I believe that within all humans there is a degree of brokenness. Some of these heart fractures seem to yield irreparable damage, yet some have only tiny holes that need to be filled once in awhile.
Last year a crack in my own existence was thankfully healed with a happy light, some vitamin D, therapy and a major career shift. Yet, looking back on the darkness I can see how quickly brokenness can turn into irrational thinking. These thought patterns can be a nasty accomplice to crippling anxiety, paranoia or massive insecurity. I’ve even seen it change a person’s personality for a brief time and cause outbursts and strange behavior. I happen to think it’s important that when we truly love someone, we are willing to grant huge amounts of grace and stand by the afflicted with truth and love. This is grace I’m willing to give (and also thankful to receive, I might add).
On the flipside, sometimes people can be at their absolute best of character when they’ve reached rock bottom. I had a friend years ago who was going through a horribly painful divorce (is there any other kind?). In the past she had been someone who talked freely about others (inappropriately sharing deep secrets of others who trusted her) and had made some poor choices. Yet in the depth of her despair—her brokenness—the true authentic, compassionate person I knew her to be, appeared. It was like a polluted, hazy film had been removed from her dashboard view and she was humbled to the point of deep understanding of others’ pain. I remember being so mesmerized by how genuine and real she had become. The pain and the “nowhere to go but up” experience she was having seemed to instill great hope for what could be in her life. Pain can do that sometimes. The trick is to remember that authenticity and carry it into a healed life, furthering compassion for others going through the wringer.
It is true that God lets many of us hit the basement with our rears so hard that it’s hard to remember, as we’re standing in the “ick” up to our ankles, that He’s a God of mercy and compassion. We cry out and our prayers seem to echo in the caverns of our havoc-ridden lives. ‘Been there and it goes way beyond a self proclaimed pity party. But, I can personally attest to the Huge Lessons Learned while at the bottom. These were blessings that never would have materialized if God had fixed everything with my first request. Countless women in my life have this same story: Bottom dwelling can bring massive change and positive transitions.
So..…what to do while waiting for the “mercy elevator” on the bottom floor?
Pray. That goes without saying. Say it loud and proud (and in my case, OUT LOUD) and pray often. I think I got down on my knees several times in the days leading up to my oldest daughter’s open heart surgery when she was an infant. I’d never done that before, thinking that such a physical stance was reserved for the fanatical, but I felt so much better. Almost like there was an exclamation point and newly found reverence to my requests. I remember having my head hang so low, the tears were making a pattern on the carpet.
Changing thinking patterns is also another way to combat negativity and doubt, the unwelcome house guests that camp out on the couch. I’ve found that verse memorization can really help with this. I wasn’t one who willingly took on memory verses. I guess I saw it as a Sunday school activity or a practice for avid bible study attendees. I’ve done many studies over the years myself, but somehow I just felt ill-equipped in this area and didn’t take the time. Well, ‘happy to admit my wrongness on this one. The single most helpful thing I can do to change my negative thought patterns is to say certain verses out loud (stress the loud part again…working alone has its privileges!).
My favorite verses for trying times:
Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
Psalm 147:3 – He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
Romans 5:2-5 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
James 1:12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
I’ve also found that when “Oops! My brokenness is showing!”, it’s not a good idea to commiserate with the fellow broken. We often end up taking on traits of those we spend a lot of time with. If you’re prone to anxiety, lunching with a fellow “hand-wringer” can create a high pitched environment—like poodles waiting to go on a walk (sorry as a dog photographer I’m held hostage by the canine visuals). It’s dangerous and asking for trouble to step into a close relationship with someone who might have the same insecurities that you do. It’s the perfect storm, so to speak, and can be unnecessarily toxic for both of you.
We must actively seek upbeat people who seem to have risen out of their own ashes or at least do a great job of trying. The lifting up doesn’t just happen—it takes work. I am always so moved by the strength and ability of people, women in particular, who can be highly functioning during a “dark night of the soul”. They seem willing to do the heavy lifting and they’re optimistic about things turning around because they trust in God. They trust in the “growing of us” that can take place when we’re broken, however painful and trying it can be.
Seeking solitude is another activity that I choose when I’m low. Somehow when things are rosy and bright, it’s just too quiet (not enough of a party atmosphere..?), but solitude in a church pew, in the forest, on a run, within the walls of our art studios, or even in the loo—it all counts. God has nudged me toward important decisions and epiphanies during these times of aloneness—not to be confused with loneliness. It has become so precious to me, that I drag myself out of bed at 5 a.m. and toothpick my eyes open just to relish a quiet house. The good stuff happens during this hour before the morning chaos begins.
I think about the thousands of women right here in my own town who deal with brokenness every day. How strong and beautiful they are as they go on with the huge tasks of parenting, working, serving while living in the midst of immeasurable pain. I see such a need to build each other up and support our sisters in Christ, when it seems we’ve veered so far off the road and into the judgment ditch. The reputation of women dealing with the brokenness of other women isn’t stellar.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could offer assistance, love and support rather than ridicule and partake in idle gossip about someone’s hard time? I know that is what God asks of us. I think we are completely capable of turning this ship around. We just need to keep that memory of our own brokenness in such close proximity that we can’t help but feel their pain ourselves, instilling compassion and love. Only love.