30/07/2012

The Emotional Hangover**

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 9:40 am by The Water Bearer

I am coining this as an official title,

“Emotional Hangover”

I am beginning to see a pattern form, of getting an emotional hangover after a day of emotional battle, a day of raw exposed fear. The kind of inner battle when you can’t control a thought in your head or a word from your mouth. When you are so overwhelmed with the onslaught of emotions that your clarity of thought isn’t even in the same suburb as you! Tears are shed, hearts crumble under the painful attacks of fear and guilt, words are rambled and all capability is lost. Many psychological conditions bring on these bouts, such as Depression, Anxiety, Bi-Polar Disorder, Cyclic Mood Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, etc. The battle itself is difficult at best to get through, however I have noticed the next day or two I am exhausted and extremely sensitive. I feel like I’ve been through hell and back.

Every ‘Drinker’ knows a real ‘Hangover’, you may as well write-off the whole next day because you know you are going to be useless. Getting out of bed is like lifting a wreckage from the bottom of the sea, that first sip of warm Coffee or Tea gives you slight hope, which only fades as the cup drains. The second cup doesn’t hold the same potential as that first hopeful sip, regular responsibilities are unbearably weighty, if you can manage anything at all then you’re grateful.

Not too long ago, I suffered from this type of “Emotional Hangover”.

Getting out of bed caused an argument with myself, until I managed to drag myself off the mattress.

I snapped at my family members when I saw the rubbish overflowing onto the floor, spewing out of the bin which was well over capacity.

I cringed and growled out loud “ARGH!” when I saw the heavy rain fall onto my work uniforms as they hung neatly on the washing line.

I could barely hear my children speak to me through the thick fog of unfathomable thoughts, and each question they threw at me squeezed into my mind which was as full as the rubbish bin. When I tried to conjure a response, the pressure inside my mind became too much and only something regrettably negative burst from my mouth.

I stood in front of the pantry trying desperately to come up with a side dish I felt able to make with dinner, I slid down the cupboard door behind me until my backside hit the floor, looking up at the shelves of food begging something to cry out “I am easy to make, you can manage to make me”. Only to give up and go to bed for an hour or so.

My head was heavy, my heart was heavy, my body was heavy, my mind was mush under a heavy fog. I’ve felt this before, many times.

I was very grateful to read a fellow bloggers post Mental Fatigue. Which let me know I wasn’t alone, every word rang true as I read, my realisation sparked this post.

I began to remind myself that these battles haven’t been so common recently, that I have been much better for many years, even though I do still get hit randomly, though not as often, but still HARD. An overflow of the inner war I discussed in a previous post Why so Fragile? I know that my inner enemy is using fear to deter me from writing…again. This time bringing out the ‘Big Guns’ of my psychological disorder to dissuade me from exposing these tactics.

The details might be different for everyone, but my deep personal fear is similar to many. Fear of being unloved, fear of being rejected, fear of being worthless, fear of temptation, fear of failing, fear of suffering, fear of regret.

I pray more than ever in these times, I instinctively reach for the powerful words of my Bible. My faith will get me through, I know this. He is my strength when I am weak.

In a confident state of mind, and a trusting, loving connection with God, these fears are irrelevant. I know I am loved by my Heavenly Father, that He will never reject me, I know how valuable I am to Him, I know my sins are forgiven, I know I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me, that I can endure suffering and be better for it, and that my regrets are what improves me.

I Know this! I Know this! So why do we still get attacks of feeling this way, believing these lies, folding under the fear? Whether for days on end, or just for one day here and one day there?

Because in this fragile state, this knowledge is hidden behind the heavy fog.

I used to think I was alone in this until I began sharing my story, I have found there are many of you out there, many like me who battle these inner enemies at various times in your lives.

So why does God let all this happen to us who love Him, who trust in Him?

I believe He wants to make us avid opponents to His enemies, He wants to strengthen our abilities on the battlefield, this fragile state of mind forces us to stretch our faith and reach further for His hand, to bring Him into our circumstance. These difficult times remind me to be vigilant in wearing my Godly armor, and to keep me truly hungering and thirsting for His word. What about you? Do these types of battles diminish your faith in His protection, or do you understand that He uses all things to bring about His design and build our relationship with Him and our strength of faith?

