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Finding the Courage to Heal Emotionally When Life Takes You Down

  • Jolene Underwood
Finding the Courage to Heal Emotionally When Life Takes You Down

I couldn't get out of bed before noon. Eventually, I’d get up and move around the house in a daze, then lay down to binge-watch TV shows, then struggle to stay asleep overnight. Depression, anxiety, and signs of PTSD racked me body and soul.

For a couple decades I was the woman who led ministries, served others, ran a non-profit library, homeschooled, raised multiple children, and fostered thirteen more. Eventually, all this doing became too much. Extreme stress created an extensive inability to function well.

The events prior to my collapse included fourteen months of living on a ranch we didn’t own. We fostered and took care of up to twelve children at a time while facing spiritual, physical, and emotional battles like I couldn’t believe. Far too many to count. It’s been five years and when I start to talk about it, I still have a hard time stopping. There are too many memories interwoven with the effects of what we’d been through.

A church elder visited us after we returned home. He told us we’d been through trauma, and I shrugged it off. Our foster kids had been through trauma, sure. But us? Me?

He was right.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Natalia Figueredo

Critical Change

Change became critical when my brain could barely form words and I got lost driving roads I knew well. Seeing through a well of tears became my new normal. If someone suddenly made a loud noise, even if it was my children bursting out in laughter, I jumped. Every nerve in my body shook while lying in bed.

If I didn’t do something different, I knew I would only get worse. Survival meant choosing healing. I didn’t want the enemy to keep me down after all this time of fighting for faith. I started doing what I could, and all I could do in the beginning was rest and pray and cry the tears I knew God could hear.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Chad Madden

Strength to Stand

When it seems life has taken you down, it’s hard to know how to get up again. When you’ve felt knocked down repeatedly and whipped around wildly, it’s scary to even want to try.

Your experiences may be much different than mine but maybe you know this place of desperation too. Maybe you want more than just getting back up; you want to stand stronger through the next phase of life. Especially where there are storms. Maybe God is calling you to lean on Him for strength and wisdom, so you can not only get up, but let Him change how you live.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Aricka Lewis

Courage for the Long Haul

The courage we need isn’t mustered by merely telling ourselves we can do it. It isn’t likely to happen by scrolling online and reading inspirational quotes or snippets of scriptures either. We need more than dictates and phrases.

I don’t know about you, but no matter how many times I’m told I’m enough, or that I matter, or that God sees, little changes. My heart isn’t transformed, and I still feel just as shaky as I did before. To see long-lasting and deeply impacting change, it takes active work with God for the long haul. It means letting Him dig deep into our hearts to bring about the kind of transformation that thrives beyond survival.

It is not easy, and it takes great courage to move in this direction. The enemy will try to deter you in every way possible. But God will consistently be faithful as you follow His lead. 

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Ionut Coman

"I needed a new path and it needed to be directed by God..."

This was the journey I started on when I didn’t think I could take another step. I needed a new path and it needed to be directed by God, not me and my comfort. Not detoured by fear and discomfort.

To take the path of emotional healing is to live with courage and surrender day by day. Yes, it’s hard to get through. It’s also a life-giving thing to do.

It means choosing to look at things inside of us that we may never have taken the time to face before like unhealthy beliefs, unhealed hurts, unexpressed emotions, and unconfessed sins. Where these lay undetected also lay distortions that fuel destruction for the ways we live, the way we relate to others, and how we understand God.

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Abundant Life

I didn’t know these were things I’d work through when I sought out healing. All I knew was that I was in transition. If I wanted the next decade of life to look different than the last, I had to make different choices. I was going to start a new season of life, and I wanted it to be more full of life.

John 10:10The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Jesus words in the book of John tell us He came to give life and life abundantly. He isn’t talking about riches or wealth or a life of ease. He’s talking about souls that are abundantly alive because of Him. In this place of God-reliance we are equipped to live through trial, persecution, illness, betrayal, loss, and even death. 

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Priscilla du Preez

Solid Ground

We often try to muster self-righteous strength only to find ourselves on shaky, sinking sand. Our souls become depleted and weary. Without surrender to God’s leading, we won’t stand on solid ground. In this life we will fail and fall repeatedly. But we can get up time and time again when we let Him work in and through us. 

We will see more of God’s beauty and experience – more of His peace, joy, and freedom when we trust Him to lead us through emotional healing. 

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"He will not leave you in the process..."

Courage comes when we face what’s hard to do with the one who gives us the strength and wisdom to do it. When life takes you down, you need His life sustaining you. You need God breathing new life, so you can rise up again and choose courageous steps that require heart work, so soul-level healing can take place. 

A willing heart finds the challenge of surrender met by the courage of our Savior. He will not leave you in the process, even if you want to give up and walk away. You can choose to turn to Him again no matter what you’ve chosen or done before. 

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Gianni Zanato

Choosing to Engage

Choose to let Him lift you up, perhaps through worship, prayer, and time in God’s Word. Or writing out your heart’s cry with honest abandon before the God who welcomes vulnerability, like David and others did throughout the book of Psalms. You can walk towards His heart for you by choosing to spend time with Him and choosing to remember He is the one who loves most, beyond what any of us can reason. 

The events precipitating a season of feeling crushed or attacked are not the only events impacting our lives. By choosing to engage with God in the work He already wants to do, we’re choosing a path with new life.

We are being transformed into His image. Who we have been and what we have experienced hasn’t been wiped away, nor has the effect on our souls. God wants to refine us for our good and His glory. Healing emotional wounds and the roots of emotional reactions takes time. Perseverance is a necessity.

Design Credit: Rachel Dawson

Getting Started

If you’re scared to step forward, know that God understands. He isn’t afraid or disappointed because fear, anger, and sadness are part of your life. He is our creator, and He understands our emotions. He wants to redeem the lives of His people. 

He sees the worry, fear, anger, bitterness, pride, and despair you feel. He also sees the beautiful harvest ahead which is available for each of us if only we’ll choose to let Him till the soil of our hearts and plant seeds for growth. Getting started sometimes means just letting the tears fall or the anger out. Pride falls away and humility makes way for new life.

Ask God what He wants to say to you today about His love for you and His desire to see you emotionally well. See what He might lead you to pursue on your journey of healing in addition to prayer. Maybe He will lead you to healing through counseling, mentors, a recovery program, or soul moments where your heart cries out to Him and feels His presence with you.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

 

Courage to Continue

My healing came through many avenues including counseling, recovery, and EMDR therapy. All of these contributed to the whole picture of where I am today. And where I am today is not where I will be in the future, so I chose to continue this journey for the rest of my life. Hard things will never go away in this world. Hurt will still happened, but healing in Christ will always be available.

One step begets another step. None are too small. Start where you are and keep going, dear one. He is with you even now.

Jolene Underwood is a writer, coach, and emotional health warrior. She writes regularly at JoleneUnderwood.com. She also leads a community of writers called Rise Up Writers. Her tool, Unleash : Heart and Soul Care Sheets, has helped hundreds experience greater freedom. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her enjoying the journey by laughing with loved ones or adding to her collection of vintage glassware with a 70s flair. Connect with her online via YouTube, Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest at @theJoleneU, or via the Cultivated Life Newsletter.

This article is part of our courage theme for the month of August on iBelieve. What is courage? Usually, we associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences -- good and bad. We believe this kind of “ordinary courage” is what God calls us to live into every day of our lives.

Check back here throughout August for a new story of courage as our writers tackle what it means to be faithful, courageous women in a culture that values comfort and conformity.

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