“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”
– Ecclesiastes 3:1
Just a season. This too shall pass.
I am going to tell you, some days I cling to those seven powerful words, don’t you? Some seasons in our lives just suck. There’s no other way to put it.
- You are struggling with grades, friends, identity, you name it – in high school. Yeah. Those four years are rough. Awful sometimes. It’s a season. Hang in there. I promise, the best is yet to come. Dig your roots down deep in your youth group. If you don’t have one, find one. Probably some of the most influential people in my life were my mentors in high school. They don’t know it, but I think of them often and remember that during that time, they were my lifelines.
- You are 21 and still single. Seems like a lifetime, doesn’t it? Been there. In fact, I was 23 when I met Bryant (or 24…I can’t remember and I am terrible at simple math). When I graduated from college, I had only had one official boyfriend (a few “going steadies” in between) and most of my friends were already married with a child and number two on the way. No lie. I felt like the Apostle Paul: I had the gift of celibacy. When I moved to Florida, I was so lonely at times. I second guessed my personality, looks, you name it. And what’s funny? I was only 23. If you are in this boat, I am not patronizing you. I get it. But it’s a season. Just a season. Fill your single years with as much as you can. Start pursuing your dreams. Take a chance. I moved down to Florida from New York and took a job at a respectable school when I was only 22 and after a pretty severe breakup. I was scared to death. Best decision I made. Cause then I met Bryant…on a blind date…and the rest is history!
- You are recently married and facing marital trouble. Been there. Our first year was no picnic. It was awful. But it was a season. We sought counselling, experienced real healing, and I’m going to be honest, I understood the ramifications of the Gospel during that season more than any other time in my life. It was the most sanctifying, healing, horrifying, exhilarating time in our lives. And our marriage is strong and healthy now as a result. A season.
- You were diagnosed with clinical depression or some sort of personality disorder and/or anxiety disorder. Been there. I was diagnosed with clinical depression, anxiety, and Borderline Personality Disorder shortly after we got married (hence some of our difficulties). That’s when I jumped head first into counselling. Yes, I was embarrassed by the label. I hated it. But it forced me – I mean absolutely demanded – into the grace, love, and unconditional forgiveness of Christ. My mental illness still beats me up at times. But it’s just a season. I know during those times to reach out to my closest friends for prayer. I speak honestly with Bryant. And I schedule a counseling appointment. Yes, even after ten years, I still see my counselor. It’s a season.
- You have a newborn. Need I say more? Listen, it’s a season. Now he/she is a toddler. It’s a season. I so appreciate Instagram right now. You know why? I have some honest mommy friends who share their real stories of frustration, pain, exhaustion, excitement, and happiness through pictures. I don’t feel so alone. And we can be praying for each other and encouraging each other that this is just a season. One day, when we are 50 and empty-nesters, we are going to miss these days. Sometimes I don’t believe that, but I take the word of my more “seasoned” friends. Hang in there mommy and daddy. Soak in those precious moments. Laugh at the aggravating ones. It’s a season.
- You are divorced or have faced (are facing) some sort of loss. My dear, dear brother or sister…It’s a season. Please do not think for a moment that God has abandoned you. That’s what Satan wants you to think. He wants to destroy your life and the fastest way to do that is to isolate you from your Heavenly Father who probably doesn’t seem that loving right now. This is cliché, but grasp a hold of His promises from the Word of God: His mercies are new every morning. He’s never going to leave or forsake you. He wants to give you abundant life. Find some friends who can have faith for you during this time. Hurt. Bleed. But then cling. Cling to Him. It’s just a season.
You were diagnosed with cancer. You’ve just moved for the hundredth time. You have trouble making and keeping friends. You have to pull away from a person who is doing you and your family some harm. You lost your job. You quit your job. You can’t make ends meet. You are making more than you ever have. Seasons. These are all seasons. I have friends in almost every one of these categories. Dear friends. Friends that I hate seeing hurt. Friends that feel so alone. And all I can say is that God is WITH you. He knows.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Exodus 2:25. The Israelites were experiencing brutal slavery and felt like God was no where to be found. But this verse says so eloquently:
God saw what was going on with Israel.
So I leave you with this…not a theological argument for God’s presence, not a ton of Scriptures for you to memorize, not another Bible study or list of things to do. Just this: God sees. God knows. God understands. God’s with you. It’s just a season. Hang in there dear friend.
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity
A time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a t time to search and a a time to give up,
at time to keep and time to throw away,
at time to tear and time to mend,
at time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a t time to war and a a time for peace.
– Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
Last year was a rough go. My brother committed suicide on January 4th, and my mother-in-law passed away from Alzheimer’s at 70, on September 5th, the day after my last son was born.
While my grief over Mom was intense, I think I’ve had a harder time healing over my brother’s suicide. It was so sudden, violent, and painful. I knew Mom was close to going to Heaven…I had time to say goodbye. I knew Mom passed peacefully and with Dad nearby. Nothing surrounding Eric’s death was peaceful. And he died alone. Mom died because of a disease…there was absolutely nothing we could do to stop it. Eric died because of mental illness and it left me questioning what I could have done to save him. It was just different. Harder. More traumatic.
I always wondered what it would be like to say goodbye to a parent and/or a sibling…forever. My husband, Bryant, lost his brother Chris when Bryant was 17 and Chris was 27. I would ask him what it was like – how unbearable was it? How badly does he miss him now? Does his heart always ache? And Bryant would always share that yes, sometimes it does hurt so badly it takes your breath away, but that Jesus’s grace somehow covers the pain and gives you the strength to keep living…and living well. But I have to tell you, this grace is learned…
Do you remember when Kobe Bryant died? I was absolutely crushed…and not because I was a die-hard Kobe Bryant fan, but because I was entering into the pain of his wife and daughters. I kept thinking, “Why did they let him on that helicopter? Wasn’t it obviously foggy?” I tried to imagine what his last few hours with his family were like. I agonized over his death and the events leading up to his death. I worried whether Kobe and his daughter and the others experienced fear or any pain in their final moments. And then one evening, I just fell in a heap on the floor and wept. As I wept, I started talking about my brother and all I wished I could have done to prevent his suicide. And then it clicked: Yes, I was heartbroken over Kobe’s death…but I had been ignoring my grief over my brother and it needed to escape. Kobe’s death was it’s escape.
I was terrified of my grief. I had seen it as a wave that threatened to overtake me. I was afraid that if I gave in and felt, I’d be completely overwhelmed and unable to process or to function. And so for a good several months, I kept it all at bay. But that evening, as I sat on the floor sobbing, almost unable to breath, I realized that what I was doing wasn’t healthy. I wasn’t truly living because in order not to feel any grief, I had to also numb myself to feeling joy, happiness, peace. We can’t pick and choose what emotions we feel. We are either feeling all of them, or none of them. It’s funny because now when I look back, I remember Bryant being concerned that I had gone numb – that I wasn’t completely myself and unwilling to truly feel. I wasn’t able to fully engage with my family because I had to keep myself somewhat removed from every situation to keep myself isolated from emotion. From feeling.
And I wonder how many of you can relate? You’ve walked through a season of loss and you are terrified to process this loss…You feel like you don’t have the strength, the energy, the ability, the stamina to approach the grief. And so you’ve turned off your emotions like you turn off a faucet, because you know how finicky grief is and how it can be triggered by not only sadness, but also happiness. You are a shell of a person and your family misses you. But what other choice do you have?
I can promise you that stuffed emotions will ultimately erupt…and it won’t be pretty. It will be at the least opportune time in often uncontrollable and destructive ways. Stuffed emotions can make you anxious, depressed, suicidal, angry, self-sabotaging, self-medicating, addictive, and on and on the list goes.
So, here’s what I have done: I’ve learned how to surf. I don’t ride literal waves, but I have learned how to surf the waves of my emotions. I’ve allowed myself to feel. I’ve embraced the grief so that I can embrace the happiness and joy. If a song comes on that reminds me of my brother, I don’t turn it off, I don’t distance myself from the memories, I don’t stuff the sadness. I feel. I let myself be sad. I cry. I talk about it with my husband and close friends if need be. I enter into the emotion and ride the wave. If I embrace it and don’t fight it, it will pass and pass quickly. As I allow myself to feel in the moment, I reduce the intensity of the next wave of grief. But if I try to fight it and go against the waves, I exhaust myself and get beat up by the emotion. The grief is in control and I succumb to the violence.
I’m also learning to allow myself to enjoy the happy memories. Yes, they can at times highlight the ache and the pain of forever, but they also allow me to keep that person close. And laugh. We need to laugh.
So, is it time for you to pick up that surfboard and ride the waves? Your loved one is with you in your heart. You can feel the pain because the grief is the best reminder of the love. Embrace the sadness, don’t fight it, and then you will have the strength to appreciate the joyful moments.