The One For Your Dark Days

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Note: Several of the pieces I link to are raw and contain strong language and themes of doubt. A link to a piece by a particular author does not signify an endorsement of their theology or everything they’ve ever written; it just means that piece prodded at my heart during my darkest days. Thanks for reading. 

The end of fall is drawing closer, the days are getting progressively shorter, the sun is poking its face through the clouds less and less, and the darkness is creeping closer to you. I know, because you’ve told me, and because I’ve been there. I’m not there now, but I was, and I remember.

When I drove past the cemetery today, I noticed that the leaves were almost all off the trees. Timehop reminded me yet again of where I was at this time two years ago – of the sleepless nights, the way I cried anytime I was alone, and the endless doubts and questions that plagued my mind and spirit.

I don’t know where you are, not exactly. Some of you have texted, called, written, talked. Told me you’re struggling, doubting, fumbling, scared. “I just don’t know what to do,” and “is it normal to cry this much?” and “where is God in this s**t?” are all texts I’ve gotten from you in the last few days. From 3-4 different individuals, making up the collective “you.” Different circumstances and stories, the same creeping darkness. The same ache to find some light.

It’s not like you don’t know. The answers are familiar to you – you’ve grown up in church, go to Christian college, etc. You know God is good. You know faith should be enough. But for whatever reason, it’s not right now. And on the darkest days, the ones when you don’t want to poke your head out of the covers or unroll the blanket burrito to face the world, no amount of cheerful Bible verses or “God’s got this!” is going to help you. If one more person tells you to delight yourself in the Lord, you’re going to punch them in the face. You’re not that okay right now, and you want something more than the Sunday school answers.

That’s why I’m writing this. I’ve been reminded lately of the things that got me through those dark times – little things. Honest writing, simple prayers, self-care. Because the truth is that God is good, He is enough, you should delight yourself in the Lord, and everything will be okay… but sometimes that doesn’t help and you just need to take a hot bath and know you aren’t alone. I’ve been “meaning to” put together a kind of list of the things that helped me keep my grip on sanity in my own dark days, but as I walked downtown hunched against the cold wind today, I decided to finally do it.

I pray you’ll find something here that speaks to your soul. I pray you will see the simple love of Jesus in a brand new light, that your faith will become your own and that it will be enough to sustain you when the darkness rolls in again.  I pray you find your safe places and people, that you are always real with yourself and with God. You are loved deeply and vastly by the creator of the Universe. May you believe that fact more every day.

Writing:
Micah J. Murray:
The Day I Stopped Believing in God
When We Criticize the Church
Dancing Around the Edges
To the One Losing Her Faith
I Don’t Have my S**t Together
And really, almost everything he has ever written. Two winters ago, I started at his first post and worked my way through his blog.

Addie Zierman:
Come Weary
An Open Letter to the Church: How to Love the Cynics
Why Are You So Depressed?
Glossary of Christian Terms Series
When We Were on Fire (If you read nothing else on this list, read this book)

Emily Maynard:
Why I Can’t Go to Church on Sunday
I Don’t Think God Has a Plan for my Love Life
Modesty, Lust, and my Responsibility

Sarah Bessey:
In Which I’m a Feminist, Sure, But First I’m a Disciple of Jesus Christ
Love Looks Like series (the kind of girly, chick-flick reading that helps with a good cry)
Jesus Feminist

Other:
Faith Unraveled – Rachel Held Evans
-Poetry by John Blase at The Beautiful Due
-A Deeper Story

Prayers (usually repeated in a whisper or a scream, over and over and over):
-“I can’t.”
-“Help.”
-“Thanks.”
-“Give me peace.”
-“I need You so much closer.”
-“Prove it.” (and then be still. Because He will.)
Valley of Vision

Practices:
-Light some candles
-Set an alarm and do nothing for 5 minutes but stare at a wall
-Journal at least a sentence a day
-Go for a walk
-Read liturgies
-Pet a dog or cuddle a baby
-Call your mom or grandpa or best friend
-Make something: food, a craft, etc. Use your hands.
-Before there’s snow, stand barefoot on the grass
-Look at stars
-Read poetry
-Take a bubble bath
-Visit a new church
-Go to counseling. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done for myself

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