Rising Out Of Our ValleysNov 15, 2021
(post originally published in 2018)
It's crazy how low we can feel sometimes ... how frightened or brokenhearted or just plain numb. I for one am always amazed when I compare my own depressive valleys to the nearby heights of my inspired times. One day I might be leaping along with love and joy and creativity propelling my airy steps, and the next I might be brought down to a heavy-footed plod by some disappointment or challenge or simple change in the weather.
Why is this human experience such a tumultuous and dizzying series of ups and downs? Is it just me, or are we all basically struggling to keep some semblance of balance in a bipolar existence?
While at times I might feel alone in my emotional flux when I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed by it, I don’t truly suspect that I’m unique when it comes to navigating such turbulence. I think that each week we all experience highs and lows, whether profound or brief.
So what is the remedy for all of our unevenness and anxiety and malaise? Is it medication? I don't think so. And is it wise to think that we can ever feel "100 percent even and stable" at all times? Should we even desire such a thing?
Again, I think the answer is no. If we are human, we must accept ups and downs and everything in between. The richness of our human experience depends on a certain breadth of emotions and thoughts. That being said, I think that if we care for ourselves in a certain way and get to know ourselves better, then we can reach higher highs and bounce out of any lows more quickly. Also, we can respond to stress and negativity better.
I just turned forty-one at the end of last week, and after four decades of mostly conscious life on this bizarre and beautiful planet earth, I still can’t say, “Okay, if I do X, Y, and Z each day, then the next week or year of my life is guaranteed to be all smiles and fulfillment.” However, I have gotten closer to being able to say, “Okay, if I do X, Y, and Z most days, then I will feel hopeful and inspired more often than not. I’ll be able to reach my highs more often and bounce out of those lows more quickly.”
So, what should X, Y, and Z be if we want to enjoy greater well-being on a more consistent basis? In my opinion, these variables that ought not be variables should include, in some measure: physical exercise, decent rest and relaxation, meaningful talk and merrymaking with people we love, working toward some greater dream of the soul, reaching out to serve a greater purpose (i.e., touching the lives of others in some positive way), getting in touch with nature, and walking a path that strives to connect with God and our unique destiny more closely.
For the rest of this post I’m going to focus on that last item in the list: connecting with God and the soul more closely.
What is spiritual connection? Well, that isn’t always easy to define, so let’s first identify a few of its opposites. Those inverses include boredom, agitation, anxiety, a lack of hope, a lack of meaningful direction, a lack of engagement with our own lives and the lives of others, and a general numbness of emotions. Those things sound like hell, don’t they? But too often they are simply the elements that define a day in the life of modern man as he struggles to make a living and fulfill a family role and squeeze into some commonly perpetuated definition of “normal.”
So again, what is spiritual connection? It’s about feeling unique and uniquely guided. It’s about experiencing a sense of purpose. It’s about excitement, inner peace, and fulfillment. It’s about living a life of faith, not only when we are standing atop the highest mountains of our brightest days, but also when we are lying battered and exhausted on the floors of our lowest valleys.
I feel as if I’ve been mucking through a bit of a valley lately. Maybe it’s because of the gloomy pallor and dampness that have hung over these early autumn days in Wisconsin, or maybe it’s because of that recent birthday I “enjoyed,” the one with the numbers that just don’t make sense to me (was my 21st really two decades ago by now?). Or maybe my recent lows are tied to more concrete challenges I’ve been facing with regards to finding my place in the world. At the age of forty-one, am I really still struggling to love and encourage my most authentic self and find my niche in the world?
Maybe you are in a valley of your own right now. Because of health challenges or money challenges or broken relationships or self-esteem issues or generally high stress levels, maybe you are feeling brokenhearted and anything but vibrant at present. But know this: You will find your way out of that momentary valley more quickly if look up toward spiritual places rather than continuing to scan the bland landscape that sits to your immediate right and left.
So, toward the end of rising up to a place of hope and inspiration more quickly, here are a few selected Psalm verses for you to enjoy.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4
What dark valley have you walking through lately? What demons do you hear rustling in the trees? Fear no evil. Comfort is nearby.
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1
This verse is especially useful when we are allowing our worries to take superhuman form in our minds. What, or who, has you worried right now? Why don’t you place that thing or that person next to the power of the eternal God Who is protecting you, and then ask yourself, “Okay, do I still need to be afraid now?”
When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer. Psalm 94:19
What are you doubting right now? Yourself? The future of your dreams? The future of a career choice? The future of your health? The future of your eternity? Why don’t you switch your focus from those doubts to the comfort of the God Who renews hope and cheer? Do that right now and breathe a sigh of relief.
Do not trust influential people, mortals who cannot help you. When they breathe their last breath . . . their plans come to an end. Psalm 146:3-4
Who can we trust to truly guide our souls to where they need to be right now? Who can we look to for wisdom and a path toward happiness? Should we look to the Silicon Valley or Wall Street power players? Can the Washington or Hollywood insiders point us in the direction of joy and meaning? Can politicians or doctors or CEOs really lead us to fulfillment, inner peace, and eternal joy? Or must we look beyond our usual borders to find these things? Should we continually look to the spiritual places that aren’t found in headlines, boardrooms, bank accounts, or curriculums? I think so.
Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5
Whatever anxiety or gloom you are experiencing right now—whatever ache is tugging at your heart—know that it will not last forever.
I will praise you, Lord, for showing great kindness when I was like a city under attack. I was terrified. . . . But you answered my prayer when I shouted for help. Psalm 31:21-22
Are you feeling under attack right now? Is your peace of mind being invaded by intrusive thoughts or self-defeating doubts? Is some safe harbor of yours being slowly pulled away from you? Don’t be afraid to cry out for help. Your shouts will not go unanswered.
You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Psalm 32:7
Sometimes it feels as if there’s nowhere left to hide in this hectic world that has been endlessly explored and thoughtlessly exploited and foolishly turned into an existence that is all résumé building and reality TV scripts. But there is a place to get away from it all. There is a place to find safe harbor and enchantment again. Remember to look up to find your balance and purpose and fulfillment. Remember to look up to find your deliverance.
Your promise revives me; it comforts me in all my troubles. Psalm 119:50
What is the promise? That you are never alone. That there is a purpose to your current path. That you will always have what you need (physically, mentally, and emotionally) to survive your current day. That your life has a loving beginning and no true end. That you are cared for at this very moment.
Whether you are riding high or feeling low today, remember to look past the literal borders of your situation and reach out toward that spiritual connection that is an integral part of feeling alive. Until next time, please remember to take care of yourself and your dreams.
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