I spent the past week blogging about my experience of going through, and emerging from, spiritual darkness. (If you missed it, click here and read the ‘saint sarah’ series.)
I got so many comments, e-mails, texts and messages from people who are going through similar seasons. So I thought I’d take a minute to (hopefully) encourage you with some simple take-aways and suggestions.
Here’s what I’ve learned.
1) Go through it, not around/over/under it.
Winston Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” The same thing is true with seasons of emotional and spiritual darkness. It’s painful. It’s scary. It’s hard. It’s lonely. And no one wants to go through it. But if you look for shortcuts or ways to avoid it, it will only make things worse. If you try to numb out or distract yourself or look for people to blame, you’ll only add to your burden.
2) Remember that silence is not absence.
Just because you’re not hearing from God like you once were, just because you’re not experiencing positive emotions or hearing words of encouragement from God, doesn’t mean he’s left you. Just like a parent stops talking to their child so the child can rest at night, sometimes God stops talking to his children for a season — for their benefit. But God never has and never will abandon you. Just because he’s silent, doesn’t mean he’s absent.
3) Take it one day at a time.
When we’re going through a hard time, it’s only natural to want to know when it’s going to end. But, unfortunately, there’s no way to predict how long your hard season will last. If you look too far into the future, you will get anxious, fearful and overwhelmed. Instead, just take it one day at a time. Or, as I do when I’m really overwhelmed, one breath at a time. If you can take one breath, and then one more breath, and then breathe once again, you’ll get through this.
4) Reach out for help.
Tell a trusted friend, family member, mentor, counselor, pastor, therapist or spiritual director what you’re going through. Ask if they have any words of encouragement, and ask if they’ll walk through this season with you so at least you’re not alone.
5) Remember what’s true.
When you’re walking through darkness, it’s easy to start thinking dark thoughts and buying into defeating lies. Even if you’re in a hard season, remember what’s true. You are loved, God has not abandoned you, God has a plan to give you a future and a hope, God promises to work all things out for good, you are a precious child of Divine Love.
6) Let off steam.
Hard seasons are stressful, and the fear, anxiety, worry and sadness can take a toll on your emotional and physical self. Even if you’re struggling, remember that sometimes you just have to vent. Let off steam. Go for a run, take a kickboxing class, crank up the music when you’re alone in your car, punch a pillow, write a poem, splash paint on a wall, dance your heart out, laugh out loud……find healthy (and maybe even fun!) ways of expressing your emotions.
7) Help someone else.
In hard seasons, it’s easy to become self-absorbed, always thinking about what you need, what you want and what you’re feeling. It’s good to be self-aware, but becoming self-absorbed is really unhealthy and unhelpful. Find someone else to help. It will give you human contact, it’ll help you find positive emotional connections, it’ll occupy your time, it’ll force you to be creative and it’ll remind you that you’re not the only person in the universe who’s having a hard time.
I hope these suggestions are helpful. If you have other suggestions, please leave them in the comments! And if there’s anything I can do for you, you’re always welcome to comment or send me a message.
I love you all!!!