A Pep Talk for the Hard Days


I'm not here to get loud and shout cheers and try to amp you up about life. This isn't a pep talk full of platitudes and cliches. I'm not trying to be phony or fluff you up with falsehoods. I'm just here to keep it real.

And today, being real feels hard. Being okay feels hard.

I'm struggling to believe truth, to find anything good in the mess of my life, to hold on to hope and choose joy. I've been in a bit of a shame spiral the last few days and it hasn't been pretty (but that's a story for another time.)

I'm here to try to gather up the words my soul needs to hear and remember on days like today when the light feels hard to find, and I'm sharing because I have a feeling I'm not the only one who could use a pep talk today. 

Some encouragement for the weary ones (myself included):

God has not forgotten you.

I know it might feel like He's far off and like you've been abandoned, but He is still near. He is as close as your breath. When that's hard to remember and believe, try to just be still and take a few deep breaths, and let your chest rising and falling remind you that He brings peace and calm in the chaos. Breathe in deeply for a count of four, hold for a second, and breathe out for four. Do this as many times as you need. Maybe repeat a mantra or a prayer as you breathe, with a short phrase on the inhale, and another on the exhale -- a favorite of mine is: inhale- "Holy Spirit come" + exhale- "bring peace to me."

You are okay.

You probably want to yell at me that nothing, absolutely nothing, feels okay right now, and I get that. I'm right there with you. When my counselor spoke those three words to me this week, I lost it. Tears fell hard and fast, and it cracked something open in me. Because nothing felt okay. I did not seem okay. But he spoke kindly and gently to me. He affirmed a truth I was forgetting. He continued to tell me that he has seen great growth in me, I am still making progress, and this hard day does not mean all of that is gone or not true. I needed to hear that, and maybe you do too. It's okay that things feel hard and shitty and awful right now. You are still okay. You have come so far, and this is not the end.

We find God in the dark nights of our soul.

As I sat curled up on my counselor's couch, wet tissues crumpled in my hands and tears spilling over everywhere, he read me this article about the dark night of the soul. The tears didn't stop coming, let me tell you. It's beautiful and powerful and I needed to hear every word. When you're feeling like you're in the middle of a dark night of your soul, the very last thing you want to do is stay there. It feels impossible to see God there. I want to run away SO HARD and make it all stop hurting and somehow flip all the lights back on... but listen to this:

Our natural tendency is to run from the dark. We should run to the dark instead.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest” (Psalm 22:1-2).

Larry Crabb says that when it hurts, keep probing the pain until it hurts more…and when it hurts so much that you can’t fix it, Jesus will come.

And ironically when God seems to have left, we want to run away from him. I know I do. I want to quit praying and to run away. But that’s not what the Psalmist did and that’s not what Jesus did either. In the midst of his loss and on the cross, Jesus prayed (quoting this Psalm), “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

I get that. What I don’t get is that Jesus stayed on the cross.

If you’re going through the dark night of the soul, don’t run away. Sit still, be quiet and wait…even if you have to wait a long time.
— Steve Brown

God is good at being God.

Right now, I'm fighting to believe this. I'm battling against some really ugly, really determined lies that have taken up real estate inside of me. I'm wrestling with a lot of fear, a lot of anxiety, a lot of doubt. I'm feeling burdened by brokenness, and I desperately want to find some quick fix or bandaid or magic formula to make it all go away. But day by day, moment by moment, I have to remember that I am not the god of my life and it is not up to me to save myself, fix my situation, change other people, make the world make sense, and on and on. God is God of my life, I am not. And God is good at being God. (I am so not.) There's a great freedom and a deep peace that start to sink in when I surrender my circumstances to the God who sees me and saves me. When I let God be the Lord of my life, when I put Him back on the throne that I've tried to crawl my way into, when I lift my hands and bow my head and humble myself before Him, I'm reminded that He was good and gracious and present and at work all along. He had it all in His hands. He saw every bit of it. He knew. He knows. And He cares. He is a good Father.

You do not have to do this life alone.

When things start to get hard, I isolate myself. You too? I'm so prone to thinking I'm better off (and everyone else is better off, too) if I just shut myself away and hide from the world and lock up all my emotions where I can't hurt or burden anyone else. But that is a lie straight from hell. I'm not suggesting we go spill our stuff to anyone and everyone, but I think when things get hard, it's when we need to gather our closest trusted people around us even more closely. Don't run away from people. Reach out to a friend and ask them to be praying. Make a coffee date so you don't spend an entire Saturday laying in bed. Plan an adventure with a friend to get you out of the house. Show up to counseling. Go back to church. Surround yourself with people who can help strengthen and encourage you when things get hard and you feel weary. We are all on this journey together, and we need each other. You are not too much. This season or circumstance or feeling is not too much. Let others in, let love in.

This too shall pass.

I've found it helpful in the last few days to read back through old journals and reflect on the past. I know there have been many dark nights like this one, and I've survived every single one. There have been times I thought I was at rock bottom, times that I didn't know how I could face another day, times my heart felt shattered beyond repair. And yet... here I am. Alive and okay and still dearly loved by a good and gracious God. This too shall pass. Light will dawn again after this dark night.

Don’t forget about your past too. The times when you thought you wouldn’t make it, but you did. The times when you thought you would die, but you didn’t. Remember the times of God’s kindness, love and faithfulness. The world says, “Have a drink and forget.” Jesus says, “Drink and remember.” You will have the past to look forward to.
— Steve Brown

We will be okay, friends. These dark nights will fade to new dawns, and we will find reason to celebrate, and we will rejoice in God's faithfulness and constant presence and provision once again. We will preach truth to ourselves until we begin to believe it. We will let others in, we will let ourselves be seen and known and encouraged. We will get braver and stronger day by day through the endless grace of a God who loves us wildly. We will fight because He gives us strength to be conquerors. We will not just survive these hard days, but we will come to thrive again too. We will do the hard work-- the repenting, the weeping, the mourning, the praying, the healing-- and we will come to know Him better through all of it. We will remember today that we are beloved and God is good, even if it feels hard to place confidence in truth when the lies are loud. We will soak up His Word, and they will be our fighting words against every bit of the fear that creeps in. We will be okay. The hard days will turn to brighter days. We will praise Him when it hurts like hell, and we will hold on to hope until heaven comes again.