Frailty and eternity are on my mind these days. World events are like a bad movie and the observance of drama in the lives of strangers and acquaintances alike causes my heart to hurt. Yes, so much hurt in the world – none are immune. Yet, there is a monumental difference between those caught in the swirling waters of trouble and those who walk the bridges over troubled waters.
I say “frailty” and “eternity” in relation to troubled waters representing challenges in life for a few reasons. “Frailty” as it is clear that the emotional state of many in society, in general, are as fragile as the antique bone china cups in my cabinet that seem as thin as paper and break so easily I don’t dare use them. And “eternity” because the only thing that pulls us out of our frailty in the midst of troubled waters is to have a view of eternity rather than of a moment – or many moments.
At this juncture, it’s easy to assume an expected religious point; such as declaring those who believe in God automatically reside on those peaceful bridges which lift one safe above troubled waters. Yet, I can’t say that. There was a day in which I sincerely would make such a point. Mainly because it is expected, much like as children in Sunday School, we all knew, sitting cross-legged on the floor as the teacher displayed the morning’s lesson on flannel-graph, that no matter the question, the answer was “Jesus”. Those of us that grew up in church took those expectations into adulthood, assuming we knew the answer though not quite understanding the question. It was in my own struggles that I should have understood that transformation takes effort and partnering with God rather than assuming victory and freedom are automatic or handed out on Sundays.
To my embarrassment and regret, I used to be so frail, despite my faith in God. More so than the average person. Vulnerably, I admit I still have moments of frailty (i.e. “losing it”) – though not nearly as before. In the past, cruel and troublesome waters consumed my thoughts and disquieted my soul. All the while, a smiling face, and declarations of “peace that passes all understanding” and having the “joy of the Lord as my strength” hid the truth that I possessed neither peace nor joy.
Depression, anxiety, and panic attacks dictated my days and ruled my nights, leaving me in a constant state of weariness that was getting harder to hide. But, for me, the deeper sorrow was that there were few (very few) who called themselves followers of God that also did not swim in those same murky, dark waters. We all pretended together and suffered together.
This left me wondering why and how DO we find that bridge over troubled waters? Where’s the peace? Why don’t I feel joy?
Obviously, the answer is more than the “Jesus” answer of my childhood – yet at the same time, it isn’t. Of course, Jesus is the answer but He is so…much more. That’s like saying a hospital is an answer to an illness or injury. The hospital isn’t the answer but it is where the answer can be found.
Trouble in life is a given. No one can escape pain and disappointment, even with our best efforts. Weakness is exposed in the midst of our reaction to unpleasant situations. Trouble in our lives can be a result of:
- The unjust actions of others
- A matter of differing preferences, or….
- Scenarios that are neither of preference nor injustice, but just are simply difficult.
Let me be clear: pain, hurt, grief, sorrow…these are not weaknesses. Self-pity, loathing, unforgiveness, drowning in anxiety and worry…this is neither good nor helpful, making us weak and vulnerable. Like parasites, they hide in the shadows of pain or grief and then suck the life out of us.
It’s our reaction to troubled waters that reveal the measure of frailty in ourselves.
My frailty was such that I easily fell to pieces like a cheap toy on sale at a dollar shop at the slightest injustice or offense. Eventually, multiple people, weary of my breakdowns and emotional rants, counseled me to take medications. Personally, I chose not to go that route yet was desperate to rid myself of the troublesome matters in my life.
MY ideal solution? To not have trouble at all and remove any offending parties that caused hurt and discomfort.
And that is where I needed a shift in my perspective; a shift to an eternal perspective. During this time, I learned the meaning of this saying:
When the student is ready, the teacher appears.
Desperation drove me to my face with a different prayer. Prior to this, I thought I had the right perspectives and beliefs. For too long, I drove my mental stake into the ground declaring that what needed to change were the people and circumstances around me. I was blind and deaf to the wisdom I so desperately needed and wanted.
Then in the midst of my prayers for God to show me what needed to change, came the thought: “Look at Me. Seek Me.”
Not exactly what I wanted to hear. I preferred the earth to open up and swallow things.
I thought I already was seeking God and I desired a heavy hand of justice to sweep away people and circumstances that caused pain. Resisting the urge to throw out the directive to seek Him (because I thought I already WAS…humpf!), I asked: how?
