The Fear We Are All Experiencing
These past few weeks have been challenging for many, brutal for others, and downright devastating for some. The crisis causes emotions to come to the surface and catch us off guard. Some people, such as myself, tend to ignore our emotions until they become unmanageable and overwhelming, screaming at us to listen! Others can be so in touch it’s painful that others are not experiencing the same sort of heightened, “fill in the blank emotion”, as they are.
The point is, that in this time of uncertainty it can be challenging to position ourselves to pray at all, much less to pray in a spirit of faith rather than in panic, anxiety, or fear. Today, I want to share a little bit about my own journey and how I shift myself from overwhelmed into faith and what that process looks like.
I speak only to my own experience. This in no way is meant to be a comprehensive “how to be an awesome prayer warrior” guide, rather, I hope to share with you my struggles and failings, but in the midst of that, God’s tender mercy and compassion to meet me where I am.
Approaching God Authentically
Before COVID-19 ever graced the globe, each one of us faced various trials and deeply painful experiences. We all know that challenges are not new for us as humans, yet they can still send us reeling for cover in the midst of it. So, how do we reconcile our personal hardships with God’s goodness? On one hand, we can tritely state things like, “God is good, all the time!” without truly wrestling on the inside with that truth until we embody it.
Everyone has felt that repulsion when you hear these platitudes stated ever so “helpfully” by others who clearly have never gone through the struggle you are currently enduring or have not the courage to face it in their own life head on. This, by the way, is called cognitive dissonance; a physical manifestation of a belief system expressing itself inauthentically, which is why you can sense it. It is essentially when people say things they do not truly believe. On the other hand, we can become so jaded and callous by the repeated trauma of the world that we disconnect or disassociate from God’s beckoning into a fuller reality of His character and nature.
Again, I ask, how do we reconcile our personal hardships with God’s goodness? How do we align ourselves to actually believe He is our Shepherd, our Friend, our Good Father, our Comforter, our Provider?
I can only share how I have wrestled in these places and come out on the other side.
My Process of Prayer In Hard Times
Let me give you an example. I remember so clearly when I was 18 years old and my mother told me that she wasn’t paying for my car insurance anymore. Now, I laugh because as a mother myself I think, “That’s probably good parenting right there.” But at the moment I was not laughing. I was terrified. Crying. Overwhelmed by a feeling of abandonment and fear of lack. I was working full time for barely 5 figures, paying for all other bills on my own and now surprised by another large payment. I was desperate. So, I went crying to the Lord. Remember how I told you that I’m pretty good at stuffing my emotions? Well, I am. Until it gets really bad. That was me. Sobbing as I’m talking to God, frankly, brutally, probably blaming Him for abandoning me and asking how He could do this to me!
Praying The Psalms
Then, I opened up the Psalms, read though my weepy eyes until I could find one that resonated with my situation. The Psalms are great for this…use those complaining passages to your advantage! I poured out my heart to the Lord until I felt all of the fear and pain articulated and then I began to speak the Word over my situation. Not in faith mind you, still in a ton of fear, I began to read aloud passages about the Lord providing for me, walking with me, upholding me, etc. And you know what? The longer I sat there the more peace and confidence I began to feel in my spirit.
As I read, prayed, and declared, the Lord let His truth illuminate my darkness and lift the lies that I was believing. Lies that said that I was alone, that I would fail, that I would be abandoned, left in poverty, etc. The Lord took me from the pit and restored my hope, joy, and peace.
And you know what? He DID provide for me! He provided then and He continues to provide now, for all of my needs and more. And as I matured, He demonstrated His faithful provision to me, but also rooted out these toxic ways of thinking. This mindset that I was abandoned and impoverished is not aligned with His truth or ways at all!
Building A Healthy Mindset
When our mindset is toxic then we release toxicity and set ourselves up to receive what we are believing. (Tons of scientific research to back this up but that’s another post!) And that’s what the Lord truly wants to get at. These flare-ups of pain are simply a red flag for us to notice and respond to. It’s a tool the Lord uses to heal us of our brokenness, but we have to draw near to Him and allow Him access.
