Have you ever been in a storm? I’m not talking about a simple thunder shower, with its occasional soft booms off in the distance and gentle downpour; a time just perfect for napping. No, I mean a storm. You know the type that sounds like angels are remodeling the heavens? The kind of storm with piercing cracks of lightening, body jarring thunderclaps that rattle windows and frighten little ones. The sort of storm with ominous clouds that thwart any effort of the sun to peak through, wind that leaves nothing but destruction in its wake and that appear to be never-ending. I’m talking about that kind of storm. Can’t you just picture a storm like this? Can you imagine the noise level? How about trying to listen above all of that noise? How can you be sure of what you are hearing, or seeing for that matter? Can you envision the distractions a storm like this could bring?
Perhaps you have been in this type of rain that falls so heavy you can’t see what’s in front of you! It is important to know what safety precautions to take during times like these, to be able to discern what you are hearing, and to tread carefully so as not to be washed away. I know storms, and it’s just as important to know what to do during the intense storms of life.
As I’ve mentioned before I’m the oldest of 8 children. I was also what psychologists would consider an emotionally and functionally parentified child; it isn’t that unusual when you are the oldest kid in a large family. In my family I wore (and in some ways still wear) many hats; caregiver, caretaker, cook/ housekeeper, protector, confidant, counselor, teacher and even provider – just to name a few.
When I was growing up we were always in one storm after another. Even during the occasional reprieves there was a storm looming just over the horizon. I became very good at judging the clouds and detecting the rumbling in the distance, even when things seemed calm.
It’s not easy to carry adult burdens as a kid; the issues are beyond your years, and you naturally lack the wisdom and experience to deal with them correctly. I handled things as best I could and, with my “oh so responsible” self, tried not to add to the issues; however, this led to literally forgetting about myself altogether, which caused me to feel like a thing rather than a person.
There were many times I wanted to run away, disappear, be someone/anyone else and yes, at times I even wanted God to just “call my number already!” so I could just be done with the constant turmoil that was my life. God knows best, however, and He gave me the strength and character to stand instead. Hallelujah!
I am no stranger to life’s storms, so allow me to share a few of the lessons I’ve learned from my experiences. Hopefully, if you find yourself in the midst of a raging storm or one that seems to be trying to last till the end of time, what I’ve learned will help and encourage you.
1.ASK THE LORD FOR HELP!
When storms are hitting hard, and you don’t know what to do, ask God for help. Due to a number of factors I did not understand this way back when. I would ask Him to help others, but seldom if ever asked for help for myself. Looking back I think it was because I didn’t believe He would hear me regarding myself; crazy I know, but that’s the truth. Thank God for His patience and compassion towards me. Now I know better than those wrongly reinforced notions I had about Him for so many years.
2. BE VERY DISCERNING REGARDING WHO GETS TO BEND YOUR EAR Prov 12:18; Prov 12:26; Prov 14:7
Sometimes people would comment on my role in the family e.g. relationship with my mom or the fact that I would buy groceries with what money I received. At one point, during one particularly tempestuous time, I had some (even family) try to give me the “save yourself” advice, knowing my dad had just walked out, slamming my mother into single parenthood (8 kids) in one fell swoop. I was supposed to just drop them like a load of hot bricks – to kick them while we were down? Their words quickly sent up red flags, and I knew exactly who was behind the veiled message. Say what you will, but I could not do that to my family, and I know without a doubt that God definitely would not have been pleased with me!The people who will poison your mind are often those who are close to you. ~ Pastor L. Cochran Click To Tweet
The Enemy can and will use people. During difficult times their words can get tangled up with your emotions and cause you to make your situation worse. Never let your emotions/feelings be the deciding factor, and never keep listening to counsel (no matter how neatly packaged) that you know will be destructive or out of the will of God for your life. Remember Adam and Eve? Where would we be if they had not continued to listen, and eventually obey, the enemy of our souls?When the storm’s raging you must guard your ears,eyes,mind and heart against the enemy’s attempts to catch you distraught and distracted. Click To Tweet
3. YOU CONTROL YOUR EMOTIONS; DO NOT LET YOUR EMOTIONS CONTROL YOU! Phil 4:13; 1 Cor 10:13; Proverbs 16:32; Proverbs 12:16; Proverbs 25:28; Proverbs 29:11; 2 Tim 1:7
When going through turbulent times it is imperative that we keep our heads. Emotions all around you will typically be running high, and your emotions will no doubt be at the brink. Keep it together my friend. When the pressure’s on every side, that’s when emotions love to take control. This is when you can say and do things that can cause permanent damage. When the dust clears, and the storm is over, you do not want to look around and see destruction that you caused by letting your emotions have the upper hand.
When you start to feel out of control, do the opposite of what you feel; trust me, this works. You want to scream? Deliberately whisper. You want to throw something? Purposefully put it down gently. You want to hit somebody? Hug them. Can’t hug them? Then quietly walk away etc. Are frustrations driving you to the breaking point? Pray! Cast all your cares on the Lord; He really does want them ALL (1 Peter 5:7).TRAIN YOURSELF: When emotions are running high, being able to keep your mouth shut is often more than half the battle! Click To Tweet
4. NEVER LOSE THE LOVE! 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Philippians 2:3; Eph 4:2
Love, in the midst of raging storms, will help you not to fall prey to becoming selfish/self-centered. Love helps you put the needs of others ahead of your own. Love helps you look at people through eyes of mercy, compassion, and understanding. Love causes you to go the extra mile even when you feel (or maybe even know) it’s not mutual. Love helps you do the right thing when all you want to do is retaliate. Love helps you hang in there when everything in you wants to walk away.
