“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” – Nelson Mandela
Fear can be paralyzing.
There was a season when big life altering decisions were around the corner and I was stuck. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t make a decision. A very-bad-no-good-ugly-thing had happened to me and I was afraid of taking a risk on hope. I felt broken, with no hope of repair.
So at night, I would lay awake with my mind racing. I couldn’t stop making a list of all the pro’s and con’s, the potential hurts, the what-if’s. I was so driven by fear that eventually due to lack of sleep, I started getting heart palpitations and had to go visit my doctor. Physically, my body was experiencing a surge in stress driven by hurt and fear, and it started to alter how I responded to the world. The typically laid back Brittany became anxious. I had irrational fears. My ability to accurately assess a situation went out the door. And as for hope, it wasn’t dead, but there wasn’t much room for it to breath around my suffocating anxiety.
Praise the Lord for godly counselors and doctors! Because of their wisdom, my body started sleeping again. And after we got that sorted out, I was able to start processing life through a healthier filter, not a fear-based one.
Hope finally had room to grow, but fear had to die in order for hope to breathe again. So how did I get there? It wasn’t a quick fix, but here are my 3 tips to anyone wrestling with the physical effects of hopelessness.
1. Talk to a Biblical counselor and potentially medical doctor. I remember sitting in my counselor’s office talking about the tightening of my chest and the rapid beating of my heart. My hands fiddled with a tissue, while I confessed my body’s shortcomings. I was so embarrassed that my body couldn’t handle the stress I was under. With kind eyes, he looked at me and gave me the best advice I could have ever received. His wisdom was God’s grace to me in a very dark season. He helped me see that I wasn’t “less-than” for asking for help, that it was ok to go see a doctor to address my lack of sleep. Perhaps if we focused on me getting physically healthy, we could deal with the emotional trauma later.
I saw a counselor for almost two years, and it was in the hard work done in those sessions and at home that lead me to hope again. If you have experienced trauma or brokenness and are trapped by fear, let me plead with you to ask people into those broken spaces. There is no shame in getting help from licensed professionals. They are God’s gift to a broken world; please utilize them.
2. Take care of your physical needs. Sometimes, triage is necessary. It doesn’t mean we ignore the broken leg, rather it simply means we take a moment to fix the gaping wound in our hearts before we address the other hurts. If you aren’t sleeping, eating, drinking lots of water, or exercising, may I suggest you start there. If your body is physically drained by a lack of hope or the physical drain of trauma, start with making sure you are taking care of your body. Go for a walk, stay away from alcohol and caffeine, get some rest, and choose foods that fuel and heal.
3. Hope, even when the world tells you not to. As believers, we have access to a holy God who is in the business of redeeming. It literally is his name. Jehovah-Rapha, Our God is healer. There will always be brokenness this side of glory, but our hope isn’t in a pain-free existence. Our hope is in a God who is big and loving enough to offer redemption to a broken world. And if He’s big enough to offer salvation to all of mankind, there’s nothing in your life so royally screwed up that He is unable to redeem it. There is nothing too broken, no person too far gone, no wound too ugly. Never stop hoping. And if you do, look to Jesus and remember what He has done for you and let it be enough for that day, that moment.
“Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” 1 Peter 1:3
My dear friend, never lose hope. He shines brightly on our darkest nights.
You should know that not all stories have happy endings, but mine does. When I physically got healthy, I was able to make a decision rooted in hope instead of fear. I tossed “What-if’s” to the side and chose to love and forgive BIG. God restored some broken places in my life that the world would tell me could never be whole again. And it all started by choosing to hope again, choosing that my life decisions wouldn’t be rooted in fear, but in love.
And I feel propelled to tell you this, even if I get hurt again, even if my worst “what-if’s” come true, I’m so glad I chose hope. There are no regrets when you choose to fight fear and live basking in light of redeeming love.
Cheering you on,