When You Simply Can’t

I distinctly remember feeling like I had no idea how I was going to make it through the day.

Numerous interruptions in my sleep over an extended period of time left me feeling irritable and frustrated. It’s not that I couldn’t sleep; it’s that my sweet babies needed me night and day and I. was. tired.

I know the desperate feeling of burnout.

It’s no fun to feel like you’re at the mercy of your emotions. Many of us have grown up in a culture where emotions were something to be suppressed with a quick, “Suck it up, buttercup. Pull up those bootstraps and get a move on! Let’s make it happen!”

But what happens when you simply can’t?

Is there space for rest and healing?

I opened up my social media pages the other day to a loud debate. One side was frustrated with the constant barrage of instagram images that encourage us to only focus on our feelings and listen to our hearts, the other side bristled at the thought of ignoring our emotions out of sheer duty. Both sides used Scripture to support their point of view. Each was convinced that the other side was missing something important.

It kinda got me thinking, I guess.

Genesis 1 teaches that God looked at all He created and saw that it was good. We are good creations made in God’s image, with great worth and value. Genesis 3 teaches that humans were completely changed by the Fall, when sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve.

Good creations who have become completely fallen with no hope of redeeming themselves, except through the absolutely free gift that came through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus. His death and resurrection made a way for us to be restored and returned to the One who made us in the first place.

When you put your faith in Christ, you are no longer under sin but under grace! And you have an eternal hope that cannot fade away.

So what does all this mean for us on those days when we feel like we’re worth absolutely nothing and can’t stand the sight of ourselves in the mirror?

We are loved. We know this, because the entire Bible is filled with truth after truth about the love of a Father for His children. We are made perfect in Christ. We know this, too, because we read more truth about how while we were still sinners, working against God, Christ died for us to bring forgiveness, redemption and new life. We experience God’s grace when we put our faith in Christ, and from that moment on we are changed and renewed, transformed into people who are forgiven and accepted into the family of God forever. We allow the Holy Spirit to bear His fruit in our lives, growing not only our relationship with God, but even with those around us.

And this is all wonderful objective truth that we hold onto, as we dig into His Word and discover more about who God is.

The problem is, we are forgetful.

We easily forget the truths many of us have been taught from birth. We forget because we live in a fallen world, and although we are redeemed, we still fight against sin.

We are bombarded by messages of putting ourselves first, all the while knowing that God deserves first place in our lives. We are encouraged to “put on our own oxygen masks” so we can better take care of our families. We hear that we can’t “pour from an empty cup”, so we look for ways to fill ourselves so we don’t feel depleted.

But what kind of oxygen are we breathing? What are we filling our cup with?

Maybe the conversation should be less about whether or not it’s godly to get some sleep, enjoy a cup of coffee and plan a girls night when we’re feeling low, and more about the basic truth about who we are in Christ. What we believe about that crucial bit of theology forms how we live our daily lives and learn to love God, ourselves and those He has placed in our circle of influence.

I am the mother of four small children. It has been no easy task making sacrifices day after day after day for the past eight years so I can care for my family in the way I understand God has called me to care for them. I have been through deep valleys, struggling at times to see my worth and value even in the middle of this very important job of raising tiny humans and loving my husband. I also work in a ministry position where I have the absolute privilege of speaking truth and hope into the lives of thousands of people every weekday on my radio show and to our social media followers. And I have days where I wonder if I am making a difference at all. I lead worship and am involved in my beautiful community of faith, full of people who know me and us and are journeying together through some of the most faith-forming years of my adult life. And still, I wonder at times, would anyone miss us if we had to move?

Let’s be honest. We all struggle to varying degrees with feelings of inadequacy and unimportance. And our constant movement toward self-care is an acknowledgement of our human limits as we attempt to stay afloat in circumstances that are at best, trying, and at worst, a walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

It is biblical to take time to rest and recuperate and reconnect with the One who created us with deep love and care in the first place.

It is called Sabbath.

And we forget to take it and enjoy it as the gift that it is.

We forget because we are human. We forget because this world is fallen. We forget because sin tempts us and lies to us and we cannot see clearly.

God is working in each one of us to draw us closer to Him every single day. We open the Word and we drink in His message of love and truth. We look at this beautiful world, and we see carefully crafted, picturesque places that thrill us completely. We see one another and we know His love and grace through relationship and connection.

It’s wise to take a break. And it’s wise to have regular habits in place so you don’t end up in survival mode in the first place! Please take that mental health day. Sleep. Exercise and eat healthy food. Talk with your doctor. Visit a counsellor. Walk your journey in the company of those who deeply love you! We need each other. We need rest and balance. We need enjoyment and refreshment! These are beautiful gifts from the Giver of Life!

But let’s not be deceived that a weekend away can sustain us. We need more. We need something real, something that will never fade away. Only Christ can reveal to us a God who does not abandon His beloved children! He is who He says He is, He will do what He says He will do.

And as we continue on in our journey of learning what it means to be human, let’s not abandon truth for the sake of a feel-good cure to a deeper need. The only way to weather the ups and downs of self-worth and identity is to deeply root ourselves in the One who is never shaken – Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 3:16-21 (NIV)

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

tulips

Last year’s tulips

It’s Really Cold

The sun is shining invitingly with no great warmth to offer. For many days we’ve been saddled with temperatures far below seasonal, contending with vehicle trouble, slippery roads and dangerous windchill warnings.

Doing anything in extreme cold presents a fair amount of challenges, especially since it was such a quick switch. Our winter had been unseasonably mild up until the day before the polar vortex blew in.

I open the front curtains, harnessing some of that precious and wonderful sunshine. Most days it warms the room so much that the furnace gets a bit of a break, but on a day where the high is -21 degrees Celsius with a windchill of -30 it’s more for the wonderful dose of vitamin D and the way the light boosts my mood.

In the middle of the frustrations of extreme cold, I’ve been struck by its strange, otherworldly beauty.

Sunrises and sunsets have a soft rose-gold hue. The glowing quarter moon is perfectly clear against the inky black of the cold night sky, the outline of its mysterious dark side now visible from the ground. Millions of stars sparkle in their constellations as billowing clouds and thin curls of chimney smoke rise slowly from all the houses and buildings below. Streetlights illuminate tiny diamonds floating in the air; ice crystals that settle gently on everything they touch, giving trees and roofs and cars and fences a beautiful frosty kiss.

The snow crunches beneath your feet as you walk – the orchestra of snowflakes.

It makes me grateful for the small things that are suddenly big things: thick socks and warm boots on my feet. A jacket that keeps the wind out. The handmade scarf from my mom, the big old “garbage man” leather gloves from my brother, and the Canadian wool hat I picked up on a whim while out shopping a few years ago. The hot cup of coffee I’m sipping out of a clean travel mug while I drive a fairly reliable vehicle around a city where crews work non-stop to clear and sand wintery roads.

A home to return to where I can turn up the furnace, put on my slippers and favourite sweater, and cook a hot meal to enjoy with the ones I love.

There is much to be thankful for, even in the middle of the longest cold snap in decades.

I write this down so that I can remember to choose gratitude the next time I am running late, crouching down in a -40 windchill at the gas station, my frozen fingers clumsily attempting to fill my tires with air.

There is beauty in even this season.

snowflake aaron burden

Image: Aaron Burden