“It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.”
Psalm 127:2 ESV
This is a hard season of life for me. It’s a hard season of life for my husband. We’re just struggling. And one big thing I’m learning in the middle of it all is that when I’m struggling, I have a strategy for how to fix it all. And guess what? I’m pretty sad about it because for my whole life even though I haven’t really been aware of it, I’ve used this strategy to make it through stress and seasons of struggle and uncertainty, and I guess I thought subconsciously that it was a pretty good or useful strategy. But I’m finding out in these days, in this struggle, that my strategy pretty much sucks. I know that might seem like an offensive description, but if you could step into my soul and see how highly I’ve held onto this strategy to hold my life together when I thought it was maybe falling apart…and how sad I am that my strategy doesn’t work, maybe you’d understand my choice of words.
I’ll explain what I do. I take in all of the things happening, asses all of the very real threats and fears and what-ifs and unknowns. That’s all just sort of information-gathering. Then, what do you think is the next logical step? If you’d say find a solution, then thank you. That’s been the logical progression for me, too. I start to ruminate on the problems…sort of like a cow digesting their food. Eating it once, bringing it back up, eating it again…I just keep chewing at those problems. Turning them around in my mind, looking for a solution. What piece of spiritual wisdom would solve it all? What emotional health component would be the answer? What prayer can solve it? It all even often looks like throwing ‘spiritual’ solutions at it…in my mind. And of course, there are the not spiritual solutions thrown in there, too. The defensive thoughts, insecure conclusions and imaginary action steps. But it’s all in the realm of the mind, swirling around, over and over.
I don’t think it makes sense when I try to explain it. Maybe that’s why I never even knew it was my strategy before now, because it doesn’t even make too much logical sense. But here it is: if I just think about it enough, the problems will get fixed. They’ll become un-entangled.
You probably guessed it. And I already mentioned it. Surprise! That strategy doesn’t work. Letting all the components of your problems take up all the mental space in your mind doesn’t equal a solution. It just basically equals worry. And worry is pretty much what I’ve been left with: it even wakes me up more often than I care to admit in this season of struggle in the middle of night with thoughts I ‘didn’t think through yet.’
So as I’ve been realizing this about myself and feeling quite sad about it all, sad to let go of what I have wanted to make work for so long, of course I’ve needed to know what do I do instead?! If that doesn’t work, what does?
Well, I don’t have a perfectly developed answer. I’m still on this journey, and I’m more on the side of the journey where I’m just more sad and straight up surprised that “If I think it to death, it’ll be fixed” was my strategy for dealing with stress and scary situations. (Like, seriously??) But I have two things I am embracing. The first is let go.
To ‘let go,’ to me, means that I say, in my mind, “I can’t fix it. I can’t. I thought I could. I thought if I could just think a bit more, pray a bit more, just a verse, get a spiritual truth, emotional truth, understand SOMETHING, then it would all be fixed. I would understand and there would be harmony. But I can’t. I let go of my strategy.” Letting go feels like death. I have cried as I have embraced mentally letting go. It’s embracing my smallness. My inability. My vulnerability. My neediness.
The second thing I am attempting to embrace is I am safe. There are scary things around me. We are struggling. I don’t know the answers, and I just gave up my life-long (stupid) strategy to save us from all of these threats. But in all of that, I am actually safe. I am safe because God sees me, God loves me deeply, and God is completely in control of all of my circumstances. Those things don’t often seem experientially true, but when I let go, and embrace in my mind that I am safe, instead of my strategy of I will be safe when I can figure it all out, I start to create a space to experientially know those things more. And my hope for help, my hope for intervention, my hope for what I need in this season isn’t myself and my over-thinking brain with no space for anything else. It’s in the God who sees me, the God who loves me deeply, the God who is completely in control of all of my circumstances. And my new strategy, even though I’m not great at it, is to let go of my anxious toil, to realize that I can’t, to allow new space in my mind where there once was just over-thinking, and to wait on and trust in Him.