“Where are you stuck today?”
It was a simple question, one that I wanted to answer because I knew, deep down that I was stuck. And if Emily P Freeman had taught me anything, it was that one of the best ways to help me get unstuck was naming the thing that caused me to feel stuck.
So, I attempted to put words to my issues so I could perfectly pen them as a response to her question on Facebook. I asked myself her most popular question to help stir my brain:
“What do I know?”
I started with the most obvious: I was irritable, picking fights with my husband over nothing, feeling sad and helpless, and I easily became angry at the smallest things. I had a longing to cross a bridge into the great “out there”, but I never really knew where the bridge was or how to get across it. I was not okay.
But I did not know where I was stuck.
“I’m stuck in a mood.” I finally replied.
And I let that be my answer.
When the Question is the Answer
What I did not consider as I stared at the question, forcing myself to hear it, to ask it of myself, and to come up with a response, was that it had a certainty all its own. The question did not question itself. There was no question that it assumed a certain amount of something. And that something is what gave me the fortitude to ask it of myself and sit still so I could respond to it.
The question implied with certainty that I was stuck. It did not say, “Are you stuck?” And even I did not need further examination of my heart to determine that the question had a truth to it. I am stuck. And there is no question about that.
As someone who coaches and teaches other women to overcome fear and doubt and insecurity, there is a certain level of fear and doubt and insecurity I will always face myself. I have to overcome so I can help others overcome. I have to walk the path if I am to help others know the way through.
In accepting the hard stuff, it helps me to know that I will go through first, if it means I can show the way through to others. A born leader, no, but a woman who gained a great deal of strength and determination to overcome so that others can overcome, yes and amen.
So, as far as I was concerned, stuck was not an obstacle as much as it was a starting point. The beginning of a new journey. If I were stuck, and I already accepted that there really is not an if, that meant there were others who were also stuck and would need me to help them figure out what to do. All I had to do was figure out a way through.
The Way of Hope
“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.” Psalm 39:7
As a woman of faith, a follower of Christ, I know the only way to go on a journey is by way of hope. If stuck is the starting point, and unstuck is the destination, then the way from stuck to unstuck is by faith in “things hoped for”. I hoped to be unstuck. I had faith God would help lead me to this place of clarity, so I had to place my faith in Him.
“Now where did I lay that down?”
Whenever I find myself looking for hope, it helps me to focus on something tangible. I realize this may sound like the opposite of how faith is described in the Bible, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 (emphasis mine) But, I find it helpful to believe that if I can hold something in my hand, or in my mind and heart, as evidence or proof, then I can focus on it more clearly.
To do this, I will sometimes use analogies or examples in my everyday life that help me to focus more on the thing, or person, I hope for. As the question was really a certainty to me that I had gotten stuck somewhere and did not know where I was or how to find my way back, I knew the only solution I could reach for at that point was the person of Jesus Christ.
Christ is our hope. All that we hope for rests in Him.
In order for me to focus on Him more, I had to make Him even more tangible to me. Which meant going to the Word to find Him even more tangible. Because He is a tangible, living, breathing, real and true Lord.
Finding hope in the Lord is no easy task when the enemy knows what you are up to. I often find myself fighting for my time with the Lord. But it is no less important for me to find myself at the feet of Jesus if I am going to find my way from stuck to unstuck.
How do I go from stuck to unstuck?
Being stuck can mean all sorts of things. For me, especially the past month or two, it has meant that I am stuck in my head and have no room for clear thinking, productivity, decision making, and healthy relationships with my people. I could tell I was stuck because I could not hear above all the noise in my head. I had no answers because the noise was so loud that I could not even ask the question.
It seemed that, as hard as I had tried to keep the chaos around me from affecting me and getting to me, it got through anyway and it was really messing with my mind.
So How Do I Find Hope in the Midst of Uncertainty?