Now, I know, this story is kind of laughable. It’s a little bit funny and you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Wow, is this the hardest stuff that this girl’s had to ‘overcome’? You have no clue about my life lady!” And, you’re probably right, I only have an idea about the sufferings of others. But I do know this, the faithful kind hand of the Lord can reach into the deepest parts of pain, anguish, and even torment and set us free but we must embrace suffering. We have to walk through the suffering in order to get to the other side as an overcomer.
In my limited life, I’ve faced a number of things, small and large, that have shaken my faith, broken my spirit, and deeply shattered my heart. Life has dealt me things like a broken home, a childhood of moderate to severe poverty, a mentally unwell family member, a generational history of abandonment, and a couple of near-death experiences. The result of some of those adverse childhood experiences gave way to things like broken, unhealthy, or codependent relationships, betrayal both personally and professionally, unhealthy fiscal habits, and more. All of which had to be overcome.
Praying From Faith
Now, I’ll spare you the story of each one of those things and how the Lord has walked me through my own brokenness to places of ongoing freedom. In the midst of these situations, while I can’t say that I’ve processed them all with the Lord perfectly, I can state that I now have confidence in the Lord that He WILL walk me through the pain into life and goodness on the other side.
My process usually looks like this:
- Notice my emotions. (Sometimes this can occur from a disproportionate reaction that I had, I’m going to use the term ‘trigger’ even though it has a link to more severe trauma like PTSD)
- For me, it helps to get in a quiet, ideally, isolated space for an unrestricted duration of time. (Even Jesus had to go into the wilderness to pray!)
- Process my emotions. (For me this generally looks like being brutally honest with myself and the Lord about all that I’m feeling. Even if it’s shameful, embarrassing, sinful, etc. it’s not a surprise to the Lord anyway and you’re hurting yourself if you stifle it, so let it out! Let it all out! You can talk, whisper, cry, shout, journal, sing, whatever works to release those negative emotions. Please do us all a favor and do not try to be a “Good Christian” here, ok? Just be real and raw with the Lord about where you feel grief, sadness, fear, etc.)
- Stay here. Sit here for as long as it takes to release them.
- Grab Scripture (The Psalms are great for this!), listen to a song (It doesn’t always have to be worship), or read a passage that relates or articulates what you are feeling. If you’re stumped that’s okay! Skim through the Psalms until you find something that relates, or ask the Lord to bring something to mind!
- Read, pray, sing through this until you feel able to declare truth over your situation
- Declare, (don’t pray and ask although it might start out like that) DECLARE God’s word over your life and over your situation. You’ll probably begin NOT feeling it. That’s okay. Truth isn’t bound to obey your emotions. As you declare truth (God’s Word!) over whatever it is, you’re doing a number of things:
- By speaking truth you are releasing life and positive energy into the situation, which shifts the molecular structure of the atmosphere in and around you.1
- You are cutting off the spiral of death and lies (the enemy’s foothold) in your mind and heart
- You are creating new neurological pathways into your brain and mind thus resulting in increased hope, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and set your mind up for a different (life-giving) future trauma response 2
- Releasing toxic chemicals from your body and allowing healthy (life-giving, mood-shifting) chemicals to be released throughout your body3
- Agreeing with, re-affirming your trust in God, the life-giver, the problem-solver, the Ultimate Resource which removes any blockages that would have resisted His working in your life.
In Your Healing Journey
Now, let me be clear, this is not in any way meant to nullify the value of counseling or other mental health services. There have been MANY times throughout my journey that I have accessed counselors, inner healing, or simply people wiser than I to pray for and walk with me through things. The human experience is so complex that not one way of navigating challenges will work 100% of the time, nor should it. We are in a journey, a dynamic, lifelong experience of coming to know our true selves in the light and love of Christ.
But this I know, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in Him.’” (Lamentations 3:22-24, NLT).
- LEAF, CAROLINE. SWITCH ON YOUR BRAIN: the Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health. (Baker Books, 2018), 13,32,59.
- Ibid, 35, 45.
- Ibid, 87-90.