It’s time to stop pre-grieving.

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“Do you ever pre-grieve your life?”

 

This is a question I’ve been asking a lot of people lately, curious as to how much this particular condition affects others beyond myself. I define pre-grieving as the act of mourning in advance outcomes that are not guaranteed. Or, in other words, giving a voice to anxiety where it has no place; being sad in advance over a future that may or may not ever come.

 

More often than not, in response to this question, I hear, “Oh yes. I pre-grieve all the time. I thought I was the only one.”

 

Recently, I took to Instagram to ask even more friends if they struggle with this too. Out of the nearly one hundred people who responded, 87% said they could relate. These numbers aren’t scientific, but the pattern of pre-grief remains: far too many of us are living in captivity to fear of the future.

 

We fear what we cannot control.

We mourn before there is anything to mourn.

We do not allow ourselves to hope.

We do not fully trust God to be good.

 

Examples of Pre-Grief 

 

The closest medically-recognized example of pre-grieving is anticipatory grief, usually in expectation of the death of a loved one. But pre-grief isn’t limited only to this.

 

When I asked people about how pre-grief plays a role in their own lives, they shared a few things, and shed some light on the things they pre-grieve the most.

 

Pre-grieving the loss of a present season – anticipating painful change.

Pre-grieving worst-case scenarios in the realm of uncertainties.

Pre-grieving the possibility of breakups. The death of loved ones. The pain of losing people.

Pre-grieving losing joy.

Pre-grieving an imagined (and impossible) future where God is not truly faithful or good or worthy of trusting with everything.

 

Somehow, for some reason, I think we can pre-grieve because we don’t want to be blindsided by loss when it does come. This isn’t always the case, but I think we reason that if we can’t control the future, we can at least get a head start on processing now – as if somehow, by mourning now, it will lessen the blow of the pain later, or it will be less shattering. Common sense tells us that doesn’t work – it just makes us more anxious and miserable in the present.

 

Grieving potential futures now is not an effective way of preventing pain – instead, we’re paralyzing ourselves with anxiety, often unfounded anxiety, and robbing ourselves of the joy of the present.

 

Where This Stems From

 

Over and over, I see this pattern – we are afraid. We are afraid of losing. We are afraid of being out of control. We are afraid of pain. And this fear is often rooted in lack of trust that God will be good.

 

Because if God is good, there is no room for fear – because perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).

If God is good, then His plans are good – all of them – because ALL things work together for the good of those who love God (Romans 8:28).

If God, the most powerful One in existence is, in fact, good, then there is no other power in heaven or on earth that can supersede God’s power – and He alone is the one in whom we trust (Psalm 56:3-4).

 

The times in which we revert to pre-grieving our lives will always be we fall into believing that our uncertain future has more power over us than God’s faithful goodness does.

 

Our Big Mistake 

 

I once had a conversation with a wise person that changed my life. He said to me, “I spent my entire life captive to the feeling that my life was too good, always emotionally preparing for something devastating to happen. And when tragedy did come, my first thought was, ‘Aha. I knew it.’ And at that moment, I realized that I had just spent decades of my life in unnecessary fear and pre-grief – and even though the pain was real, God was still faithful and good, and carried me through with some of the most powerful reminders of His presence I’ve ever experienced.”

 

That shook me to my core.

 

When we pre-grieve, we do not factor in the truth that even though pain is virtually inevitable, God’s faithfulness never ceases. We worry about what the worst-case scenarios will look like, and yet we are so prone to leaving God’s presence out of that imagined future.

 

As Christians, one of the greatest hopes we have in our lives is that God does not change. Over and over in Scripture, we see this so evidently (Psalm 102:27; Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8).

 

One of my favorite verses is James 1:17, which tells us that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” He gives us good gifts; He does not change.

 

Therefore, if He is faithful today, He will be faithful tomorrow.

If He is good today, He will be good tomorrow.

If He is present today, He will be present tomorrow.

If He is gracious and compassionate today, He will be gracious and compassionate tomorrow.

 

And because of this, we can echo Job’s words in saying that “the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21b). We aren’t denying that pain will probably come, but we are kicking out the anxiety that threatens to steal our joy in the present and keep us from trusting God with everything. He is worthy of praise, no matter what, because regardless of what happens, He is always good.

 

Breaking the Patterns of Pre-Grief

 

Slowly, slowly, I am learning to break the patterns of pre-grief in my life. Late at night, when I find myself overthinking everything with a well-worn journal in my lap, I go through these questions and force myself to answer honestly:

Do I trust God to be good enough and powerful enough to write a good story?

Do I trust God to be good enough for me no matter what?

Do I trust that God delights in giving good gifts to His kids?

 

Sooner or later, we will all come to terms with the reality that there is so much out of our control – and mourning over the things that may one day be lost will not keep them there. Trusting God is our hope.

 

We must choose to hold onto temporary things loosely, and hold onto Him tightly. Not because we should love the temporary things any less, but because God is the only steady One when our reality is uncertain. And if He is good, there is no room for fear, or worry, or anxiety over the things to come, because He has never left us and He never will. Our hope will always, ultimately be rooted in who He is.