When I was advised to leave my family and “save myself,” I might have done it if I did not love them. Some of the persuasive arguments of others, especially when I knew they were coming from a place of honest concern for me, just might have worked if I did not love my family.Never ever lose your love for God or family in the midst of life’s tempests. Sometimes love will be the only leg you have to stand on! Click To Tweet
5. FORGIVE FORGIVE FORGIVE & RUN FROM BITTERNESS AND RESENTMENT Eph 4:31-32; Heb 12:14-15; Mat 6:14-15; Mark 11:25; Prov 10:12; Col 3:8,13; Ecc 7:9; Rom 12:17-21; Psalm 37:8; Lev 19:17-18; Prov 17:9
Oh…My…Goodness! I cannot stress this enough! Have you ever seen unforgiveness, bitterness and resentment in all its raw, ugly, evil glory? I have, and it is NOT pretty. When people harbor unforgiveness, bitterness and resentment they are often hard to deal with, sometimes downright fear-provoking. They brood over every hurt, disappointment, every “bad” thing that ever happened to them. They replay it over and over again in their minds, and to whomever they find to listen; oftentimes their version is not without added fabrication, portraying themselves as completely pristine victims who have never harmed anyone in any way, shape or form. Soon they spew venom all over the current recipient of their rage or whoever else is conveniently located to receive it.
Unforgiveness and bitterness is satan’s hook in many a nose. We can leave unforgiveness and bitterness to fester until it putrefies, poisoning our hearts and minds. We will burn all of our bridges, kill relationships, and drift so far from God we don’t even want to see/hear of Him anymore. Unforgiveness, bitterness and resentment is terrible and highly destructive; it has caused people to literally hate their own flesh and blood.
6. REMEMBER FOR WHOM YOU WORK Prov 3:5; Heb 6:10; 1Cor 15:58; Col 3:17; Col 3:23-24; Eph 6:6-7
During difficult times it’s natural to feel like you’re beating your head against a brick wall and that all your efforts aren’t worth one moldy bean to anyone. Though we may feel this way, it is not true. I did not always know this. As a matter of fact, for 30 years this is exactly what I thought and how I felt.
What I eventually came to understand is that all of my efforts, the sacrifices – the blood, sweat and tears – were actually important to God; I was not invisible to Him – to Him I mattered! When the rain stops, and the wind settles, it is God we’ll need to have pleased. Remembering that what we do in this life – good or bad – will be justly rewarded by our Almighty Creator helps keep things in perspective, especially when trials cloud your view.
7. KEEP YOUR MIND ABOVE DESPAIR Col 3:2; Psalm 104:34; Ecc 10:20; Prov 12:25; Eph 4:23; Rom 8:6;
I know, I know, easier said than done right? I know how difficult it can be, especially when your situation seems hopeless and all those around you are veritable fountains of negativity. It can be done, however.When setbacks come your mentality will tell on you – whether you’re a victim or a victor. ~ Pastor L. Cochran Click To Tweet
Where your mind goes your emotions/feelings and body will follow. I wish I had understood this 35 years ago! I believe there is a reason we are instructed in the Word of God to think on certain things. In order to keep your spirits above the fray, it is imperative that we think right. You can choose to constantly rehash all of the problems, trials, mistreatment etc… of past storms, or you can obey Scripture and keep your heart and mind on the right things. We hold the remote control to our minds and our mouths.
8. WATCH YOUR MOUTH Mat 15:11; Prov 18:21; Prov 17:27-28; Prov 21:23; Prov 29:20; James 1:26; James 1:19; Eph 4:29;
What we talk about is just as important as what we think about. Do not let the tempest cause you to speak out of your emotions and say things that are in opposition to God’s Word. I have heard people who regularly do this without ever realizing they were actually calling God a liar!It’s easy to talk right when everything is going right.You gotta know how to talk right when everything is going WRONG! ~Pastor L. Cochran Click To Tweet
We also have to watch who we are talking to! It is not good to talk to any/everybody about your problems. Get in the habit of talking to God first and always, and then allow Him to lead you to the right person for counsel. You need someone who is able to encourage you AND tell you the truth, not join the pity party and/or use your words for gossip fodder (Prov 18:2; Psalm 1:1-6; Col 2:8; Phil 4:6-7; Mat 11:28; ).
9. BE THANKFUL! 1Thess 5:18; Phil 4:6; Eph 5:20; Col 3:15-17
Learn to give thanks in all things. I cannot stress this enough. Finding the blessings in the storm provides encouragement and hope. It provides strength as you hang on to what God has done, and see how He is working on your behalf even in the dark moments.
When I look back on things I can see numerous things to be thankful for. I am grateful that God pegged me for the firstborn of my family. Why? It’s because, out of the 8 of us, I was the best one for the job. I’m not bragging in any way; it’s just the truth. God knew best and, therefore, the 8 of us never had to be separated, put in foster care etc. I am also thankful for my life, since I could have died at 21 due to status asthmaticus!
There is always something to be thankful for; just start looking at what you take for granted! Make it a habit to think about those things, and give God thanks for His goodness towards you – even when it gets hard to see.
God has taught me a lot over the past 9 years, and continues to teach me. He’s taking me from the people pleasing, burden bearer that I was to the God pleasing child of God He wants me to be. I still have much growing to do, I am sure, but I am happy to say that I live and breathe better today that I have in over 30 years.
Life comes with its share of storms, from that we cannot run away. Learning how to successfully survive them is imperative if we are to avoid being damaged physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.“God is able 2take the mess of our past &turn it into a message.He takes the trials&tests and turns them into a testimony.”~Christine Caine Click To Tweet
***P.S. My parents, after being separated for a number of years, have been back together for 21 years now; phew, time is moving so fast it’s frightening!
Until next time my friends,