Recently I was struggling (an understatement) with my emotions. There are many reasons why I might have been experiencing these struggles; the hormonal turmoil that menopause brings would be at the top of the list, the fact that I’ve always been a rather high-strung emotional type personality in the first place could be another, and life - just plain old life.
Let me begin by saying right up front, I have a very good life. Better than most I would say; privileged even. I have been privileged to be a full time, stay-at-home mom while raising our five kids, and now am enjoying the privilege of being a full time stay-at-home wife and grandmother even though our youngest is in her last year of high school. I say this because it’s important to note (important to me anyway) that I am well aware that my problems seem so ridiculously trivial in light of our world. And that makes the fact of what I sometimes experience all the more painful and difficult to confess, because God knows there are far bigger problems in the world and it seems so selfish to focus on my own seemingly trivial stuff. And what’s weird, is when I try to break down what the “stuff” actually is so I can start working on possible solutions, is that there often are no real problems, at least nothing that should have the effect that it often does on my "heart-itude". But unless I deal honestly with those feelings, I wouldn't be able to get out of my own head and move toward being helpful to others. I know I am not alone in feeling this way. So this if for anyone else who might also be hurting and looking for some encouragement. You know the old adage about mama being happy, right? It goes - “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy”. I don’t know about you, but that puts an awfully heavy burden on my shoulders to always be happy, cheerful and full of stability. The problem is, I’m not always those things. Honestly, most of the time I was, until recently. I think it might make it even harder for the people around us to deal with our moods if they are used to an especially chipper wife and mama. It also makes it harder on us to admit that we are feeling some of these things with no plausible explanation and with no immediate solution on the horizon. Sometimes it’s a matter of figuring out if there are real problems with practical solutions mingled in the emotional, mental fog, then dealing with them and getting them out of the way so we can move on to the rest. Sometimes, it’s just the enemy’s way of distracting us, especially if we have been on the cusp of a significant spiritual awakening of sorts - for ourselves or for those whose sphere of influence we might be part of.
It’s important for us to remember, that people, especially our children (of any age) are watching us, learning from our example how we cope with these periods in our life. It is true that our actions speak louder than words, but words speak pretty loudly. We need to guard both diligently.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” Proverbs 4:23 NLT
“What you say can preserve life or destroy it; so you must accept the consequences of your words.” Proverbs 18:21 GW
Notes in my study bible say that in the Old Testament, the heart represents the center of emotions, thinking, and reasoning. The heart is crucial in the battle between wisdom and foolishness, between righteousness and evil. (NLT Illustrated study bible pg. 1104) One recent morning while pondering what the day would bring, either the continuation of my ever-increasing (unexplained) hopelessness aka -restlessness, irritability and discontentment, or the more level-headed, level-hearted person I enjoy, I recalled a version of the Screw Tape Letters for Moms. I was reminded how insidious the enemy is and how simple his attack can be and still be exceedingly effective when our guard is down. So it stands to reason that we must not let our guard down if we hope to stay sane. Back to the basics, what is the condition of our heart? What are we allowing to manipulate our emotions? I for one, had not been practicing good boundaries, which help me guard my heart. I always have to ask myself, what struggles are mine to own? What struggles are not? Who am I trying to please? Is it God, or is it the people who I dearly love and whose happiness I want to contribute to? Have I started to feel responsible for their happiness again? Have I started to believe that they are somehow responsible for my happiness? These are hard lessons I’ve already had to learn from my years in recovery from co-dependency. Is it time for a refresher course? How important are the things that annoy me daily? Am I allowing the accumulation of small troubles to make me feel defeated rather than viewing them as opportunities for growth (or simply as life)? Do the words I’m allowing to flow from my mouth or the thoughts I am allowing to ruminate in my mind represent life or death? Are they encouraging or full of frustration, despair and hopelessness? Remember, what flows from our mouths finds its origin in our hearts.
“We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ” 2 Corinthians 10:5 NLT “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked.” Jeremiah 17:9
If I am relying on myself to guard and guide my heart, I will fail. Unlike many wise saying, the one that encourages us to “follow our hearts” is not wisdom. We should ask God to guard and guide them for us.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” Proverbs 3:5 “My son, give me your heart and let your eyes delight in my way.” Proverbs 23:26 “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26
There are so many times in scripture that we are instructed to seek God for our heart's condition. This is where I must begin to find my help. Not in the people around me, although they are a wonderful, loving support system and have the best of intentions. Not in accomplishing the list of things to do, regardless of how much a part of my (mostly welcome) responsibility as wife, mother, and homemaker they may be; not the acts of work and good things I want to do as a friend and neighbor, not even the list of routine, spiritual exercises I do to maintain my daily spiritual condition; just God. Just waiting quietly for God to guide my heart, clear the fog and reveal himself to me as my Father; the one who is close to the broken-hearted and rescues those whose spirits are crushed. (Psalm 34:18)
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”
These may seem to some like less-than-helpful suggestions for combating our ordinary data-to-day struggles, but we know there is an invisible battle going on, and getting the spiritual foundation right empowers us to withstand the battles in very practical ways. Hang in there, and remember to go back to the basics. Give yourself a break, and remember we don’t have to have all the answers, we don’t have to be strong for everyone around us. Just put one foot in front of the other, surrender and trust God to guide and guard your precious heart.