What dreams did you have growing up?
When I was about 5 years old I was given a “travel agents” toy – I loved it! It was the beginning of a dream of becoming a travel agent when I grew up – this obviously didn’t happen and I’m sure my answer to the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” probably changed a hundred times after with the introduction of a new toy…. I remember playing for hours with “Paul Daniel’s magic set”!
Later on as a teenager, I was one of those annoying people who actually knew what they wanted to do, with a plan for what my life was going to look like; qualify as an Occupational Therapist by 21 (well my magician career never took off!), married by mid 20s, kids before 30…. I even thought about what my wedding would be like (orange gerberas were my flower of choice)…. So did that happen? No! I only met Rich just before my 30th birthday and got married when I was 31….
So now 6 years later, let’s just say we have had plenty of bumps in the road…. A couple of months after we got married, Rich was fighting for his life in high dependency at Hammersmith Hospital having contracted rare autoimmune condition called granulomatosis with polyangiitis (a form of vasculitis). This resulted in life becoming very different to how we had imagined, as anyone who has a chronic condition will understand. Since this point I’ve had many times of feeling hopeless – I’ve never doubted God’s faithfulness, but I’ve definitely questioned why….
So here are 4 things I’m learning through this journey to keep hopeful; I hope that if you are facing challenges, feeling that your dreams have been crushed or you are waiting for your dreams to be fulfilled, that some of these things may help you to keep hopeful in the hard times:
When hope’s dream seems to drag on and on, the delay can be depressing.
But when at last your dream comes true,
life’s sweetness will satisfy your soul (the Passion Translation)
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life Proverbs 13:12 (NLT)
1. Praise Him in the Storm
Isaiah 54:1 says “sing O childless woman (NIV uses the word barren), you who have never given birth! Break into loud and joyful song”. Barrenness speaks of a place with no life in it, a desert. If you are feeling dry and feel like your life has no growth or sustenance then praise – don’t wait for the breakthrough. Praise brings the breakthrough because it lifts our eyes from our circumstances and pain on to our faithful, sovereign Father.
2. Hold on to the Promises God has Given You
The Bible says that God is “watching over His Word to perform it” (Jeremiah 1:12) and “so is my word that goes out from my mouth, it will not return to me empty but will accomplish what I desire and the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). Our God NEVER promises something and then takes it back; he is faithful. But it is in His timing (I hate that bit!). Some of these promises will be specific to you (for example one thing that Rich and I were given after he was acutely ill was that he will “restore the years the locust has stolen” – which I have held onto over these years) then there are other more generic promises that speak of his character. I try to write down prophetic words that people give me so I can look back at them when I need encouragement. If you don’t have these then get into His Word – it is full of His promises for you.
I came across this quote by the amazing Christine Caine
“In these places of deep disappointment, we must remind ourselves of those things about God we KNOW to be true…though they might not FEEL true at the moment. Even Jesus felt forsaken before he was resurrected”.
3. Laugh Often!
“A cheerful heart is good medicine but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength” proverbs 17:22 (NLT)
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to gravitate to people who are also feeling low or in a similar position as you when you are feeling down and life is tough? Whilst I believe peer support from people who truly understand definitely has a place – it is cathartic to talk through issues with both peers and professional, I also believe that happy people who make me laugh make me feel better. I am fortunate to have a husband who constantly makes me laugh (even at the most inappropriate times!); it has been the glue that has held us together when we are cracking. I have also learnt to make a conscious decision to smile, sometimes when I don’t always feel it (not that I always succeed at that!) But please hear me, I am not staying to hide behind your smile when you are depressed, you always need to find someone you trust to talk to when you are having a tough time.
The basic premise of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) that has been a popular psychological treatment is that there is a connection between what we think, how we feel and how we act so if you can change one it influences the others.
4. Be Thankful
“Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakeable, let us be thankful and please God by worshipping him with holy fear and awe.” (NLT)
Here is a bit of neuroscience for you (because I LOVE neuroscience!). Research has found that we express gratitude, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters help with our emotions, make us happy and help us feel good (they are what some antidepressants work on). So being thankful is good for us! No matter what our circumstances, we always have SOMETHING for which to be thankful. For me I have struggled over the past 6 years seeing people around me having babies and have asked God many times why me? I have had times where I have let jealousy and resentment rule my emotions. This has just made me feel worse – so now when I feel this way I give myself a metaphorical slap and remind myself what I have – particularly that my husband nearly died twice but is here – if that’s not something to be thankful for I don’t know what is.
Everyday make a conscious decision to thank God for something – anything! I promise it will change your brain and therefore your ability to cope!
I could go on with other things but I’m leaving it there. I don’t have it all together in this, as I write this I am preaching it to myself! I hope that one day I will be able to practice what I preach all the time, in the mean time I am so thankful to have a saviour who is so full of grace and mercy who comforts me in the dark times.