I watched the film “The Vow” recently, it touched me so, and a part of the story fits in here. The husband tells his wife who is suffering from amnesia that He will make her feel the love they once shared, that it will be like reading her favourite book for the first time. She will get to experience the most amazing feeling in the world again, the feeling of “Falling in Love“.

I feel like that when this fog lifts and I am saved by my Loving Father in Heaven! I fall in love with Him over and over again. I feel the safety of trusting in Him return to my awareness, I marvel at His demonstrations of Love when my prayers are answered. I am humbled by my weakness and encouraged by His strength. I am uplifted and enlightened, yet mystified and amazed by His complex puzzle for life and growth.

It may seem confusing but He knows things we don’t, He sees around the corners of life which we have yet to view. He uses these times to refine us as one would remove the impurities of precious metals, heating up the rocks with the hottest of fires causing the imperfections to rise to the surface and be removed!

“I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’

Zech 13:9 (ESV)

What about you? Do you also struggle and battle with fears similar to mine?
Do these types of battles diminish your faith in His protection?
Or do you understand that He uses all things to bring about His design and build our relationship with Him and our strength of faith?

02/07/2012

The Two Voices of Guilt**

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:54 pm by The Water Bearer

When I posted ‘When will we feel good enough?’ recently, I received a comment which sparked an outpouring of my spirit. One of my readers mentioned the guilty feelings of self-condemnation which still linger in her mind even after many years of learning to “lay off” and stop criticising and punishing herself for not being perfect. As I attempted to reply underneath I found the keyboard took on a life of its own and after a few minutes I had written this blog post (I thought it a bit too important to hide in the comment box and not share openly with you all). It has more ‘Theological talk’ than I usually like to put into my blog, as my aim is also to reach those outside the church. I am sorry if this is too ‘heavy’ for anyone and I am happy to try to answer any questions about the things I’ve explained here.

Dear Reader,

I understand how this feels, it took a car accident and nervous breakdown for me to address viewing myself through the judgmental eyes of others, or even the condemning eyes I had been viewing myself with for so long. It is a hard habit to break indeed, a lot of therapy and a long faith walk, yet it still hovers in the back of my mind. That is up until I address it, I now know that I need to go back and read my prayer journal and remember all the things I have learned about myself, about God, about my inner enemies and my army of inner angels.

I have come to find there are two ‘voices of guilt’.

One is the Holy Spirit convicting our hearts when we are in fact guilty of something which is causing a blockage between us and God. I have found usually pride is the one hardest to see for ourselves, and its easy to also avoid recognising more obvious ones, such as sinful anger, lying, idolatry, bitterness, and self-indulgence just to name a few. When we are guilty of anything, the Holy Spirit is sent to help us feel it accordingly. Through repentance of sin, explained in my previously mentioned post, we can be absolved of these sins and set free by God’s love, mercy and grace, to feel ‘Good Enough’.

When the Spirit of God is being nurtured inside us, we desire to be perfect. This is because the Spirit of God is perfect but is housed within our imperfect human hearts. The spirit is desiring to be perfect rather than actually feeling it’s pure perfection, due to being covered by our flesh (sin). Flesh became the access point of our inner enemies when Adam and Eve ate the ‘fruit’. This is why the saying “The flesh is weak” is so common.

So therefore the other ‘voice of guilt’, is the false guilt of our inner enemy, whose purpose is to gain access to us and deter our hearts from being open to God’s all powerful, healing Love.

Our inner enemy does not want us to feel God’s Love because it will weaken both the enemy within, and strengthen our flesh, time and time again. The enemy can’t allow that to happen without a fight because he will increasingly lose access to us, so we are fed lies of guilt and thoughts of not being ‘perfect enough’ in an attempt to dilute our faith and trust in God’s love.