“I don’t face any uncertain plan. I am created for a plan and a purpose that is higher than this world can give.” ~ Regina Piper Brown
I could not count on both my hands and feet how many times I had heard the words uncertain, uncertainty, unprecedented, pandemic, these times in which we live…etc. just since the middle of March. I got so sick of hearing those words, I boycotted them.
After titling this post, I am removing the word uncertainty from my vocabulary. I refuse to believe any “times” we live in on this planet are uncertain. Our Bible clearly says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1
Nothing in the Kingdom of God has ever been, or will ever be, uncertain.
God has a plan and a purpose for everything and everyone. I can rest in whatever times I live because God’s plan is good and for our good and His glory.
So how do I find hope while living my life here on earth through whatever crazy mess I find myself?
Empty My Mind
Sometimes I cannot quiet the noise. Instead, I have to get out of my own head. I go to a place I cannot be bothered or heard. And I speak openly to God, telling Him all the crazy thoughts swirling around in my head. I get rid of all the noise by letting it all go outside of my mind. I drain it dry up there. I speak, and I speak. And when I cannot speak anymore, I write, and I write. If I cannot get going on the speaking, then I start with the writing.
There is no room in my mind for God’s truth if it is full of all my worries, doubts, and fears. All that noise! I have to make room for the truth. Because the truth is the tool by which we pry ourselves away from the stuck place so we can get moving to the unstuck place.
Fill it with Truth
Once my mind is empty, then I can apply truth to the wound like a salve and bandage it up. I imagine this as a surgery of the mind. I have to open up my mind, bringing all those thoughts to the surface, and releasing them. Sometimes they hang on tight and I have to really cut away at them until they come out. This typically means more than one trip to that place I go to where I cannot be heard because it means more work on emptying my mind. Then, I am wounded, and I need medicine.
The best medicine I can use on a wounded mind is the truth of God’s Word. I really vamp up my Bible study during particularly rough seasons. I will read a devotion in the morning and listen to podcast sermons during my workday or while out for a walk. And then I will read a Bible study or Christian book on the particular topic I am dealing with as I am winding down for the night. And in between all of that I am listening to my favorite worship playlists.
Surrounding myself with the truth, reading books from experienced travelers who have been where I have been, and worshiping God through my trials are all ways I begin the process of moving myself from stuck to unstuck.
Some days, the journey is long, and it takes a lot out of me to keep going.
Other days, I feel light as a feather and I blow right on through any troubles that find me.
The most important lesson to remember here is that no matter whether your sailing is smooth, or the waves toss you about, the truth will keep you anchored to Jesus and He will see you safely to shore.
Never Travel Alone
The final piece of advice I share with you now is one I used myself most recently, so I encourage you to follow it because it actually worked for me.
I message my ten closest friends and I tell them I need help.
This is a hard step to take, but it is necessary.
We were made for community. The word church itself as used by God in the Bible is a plural noun. It describes a body of people, not a building. It is like the word family: it describes a group of people joined together for one common goal.
The goal of the church is to edify and equip the saints. We do this really well when we share life and help carry burdens so we can all be with Jesus in eternity. We are here for each other. It is how Jesus meant for us to live. Allow yourself the blessing of community by reaching out and being honest with your people.
I will even share with you a template of how I reached out to my friends and family so you can see what this looks like:
“I’m struggling with _____ right now and I’m too _____ to admit it.”
Just fill in the blank for what you are dealing with and what is standing in your way. For me, I was too prideful to admit that I was dealing with depression. It is silly to be prideful of anything. But, I had lost sight of the truth because of all the noise. Once I dealt with the noise and had some friends alongside me to help me pray for guidance and direction, I was able to move from the place I was stuck to the place I am now: unstuck.
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.” Hebrews 6:19-20
As we look at where we are stuck, and we see the unstuck place we want to be, we must be willing to empty our minds of the thoughts holding us back. We must be willing to fill our minds with God’s Word and worship through the trials we face. And we must always remember to never travel alone.
The secret to finding hope is to believe you already have it and you just forgot where you put it. All you need is a map, a knapsack full of traveling snacks, and a trusted friend or two to help you navigate your way back to it.