“We can be certain that God will give us the strength and resources we need to live through any situation in life that he ordains. The will of God will never take us where the grace of God cannot sustain us.” – Billy Graham
I thank God for his grace. I need it. I am lost without it. These last weeks I have felt that every step I take forward is followed by two I take back. I am encouraged that “His mercies are new every morning”!
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)
I am struggling to accomplish the goals I’ve laid out for myself. (I give myself 2.5 out of 5 stars) However, I’m trying to embrace my own advice and press forward rather than look back, no catching up, just living in the moment as best I can.
When starting this blog I told you I had a plan for healing and improving my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. I figured if we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind’ (Luke 10:27 NIV) I want those aspects of myself to be worthy of the task.
I am seeing lately how integrated all four categories of health are. As depression creeps in, the motivation for physical wellness activity wanes. When I am weak physically, I don’t have the energy to face the mental activities. When that happens, my overly emotional state overpowers the spiritual connection to a good and loving heavenly Father. He is still there. I feel his presence but cannot hear his voice. Breaking the cycle is hard. Taking thoughts captive is challenging. Even prayer can be a struggle, like walking up a river against the current. It seems strange the portion of health I least value, physical health, is the easiest way for me to take hold of the downward spiral and funnel my life back into a more productive and pleasant place. Something about putting one foot in front of the other on the treadmill helps bring order to my thoughts, stability to my emotions and breath to my spirit. The rhythms of life restore themselves when I take back what I can most easily see and direct, my physical health.
I’ve written already about my plan for physical health. I told you also about how writing this blog and working on my book helps exercise my mental health. This week I want to share how another kind of writing helps me maintain my emotional health. While mental clarity comes from a more ordered and formal approach to writing, my emotional needs are better served by an unencumbered pouring forth of thoughts in a journal. I take the thoughts swirling in the chaos of a mind lost in the storm and allow them to gush onto the pages of my journal. Here, no thought is off limits. Why does this help? I’m not sure but perhaps I can illustrate with an analogy.
Do you know the annoyance of having a song stuck in your head? I do. Oftentimes I don’t know all the words or the entire melody, which only makes it worse. It’s like having an obnoxious vine video on loop in my brain. Sometimes it helps to just listen to the whole song. When the song is brought out of my mind and into the airwaves I can listen and move on because the song has been externalized. Journaling is like that. It takes internal thoughts and emotions and externalizes them on the paper. Oftentimes the act of writing reveals thoughts that I didn’t even know were there so lost were they in the chaos. Once written, I can then move on without dwelling on them. The looping track that monopolized my brain is silenced.
But journaling, for me, isn’t done in isolation. I am not alone in this expulsion of internal thoughts. I journal in the presence of the Holy Spirit. He alone has my permission to take in every word and even to guide my words into snippets of revelation. Viewing my thoughts without the lens of God’s truth is not a picture I want to see. His truth is critical to my emotional wellbeing. Because of this, journaling my thoughts is only part of my emotional health exercise. I also journal through the Bible. As I read his words to me, I write down my reflections. This personalizes His truth and gives me the perspective on life that stabilizes my emotions. My thoughts reconciling themselves to God’s Word on the pages of my journal keep me strong, grounded.
As I’ve walked through the grief of losing my baby girl at the tender age of 15, caring friends have given me several books to read. I am so blessed by this. However, none of them have helped me the way Bible study has. I have hungrily devoured God’s word in this season with a level of passion previously unknown to me. John 6:68 voices my sentiments exactly. Where else can I go? Only Jesus has the words of life.
So then this week, I will put one foot in front of the other. I will submit my thoughts to the Lord in journaling. And I will drink in the words of life through Bible study. Will you join me?