So while I still hear the voice of guilt as many others do, I understand that I must discern which voice is talking to my heart and take the appropriate action. If it is the enemy trying to falsely condemn me then I need to use my inner angels to fight him off, and focus hard on God’s love for me. I recommend we all try this method when dealing with false guilt.

Prayers & Blessing to you.

This post is another one super hard for me to publish, while I have been brought into an understanding of these things, I have spent many years avoiding sharing these insights with anyone, except for some family members and 1 or 2 faithful friends. This is because it is usually too heavy and complex for those outside the church, and I come across too young and secular when discussing within the church. I often feel I have no audience for this type of talk and therefore just try to keep it to myself. I pray my reader  is helped a little by it.

27/06/2012

When will we feel ‘Good Enough’?

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 11:06 am by The Water Bearer

So often many of us want to crawl into a hole when faced with the reality that we aren’t perfect. There are so many more complex points I could write on this topic, but in this post I will just try to touch on a few basics. There is a cloudy grey area between being perfect and being good enough, and many of us feel if we fall short of perfection we must not be good enough.  Sure we tell ourselves over and over again the cliche that “Nobody’s Perfect”, we try to convince ourselves that we are ok with that, but it only seems to distract us for a moment and before long we are back wondering how we can feel good enough for longer?

Self-indulgence seems the most common way to distract ourselves for longer, things like overeating, retail therapy, casual sex, drinking, drugs, gambling, any form of a good time that helps us enjoy ourselves and takes our minds away from the disappointment of feeling like a failure. Only problem is all these can leave us with feelings of regret when we either drink too much, spend too much, eat too much, or sleep with someone we wish we hadn’t, making worse the feeling inside that we were trying to deal with in the first place. Other non-destructive ways are also attempted, like being overly ‘good’, perhaps we go on health kicks, take up a new hobby or volunteer for the school P&C, church craft stalls, food vans, fundraising etc. Obviously these are fabulous gestures when coming from the heart for the right reasons, but when they are to distract us from that feeling of still not being good enough we often find the feeling is still there not long after we hang up the Good Samaritan shoes.

I can relate to this in so many ways, in my own private thoughts I always knew what was expected of me, and that it was out of my reach. I had all these desires which I knew I wasn’t meant to have, I too dealt with my emotional thoughts in ways I knew were bad for me. I craved a brief moment of relief, where I could feel good enough already. I believed I knew what was ‘right’, but no matter how hard I tried, I still managed to find myself doing the wrong thing.

Strangely enough, I felt the exact opposite when I compared myself to those around me. If my ‘goodness’ was challenged by anyone, I could quickly dispute their claims by defending and justifying my actions, and pointing out how much worse they were than me. If I ever saw someone do anything ‘wrong’ I stored it in my memory bank, ready to remind them if ever my virtue was challenged.

I teetered between these two states for a number of years, unaware of what I was actually doing. I believe this battle is going on inside many people, and I feel the urge to tell you all that it is a sneaky, deceptive trap.

I was discussing this topic with my dear Sister recently; we were deep in the thick of analysing the elements of right and wrong, guilt and innocence, sin and forgiveness, among other things. I was recalling what our Dad had said to me in my early twenties; those words of his which had helped me see the truth about myself.

He helped me identify the lies I had believed all my life. Do these sound familiar to anyone?

*Good intentions are good excuses for undesirable behaviour;  –

Dad showed me that doing the wrong thing for the right reasons is still the wrong thing (doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is just as bad) Focusing on all the good things we do often, (good deeds, favours, gift giving, praying, loving gestures, hard work, fortitude through suffering etc) must make up for our impatience, our self-importance, bad temper, self-indulgence and emotional tantrums. Dad helped me accept that focusing on the good I saw in me distracted me from owning up to my true flaws, while focusing on the bad in others reinforced the belief that I was good and didn’t need to change.

*If we can convince those around us that we are good enough, and convince ourselves that we are good enough, then that must mean God thinks we are good enough too, right?

Dad showed me that God would in fact rather us be low in reputation, humble and even persecuted by man for His names sake. (He can certainly make us thought of highly by others, but only when it means nothing to us anymore.) In my understanding He does not encourage self-importance. Ordinary Man – Extraordinary God!

