"I went from being a busy working mum, with many commitments, to being told that the seizures I was experiencing were likely fatal and, in the process, I would lose my ability to function, I would lose myself".
We all know that to be human is to suffer, no life is pain free, so when someone speaks hope into us when the world looks dark and we are not seeing it, we can think that there is something wrong with us. This is a big problem. A problem for those not practising empathy, as it goes against what Paul recommends in Romans 12:15: Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. A problem to those who have no safe space to work through the healing. It not only delays the healing work that we are called to but gives us more issues to heal from.
Over time, I have been both the person who lacked empathy and understanding and the person who felt there was something wrong with me. The key is that in our well-meaning way, we took away the choice of hope. We gave the message that we ‘should’ hope, instead of God’s loving encouragement that when we are ready, ‘we get to hope.’
I went from being a busy working mum, with many commitments, to being told that the seizures I was experiencing were likely fatal and, in the process, I would lose my ability to function, I would lose myself. I had lost trust in my ability to plan the future, I had experienced betrayal, I felt I had betrayed myself, it felt dangerous to hope. When, by accident I hoped, it felt like laughing after someone close had died, but rather than reassure myself that it was Ok, I was confronted by negative realities. It scared me to hope.
We all process differently, but there is a certain amount of commonality, supported by research, that helps. When we notice that we, or someone we love is struggling we can practice validating the core emotions, identify the thoughts, apply compassion, and then look at next steps.
Start by simply asking them questions about how they feel and why. This is a privilege, and as we weep with those that are weeping, when we see them rejoicing, we rejoice. I got to tell a friend to give herself a ‘self 5’ the other day because I recognised in her a massive victory that was hard earned. There is rarely a better thing than to walk with someone in their difficulties and their victories!
During some of the worse times I had good friends who validated me. They, in love and grace, told me that I needed to stop, that I needed to plan for when I wasn’t well enough to feed the family, or myself, they wept with me. They held my hand as I gave up a job I loved, with no idea how to pay the bills. They didn’t let me pretend it would be Ok, when there was a reality that needed addressing. They helped me to be honest with myself.
I wonder if there are others like me that need to hear the message that comes before ‘hope in all things’.
I now see that there isn’t anything wrong with me, I am ‘with Christ in God’, so loved and beloved, but I had to change my view of God, to see and accept a love that I can do nothing to earn or "unearn", not even if I never hope again.
The Bible is full of stories of humans who have found themselves in difficulties and God is there for them, to hear their stories, and walk with them. God was named first by Hagar. Escaping abuse, she went to the desert when there must have been no hope for her or her unborn child. God came and comforted her. El Roi she calls God, ‘the one who sees me’.
When I do have dark moments, often brought on by seizures that impair my cognition, bringing pain and exhaustion, when I find myself in my bed, disconnected from my loved ones, and isolated, I listen to the thoughts I have. I hear them. They are telling me how worthless I am and how hopeless my life is. I answer them back with compassion. That I don’t have to do anything to be worthy, that although this is my current truth, it is not the whole truth, that despite all this and because of it, I am loved, and beloved, as still part of the body of Christ.
One day I may find myself in a place of comfort and totally content to hope in all things. But I would like to think that I will not forget how God saved me by grace and mercy when hope seemed lost. Because knowing God in these moments has given me a gift that is so much more. I have a deeper connection with God and my fellow humans because I have known El Roi.
My prayer is that you too know that you are beloved and understood by El Roi.