Remember the dramatic rescue of little Jessica McClure who had fallen down an abandoned well pipe about 16 years ago? According to the trauma experts, the first priority was to send someone as far down the pipe as possible to provide her with constant verbal reassurances and comfort. Trapped in that dark place, the experts feared she might panic, start hitting her head against the pipe or even worse, feel hopeless, abandoned and just give up. The immediate goal of the rescue team was to keep her from slipping into emotional despair.
In 2 Cor. 7 Paul, describes “conflict from every direction, and inside there was fear.” We often think of Paul as a blustery, invincible man of God. But, clearly he, too experienced the pit of darkness. God recognized Paul’s discouragement and depression. His provision for Paul’s distress was to send Titus to Paul’s side. It was Titus’s arms (in the flesh) that let Paul feel God’s touch and remind him he was not alone. Sadly, we don’t always have an “in the flesh” comforter to reassure us and calm our fears. In that dark place our hurt, anger and isolation separates us from others and from experiencing God’s love. Our self-imposed isolation can leave us feeling disconnected, alone and discourage.
Our isolation can also create a detachment from God as well as the world around us. Alone in our thoughts, our negativity can begin to spin out of control. This spin can increase the potential for distorted beliefs and negative self-thoughts. Alone, and not connected, our “lonely self” can generate thoughts and feelings that suggest “lonely” or all “alone” must mean there is something wrong with me.” I must be bad” or “not good enough.” Feeling like a “not good enough” self can cause us to distance from others in order to avoid feeling even more alone, shamed and hurt. At this point, the “hurt and alone self” may even be convinced of being unlovable. The “unlovable self” then begins to feel like a “lonely self,” and on and on. What a cycle! So what can we do if the continuous looping, negative thoughts and misbeliefs engulf us in our own pit of darkness? First, stay connected to God. Remember, God is there in our dark place even if we don’t feel Him. He grieves with us and waits for us to reach out. It is this holy connection that allows for change to take place. “Grieve, mourn and wail…humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you.” (James 4:9-10) Second, we must rework the misbeliefs/distortions which keep us isolated and in darkness. Some misbeliefs include: “things will never get better,” “Nobody cares,” or “I’ll never be good enough,” “It’s my fault.” Psalm 139 says we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” It doesn’t say we are perfect, but that there is “wonder” in our own creation. To deceive ourselves with distortions and lies counters what God intends for us to experience. God does care. We don’t have to be “good enough” to belong and be special in His eyes. Reworking misbeliefs requires modification not denial. When life is difficult an “everything is fine now” statement is denial and distortion. A realistic and believable modification is “This is a difficult time in my life. God still loves me.” Some things cannot be changed—this is truth. But, we can modify and change our negative and distorted thoughts. We can embrace God as the One who loves us despite our handicaps and short comings.
Next, connect with others. Not only do we need to be connected to others, but we need to be accountable and responsible for our actions—to ourselves and others. In I Thess. 5:11, Paul says, “Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another…” Love is not something we do alone—it is the result of an established relationship with God and others. If confiding or relating to someone else in an open and honest manner seems like an impossible task then seek out a out a pastor or therapist to help. If suicidal thoughts are present, then ask your doctor about medication. There are many Christ-centered support groups available in the local churches. Find a safe place to initiate change, gain confidence and reach out for connection.
In our own dark places, our Heavenly Father, the “Ultimate Expert,” reaches out to calm our fears and offers us constant comfort and reassurances. He knows we, His children, need to feel His connection and encouragement as we make our way out of the darkness and into the light of His loving arms.
Copyright (c) 2008 G Susan Rivers, LMFT