*We also fall for that age old trick of building our knowledge, and relying on our own understanding of right and wrong, to help us be more on to it.

Dad reminded me of the tree which Eve ate the fruit from, the ‘Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil’. Isn’t that the same thing we are doing in this instance? Trying to know what God knows, rather than simply depending on Him?

If we look closely we can see that all these lies aim to convince us to lift ourselves up, in our own eyes and in the eyes of others, as apposed to lifting up God with honour. If we lift ourselves up, trying to meet God in His righteousness, we only get self-righteousness and we make God smaller in our minds.

Obadiah 1:3 says The pride of our hearts deceives us.”

I was so deceived! I thought I deserved forgiveness for my sins because they weren’t ‘that bad’, and I was making up for it in other ways (Saved by works!), yet I came to see that I could only receive forgiveness when my heart became ashamed and was met with Grace. My repentance came by admitting that my heart is prideful, selfish and conceited. I acknowledged my sinful nature and begged for God to understand that I could now see how wrong I was. I came to see that we are all capable of good deeds and bad, and it struck me that if I still found myself doing things I swore I never would, even though I thought I knew what was right, so others must do also. God allowed me to stumble over my own sin so that I would learn to depend on Him for His strength and His righteousness.

By showing Him my willingness to suffer the pain of being unworthy of forgiveness, I began to earn that very forgiveness.

Let me ask you this….

If someone does wrong by us and comes to us demanding we forgive them because they have a good explanation and because they can list a number of ways we were at fault as well. Don’t we feel that they aren’t truly sorry, and will probably just go ahead and do the same thing again in the future? We would be unwilling to forgive and trust them completely, wouldn’t we?

Yet if someone comes to us admitting how wrong they were, bowing their head in shame and saying they understand if we don’t forgive them, stating that they don’t even deserve forgiveness, they just want us to know how very sorry they are for hurting us. Then wouldn’t we feel more inclined to forgive them and allow them to earn back our trust?

Perhaps we could keep these obvious differences in mind when considering how we approach God when looking to receive forgiveness?

“Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” (Matthew 6:12)

If someone hurts us or does us wrong and is truly remorseful we need to show forgiveness, because no matter what they have done, we need to remember that it is possible for us to do that very same thing if similar circumstances and weakness occurs in us. By no means am I suggesting we should put ourselves into situations where we allow them to continue to hurt us!  (True change must be evident and trust rebuilt when sharing our vulnerabilities. Another post for another day!) I am suggesting accepting their apology and letting go of the bitterness we feel toward them for their action. If they don’t apologise or acknowledge their faults, then we can assume that they can’t see it or admit it to themselves, just like we couldn’t in our own lack of self-awareness. Even though it is difficult, we can then offer an element of forgiveness and let go of any grudges, because as Jesus said on the cross “Forgive them, for they know not what they do”.

We are able to be forgiven because of God’s mercy and grace, and because of what Jesus did at Calvary. By acknowledging this we make ourselves tiny in our own eyes and God becomes HUGE! As a fellow blogger The Peaceful Wife put it, ‘My picture of God before was so wimpy and small. I had to see He was big and I was tiny’.  So very true, and I like having a BIG GOD!

Here I was trying to prove how good I was, yet as soon as I admitted how truly wrong I was, a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. It invited God into my situation and I found Him keeping me from doing things, one by one, that I had been trying not to for so long on my own. I found that many of the things I thought mattered actually didn’t matter at all, I could be released from self-condemnation because of feeling God’s love, and I came to experience genuine moments of inner peace. I still have to keep my heart guarded to discern the pride which tries to creep back in each day, trying to deceive me into covering my sin. Yet I now find it much easier to see myself clearly, by keeping my heart softened to His voice and truth, and try to confess in the instant of awareness.

When we truly repent and run away from pride, we can rejoice in feeling the freedom it brings. Feeling God’s forgiveness, His help, His love, and finally feeling FREE to be GOOD ENOUGH. AMEN!

