. All that being said, it helps to recognize that others are also struggling and trying to find their way back “into the light.” Be encouraged! You are not alone.
2) There is no shame in seeking out help. One might argue that to seek out help is a significant step on the pathway to healing and freedom! Who should you ask about resources for help? I would begin with those you trust. To ask everyone and anyone is to invite questions which may cause you to shrink back and stop your progress down this particular path. If you are an employee, ask your human resource person is there is any counselling available in your employment package. If you are part of a church, ask your pastor or elder if there is counselling available through the church or if there are counselling agencies they would recommend. If you are on staff at the church, ask your pastor what is available for you or, if relations are tense in that area, speak to your district leader regarding this. If you are a pastor, ask your district leadership team to see if the district has resources available for you. However you need to have hands to pull you up and out or ears to listen, sounboard, and counsel, DO IT! Find the help you need and ask. It can only lead to brighter days once the hard work is done.
3) Know and believe that God’s Word is true and unchanging. Specifically, God loves you! Numerous things can cause us to dip into darkness. It can be hormone imbalances, stress in different areas of life, frustrations with situations, and even shame regarding personal sin and failure. In all of these things are told that God loves us. In fact, nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8). Not what others have done, not what you have done, not situations in life seemingly stacked against you — nothing! “When darkness seems to hide His face I rest on His unchanging grace. In every high and stormy gale my anchor holds within the veil.” Check your anchors. If they are any but God your anchor will not hold. Only God is the unmovable Rock on whom we can place our trust. I was listening to The Rock Won’t Move by Vertical Church Band and found these lyrics to be of great encouragement. I pray they would encourage you as well: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=8RpLB7bAlYc
When the ground beneath my feet gives way and I hear the sound of crashing waves — All my world is washing out to sea. I’m hidden safe in the God who never moves — Holding fast to the promise of Your truth — You are holding tighter still to me.
Oh, the Rock won’t move and His word is strong — The Rock won’t move and His love can’t be undone (x2). The Rock of our salvation
My hope is in the promise of Your blood — My support within the raging flood — Even in the tempest, I can sing. I’m hidden safe in the God who never moves — Holding fast to the promise of Your truth — You are holding tighter still to me.
On Christ the solid rock I stand — All other ground is sinking sand — The Rock won’t move (2x). And when darkness seems to hide His face — I rest on His unchanging grace — The Rock won’t move. No, the Rock won’t move
4) God has a specific purpose and calling on your life. Ephesians 2:10 tells us, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God sees you and knows you. God created you for a purpose to do something no one else can do. In the midst of our struggles it is easy to forget this truth because we can become overwhelmed and consumed with only seeing what is immediately around us. I think this is why Paul tells us to keep our eyes fixed upon Jesus “the author and perfector of our faith” who was able to endure struggles joyfully for the goal before him. This goal was to pour out his life for you and I so that we could be reconciled with God. Are you separated from God right now? Might this be a major contributing factor to the darkness you are in? I would never seek to minimize what you are feeling but realize ones perceptions and emotions are amplified by the experience of living in the shadow. There is hope. There is light. Seek the help you need. Pray! Get into God’s Word. Move back towards your support structures. Know that God’s mercy is new every morning. There is forgiveness for those who ask and cleansing in repentance. Come back into the light one step at a time knowing others are seeking to do the same. Come out from behind that source blocking the light and step towards the Son.
This song, I Will Follow, has been a comfort to me in times of darkness – be at peace: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Xh3ZK7JecK0
When the sea is calm and all is right — When I feel Your favor flood my life. Even in the good, I’ll follow You. When the boat is tossed upon the waves — When I wonder if You’ll keep me safe. Even in the storms, I’ll follow You
I believe and I will follow You — I believe everything that You say You are — I believe that I have seen Your unchanging heart. In the good things and in the hardest part — I believe and I will follow You.
When I see the wicked prospering — When I feel I have no voice to sing. Even in the want, I’ll follow You
When I find myself so far from home — And You lead me somewhere I don’t wanna go. Even in my death, I’ll follow You. When I come to end this race I’ve run — And I receive the prize that Christ has won. I will be with You in Paradise