“I really want to move out of this sadness. I should have joy.”

“How can I feel better right away? I am tired of this feeling bringing me down!”

Do these sentiments sound familiar? When we have emotional pain, we often want to jump out of it.

Amanda loves her jewelry making business, and usually is full of vigor as an artist and entrepreneur. Lately, though, she has been having a hard time getting out of bed in the morning.

In fact, her motivation has been low for some time, and especially over the past month. She has noticed that she feels guilty a lot, like she is not doing enough, for her business, for her family, for her friends. She has been crying more often than normal and she has felt frustrated with herself. “Why can’t I just pull it together?!” She has tried to ignore her critical thoughts and blue feelings. She has tried to “take every thought captive to the knowledge of Christ,” trying to turn negative thoughts about the day into hopeful thoughts. But it has not worked. She has tried to will herself into more happiness, pushing down the sadness and acting as if she was happy. After all, isn’t joy a fruit of the Spirit? “I should be positive! I should be joyful!! Instead I am just bringing myself and others down.” Unfortunately, it seems that the more she fights the sad thoughts and feelings, the stronger they seem to become.

What is Amanda doing wrong?

If we look a little deeper into Amanda’s life, we can see that the pain in her heart significantly intensified a few weeks before the 2 year anniversary of her sister’s car accident. Her relationship with her sister, Meghan, has not been the same since Meghan’s head on collision by which she received a severe head injury and lost her right arm. Megan had been like a delightful and cherished best friend to Amanda, they had talked and encouraged each other daily. But Meghan’s personality has changed since the accident, and although some symptoms have improved, many have remained. Meghan is much more irritable, child-like, and frequently highly irrational. The daily chats have changed to weekly caretaking sessions, with Amanda trying to comfort Meghan in her distress and help her see reason when she is angry at Amanda. The accident and subsequent change in her sister and her relationship with her sister has been more impactful on Amanda that what she has admitted to herself…or anyone else. While believing that she needs to be strong, to be there for Megan, to be there for everyone else, she has been neglecting herself, denying her own needs. In trying to be a “strong Christian” that everyone can lean on, she has forgotten that her beloved Christ is there for her.

Amanda needs to turn around and face herself. If she is really honest, she will admit that she is afraid to be with herself, with her pain.

Sometimes our pain can feel like a dark, dank, ominous underground cavern. If I go in, will I be trapped there? Will I ever make it out?

Dear one, here me on this. THERE IS NO WHERE YOU CAN GO WHERE GOD WILL NOT BE, even within yourself. You are never alone. Sometimes the greatest challenge that we need to face is within us, facing our parts that are in pain.

When we really think about our fear….all our fears….what we are really afraid of is PAIN. We are afraid of experiencing some type of physical or emotional pain. Once we realize this, and that we have all faced and endured pain before, we have more courage to look inside.

Amanda’s particular attempts to take every thought captive and to suppress her sadness will not be fruitful. In this case, she needs to allow God and herself to go into that cavern and be with the pain of the loss of her previous relationship with her sister. The thoughts she needs to take captive are that it would be selfish to focus on herself here. She needs to focus on herself and let Christ’s love come in and bring comfort. She will not be trapped; she will come through to the light on the other side. Then she will really be able to “comfort others with the comfort she has received.”

Amanda also needs safe others, friends of family members who are kind, consistent, and loving to hear, really witness and validate her pain as she shares with them.

Amanda’s way to freedom is the path through he cavern, but not alone. With the Presence of God, with the presence of her amazing self, and with trusted loved ones who see and hear her, she can find the way through to true joy. And so can you dear one!

– Dr. Barbara