I came across this verse and I knew this is what God was wanting me to ponder and do:
But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also.Matthew 6:33 (AMP)
Now, in humility, instead of asking God to remove my trouble, I asked for God to change my perspective, admitting that perhaps my thinking needed adjusting. Not that individuals or situations which hurt my heart were innocent but that perhaps instead of avoiding pain, there was a better way to walk through it. In response, I received an understanding that focusing on trouble, pain, and injustice only caused anxiety and deepening frailty inside me to such the point that I felt emotionally raw.
That’s when I came across teaching on Ephesians 1 which encouraged me to start my day reading the verses from Ephesians as if I was announcing a declaration to the world – my world. And so, I started to read, every morning, Ephesians 1 out loud – in the first person, as if it was written directly to me.
Justice Started To Look Different
Quickly, my world started to change.
- Justice began to look different.
- My heart started to not hurt so much.
- When offenses and injustice continued to come (as they always will here on earth) I noticed I wasn’t having an emotional meltdown.
- Panic attacks lessened.
- My thoughts were on more pleasant things.
- I started to see the goodness of God in everything – including my past pains.
I still had rough moments. Lots of tears, demands to God for justice, grasping for validation – but it became less and less. Peace grew in my soul. Strangely, the world was still as cruel, but those foul waters no longer threatened to drown but rather seemed to only lap at my toes.
🗝 After a time, I saw that this world, as long as satan is loose and people have a will of their own, will continue to bring trouble and injustice. It is my choice whether or not to step into or stay in the troubled waters. It is a frustrating and losing battle to focus on those that caused us pain and keep demanding accountability and justice. Let that go. You will never be able to get out of the troubled waters until you stop rehearsing how bad a person or situation was/is.
How many times did I choose to wade in the dark and foaming waters, standing there like a permanent victim of life? Or worse, by focusing on my misery, how often did I venture into the deep until I was about to drown? At the very least, I could now see I had the choice to stand on the shore and, even better, walk the bridges OVER troubled waters.
To be fair, some days those troubled waters take me by surprise and in a careless step, I fall in. But now I know I don’t have to stay. Quickly I climb out of the clammy, suffocating waters and return my thoughts to eternity – that being: while I can’t avoid pain as it is inevitable in life, God has equipped me with all that I need to live well in the midst of anything that comes.
Not in a vague way of help or equipping – but through the wisdom gained by daily focusing my thoughts on God. Genuinely quieting my mind and reading verses out of the Bible thoughts and ideas come to my heart and mind. Thoughts that turn into practical advice relevant to me and my situation. When I started doing this, I noticed a strength from within – not from me – but I just started to feel…stable…versus constantly on the edge of falling down and shattering into a bazillion pieces.
To remain in frailty darkens our minds, leaves us demanding more and more, and slowly dismantles our soul and mind until everything offends and nothing satisfies. That’s where I was and I wanted out.
My escape to the bridge over troubled waters started with two words, “Seek Me”. Every day I have to choose between embracing good excuses or finding inconvenient moments to seek God.
It wasn’t easy and there were literally months when my anchor was holding a Bible to my chest for a good part of my day simply because I was in such a dark place and it was the only thing I could bring myself to do. It was as if, at the very least, maybe I would absorb what was in that Bible through my chest. Silly, I know, but it was done in faith because I didn’t want to stay in my troubled waters and I was struggling very much.
The First Steps
Finding those bridges over troubled waters requires a shift of perspective – and it can be a slow process.
- It starts by taking our thoughts off of the circumstances which bring hurt to our hearts.
- It involves asking God to show us where our thinking is wrong – and admitting it.
- We forgive offending parties by releasing them and what they did from our thoughts.
- We understand we have a choice to be IN the waters of trouble or above them.
Be kind to yourself in the slow, but freeing process. At the same time, do not delay in climbing out of troubled waters. There will be a day when you realize you didn’t have a panic attack or emotional meltdown when you normally would – and that will be the absolute best day!
From there, your transformation starts to pick up speed because now you can see real change and you LOVE this new place.
For me, to start I had to create a new habit: reading Ephesians 1 EVERY SINGLE DAY. That was over 6 years ago and I still do it on a regular basis.
If you don’t know where to start in your own hunt for a bridge over your troubled waters, here’s a printable copy of the Ephesians passage that I recited every morning. At least you can start there but then pray and ask God to show you what YOU need.
See you on the bridge.