21/05/2012

God….Really?*

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith, Musings tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 1:23 pm by The Water Bearer

Most people who know me know that I have faith. I often get called ‘religious’ which progressively makes my skin crawl. These days I am quick to correct them, stating that “I am faithful, not religious!” I love to share stories about the wonderful things God has done in my life, but sometimes my stories are simply laughed at and dismissed.  I am not surprised by this anymore and I try not to feel any offense. I realise the damage that has been done to the reputation of God through many years of worldly disagreements and disappointments, which led to war and doubt.

It saddens me that the God I know is getting a bad rap because His name is too often used as a front for ‘religious humans’ to hide behind. I believe most church goers mean well, but with all their influence, why are so many people increasingly deterred away from God due to their opinion of the church? For example I do not currently attend church and neither does many of my faithful friends and family. Ask yourselves honestly, how common is the reaction to want to run when someone introduces themselves as ‘A Born Again Christian’?

Is it simply that we may have had an experience with ‘religiosity’, or ‘crackpots’, rather than with the awesome and abundant love from God?

Isn’t it possible that someone who claimed to represent God to us may have let us down, betrayed our trust, or even caused us or someone we love pain? Therefore we may mistakenly apply the onus to fall back onto God and not the mere human using His name.

I personally would rather the onus fell back onto the enemy within the church, rather than blaming God for everything. So that we would continue to pursue His internal voice and build a relationship with Him, no matter what this world could do to us to try and cause lack of faith.

The Apostle Paul, wrote in the book of Thessalonians that the enemy of God would sit at the head of the church claiming to be God. (2 Thess 2:4 “The son of destruction, who puts himself against all authority, lifting himself up over all which is named God or is given worship; so that he takes his seat in the Temple of God, putting himself forward as God.”)

Are we searching for God and finding His counterfeit?

I believe this counterfeit is fooling masses. If this enemy is actually an ‘angel of light’, he is not quite the obvious “red-horned” ugliness which we imagine we should be aware of. Thinking about it, I believe the enemy knows God very well, he was the Lord’s right-hand man, His closest associate. Who else could portray our Heavenly Father so convincingly, yet destroy faith in Him in the process?

I believe we need to seek into our own hearts where the true spirit of God lies and ask Him to show us His TRUTH. We need to strive to not settle for anything less, refusing to allow ourselves to be seduced by an easier, more attractive, and yet less righteous path.

We can test it by reading the Bible and researching to see if what we are led to believe lines up with what we read in God’s word and be humbled under His authority and virtue. If nothing else it’s a good read and a great guide for ways to handle the ups and downs of life.

I used to read the headlines from the back cover of the Sunday Mail every week, and every week the title was too appropriate for what I needed to hear. There are too many for me to mention but you would spin out if I could remember them all. My Dad and I used to laugh and shake our heads at the level of coincidence that was beyond almost any understanding, except that of a divine message. One Sunday morning, my husband asked me to grab him a paper while I was at the shop. It had been many months since I had bought the paper or read any ‘headlines’ and at that time I was feeling particularly distant from God. As I drove I spoke to Him in my heart, “Lord, have I slipped away? Have you still got me?” The radio was playing in the background, and as I pulled into my driveway a new song was introduced, as it started the melody caught my attention, as music often does, and rather than turning it off I sat in the car for a moment to listen. While I sat there, I remembered the paper and the headlines I had once applied to myself, so I flicked the paper over to see “I WON’T LET YOU DOWN” sprawled across the back page in huge black letters. I looked up and smiled, the chorus of the song kicked in and the male voice sang in a country twang “I won’t let you down!”

If God wants us to be convinced that we have come into contact with Him, He can make a confirmation appear in any unlikely place, wherever 2 or 3 witnesses (signs) confirm a word from the Almighty, you then know you have struck something directly from Him!

Many can inspire us, teach us, and guide us, and the enemy is always out to trick and deceive us, I recommend we never stop testing the things we are led to believe, never stop asking God questions and let Him be the only one we trust to show us His TRUTH!

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