Strength for the Journey

LisaLeonard

Lisa M. Leonard
Heartland News Writer,
Nebraska

When life’s current gets too fierce, we often fight against it. Sometimes we’re caught in the undertow and get pulled down. Other times we get so tired we just let it carry us wherever it wants to take us.
Getting into the water can seem perfectly safe if you’re a good swimmer. But if you don’t know what signs to watch for, what’s happening beneath the surface can catch you by surprise.
You might be an experienced hiker. But if you aren’t familiar with the area, you can find yourself walking through some pretty tough terrain. And you might even encounter a creature you’re not prepared for. A snake. A mountain lion. A bear. Or maybe another hiker who isn’t out there just to enjoy the scenery.
When you find yourself in a situation that overwhelms and frightens you, it’s easy to panic and make hasty decisions that you later regret. Experience is a great teacher, but sometimes the experience is so intense that it makes you want to avoid that type of situation completely.
Fear can grip us so tightly that we decide to play it safe. Too safe. So safe that we no longer think about stepping out of our comfort zone.
What happens then is almost as scary as encountering a wild animal. Life becomes predictable. You feel stable and secure, but you start getting bored. You see other people living it up and having amazing adventures, and you know you’re missing out on something. You start envying those who seem to have it made. But you lack the courage to leave your comfort zone.
Then you discover something that takes away the fear. You swallow it, and it gives you the freedom you’ve been lacking. Next thing you know, you’re hooked on that feeling. Now you can’t imagine life without it. This is your new normal.
Problem is, this stuff costs money. So you come up with ways to support your new habit. And some of those ways are illegal. But you need that stuff to make you feel good. Next thing you know, you’re in jail awaiting trial. You’re looking at some hard time.
Maybe you’re struggling with bitterness because the person who got you started on the stuff is walking around free as a bird while you’re locked up. Is that fair?
Or maybe it isn’t jail you’re in but the psych ward. Maybe you’ve tried various forms of medication to help you overcome your anxiety, depression, or some other form of mental illness. Nothing seems to help. Or the side effects make you feel even worse than the diagnosis.
You can’t help comparing yourself to others and feeling that you just don’t measure up. So you do a little role playing, doing things that you know aren’t really right for you, wearing a mask that gets you into those hot spots and cool zones, taking it off only when you’re alone. Completely alone.
Do you like being alone? Are their voices you can’t tune out? Has your mind become a battlefield where the real you gets trampled by the opinions of well-meaning friends and clueless family members?
Being alone doesn’t have to be a bad thing. There’s someone who longs to talk with you. He longs to comfort you, encourage you, and guide you through this labyrinth of fear, discouragement, doubt, and everything else that keeps you from enjoying life.
“Come to Me,” says Jesus, “all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”
He doesn’t promise us smooth sailing, but He does provide strength for the journey. In his book, “Hope Again,” Chuck Swindoll writes:
Suffering comes in many forms and degrees, but His grace is always there to carry us beyond it. I’ve lived long enough and endured a sufficient number of trials to say without hesitation that only Christ’s perspective can replace our resentment with rejoicing. Jesus is the central piece of suffering’s puzzle. If we fit Him into place, the rest of the puzzle – no matter how complex and enigmatic – begins to make sense.
One thing God wants us to know about Him is that He often uses surprising ways to rescue us, redeem us, and transform our lives. At times it seems as though He isn’t doing anything to help us. We can’t help wondering if He really cares.
So often we expect Him to show us His love in ways that we can understand and easily recognize. But there’s one big difference between God and us. He can see the big picture—our entire lives, from birth to death. We only see the here and now. We remember the past, and we wallow in the guilt, shame, and bitterness. We try to anticipate the future, but it’s only guesswork based on our limited understanding.
The hard knocks we take are supposed to equip us for some great service. But it’s hard to imagine anything good coming out of all that pain and degradation. How can we ever hope to feel normal again?
Maybe the “normal” we strive for isn’t the same one God wants for us. Perhaps He’s preparing us for a new normal. One that takes us in a whole new direction.
Change can be scary. Even terrifying. But if we truly believe that God loves us and knows what’s best for us, imagine how it would feel if we were to put our lives completely in His hands and trust Him to lead us where He wants us to go. Give up control? Yikes.
In his book, “From Addiction to Miracles,” Bill K. writes, “It’s been an impossible journey, way beyond my capabilities. Life is a journey beyond any of our capabilities. It’s that way purposely so that we can open our hearts to God.” As a recovered alcoholic and drug addict, Bill knows what it’s like to be homeless and alone. “Over the years my life has been very, very, difficult. Besides the severe mental breakdown, I’ve also had to turn myself in to a psychiatric hospital twice. I was frightened that I wouldn’t get better.”
Not only did Bill get better, but he also served as director for the Siena Francis House, a long-term residential treatment center in Omaha. Their “Miracles” recovery program helps homeless addicts who have lost all hope. “Thank God,” says Bill K, “that we’ve been able to provide a treatment center for people who want treatment but can’t afford it. Hopefully someday there’ll be more centers like ours throughout the country.”
Without those treatment centers, our prisons will continue to be over-populated, and we will see more and more of our tax dollars going into the construction of new correctional facilities. Wouldn’t it make more sense to invest in training individuals to provide treatment for inmates who struggle with mental illness and addiction?
Whatever journey you happen to be on, remember one thing. There is Someone waiting to take you by the hand and guide you. Don’t you dare try to go it alone. Help is available. Reach out. Make that call. You’ll be glad you did.
For more information on Siena Francis House, call (402) 502-4896 or visit their website at www.sienafrancis.org.

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