 

We can only flourish if we’re willing to let go – so we can instead hold onto the One who holds our lives so much better than we can.

 

He’s good. He’s really, really good. And so, we are faced with a choice: will we trust Him?

 

It’s time we stopped pre-grieving.

 

aj 2

On Coming out of Depression & Experiencing the Faithfulness of God

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i.

 

Oh wow He’s faithful.

 

There’s something so ethereal about knowing when God is speaking.

 

Oftentimes, before I leave my house to go be with other Christians, I pray a few things. One, that I’d have some sort of meaningful conversation, two, that God would speak, and if I remember, then three, that I’d be filled with the Spirit and used by Him.

 

And the funny thing is, once I arrive, when I kick off my shoes and put down my phone and start hugging people, I completely forget that I ever even prayed it. And every single time that I come home so filled, I’m overcome with awe at how He worked.

 

I’m stunned by the conversations that left me glowing with joy, how I heard God in worship songs and in listening to my friends preach, tangibly experiencing God’s love and presence in everyday interactions.

 

I heard His voice again this weekend, and it left me breathless.

 

For three days, I’d been praying hard that God would lead me to trust Him. And He has. Oh, how He has.

Continue reading “On Coming out of Depression & Experiencing the Faithfulness of God”

More of My Book! (Theme: Overcoming Anxiety)

More of My Book! (Theme_ Overcoming Anxiety)

Hi again, friends!

 

Whoa. I can’t believe it’s already Tuesday again.

 

Last Tuesday, I was in Puerto Rico with a really close friend of mine, Gabriela, and our families. It was AMAZING. Gabs and I stayed up really late writing for NaNoWriMo and blogging and talking and baking and watching movies and laughing.

 

So I miss that. A lot. Here’s a picture of us in a coffee shop drinking expensive and delicious latte frappes, all the while pretending like I would never have to go home.

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And here’s us under a nice tree with the ocean in the background, in the SWELTERING sun, trekking through famous forts and ports and such.

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I mention all this because…it was in Puerto Rico where I started writing my book.

 

Hadn’t heard the news? Yep, I’m writing a book! I shared the news last Saturday, and you can read about that here. And then, because I was really excited about it, I decided to share a portion of my first chapter of that book. Want to read it if you haven’t already? Right here.

 

As I said last Tuesday, the format and style is a little different than a regular blog post of mine. Why? Because while writing is writing, blogging and book-writing are two totally different arts. I find books to be a bit more formal, but can still take on different tones based on audiences.

 

 

So apparently, you all liked my sneak peek that I shared (???). I got so much encouragement, and it inspired me so much, so I decided to share another snippet.

 

For those of you who aren’t interested, don’t worry. My Saturday post will be a regular one, and if I continue to share sections, that’ll only be a Tuesday occurrence.

 

Today’s segment of chapter 1 is on anxiety.

 

That is, anxiety over the past, the present, the future, and how to overcome it all.

 

Anxiety Over the Past

 

Have you ever done something that you thought was a good idea at the time, and later realized how stupid it was? And then regretted it for years?

Yes, I think we all have. Whether we’ve done something that has hurt ourselves or has hurt someone else, we all have things we wish we hadn’t done. Things we feel would make life oh-so-much better if they hadn’t happened.

I can only “get” so much of what regret feels like, seeing as though I’m only a teenager, but we all have things that weigh on us because we feel guilty.

And for a lot of us, we can become anxious because of it, and for a few reasons.

We may be afraid that healing is impossible. We may be afraid that we’ll never be forgiven. We may be afraid that we’ll repeat our mistakes. These are valid feelings and fears – but we cannot live bogged down by what is in the past.

Anxious fear, while it is completely legitimate and we should not try to explain it away, is not to be suffered in alone.

God has made us new in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). He does not count our pasts against us, so why should we do it of ourselves?

Why should we live chained to the fear that we’ll mess up again?

Why should we live so caught up in what is over and done that we miss what is right in front of us?

God has forgiven us, and He wants to see us forgive ourselves. To move on, to focus on the greater things He has for us.

Oh, again, this isn’t some easy task that requires the push of a button and three clicks of our heels. Healing from anxiety over the past takes time, but God loves us and His patience never runs out on us. He’s always there for us to come back to and see our worth, to see that we’re forgiven, to see that we’re loved, and to know that He will never leave us to handle our problems alone.

 

Anxiety Over the Present

 

Present anxiety seems to me to be the toughest to deal with.

The panic of, “What am I doing?!” and “Where am I supposed to be?” and “How do I know if people actually care about me?”

Friends, I know what it feels like.

I know what it feels like to sit paralyzed, holding the phone, not knowing if I should call someone because I’m terrified to be rejected.

I know what it’s like to lay in my bed and cry for what feels like an eternity because I’m so afraid I’m going to mess up my life.

I have felt every ounce of pain when I’m convinced I must be doing the wrong thing, or I picked the wrong career path, or I’ve come so far that I can’t be fixed.

It’s paralyzing and petrifying, and that’s when I’m the most anxious.

See, I know the Bible says to be anxious for nothing in Philippians 4, and that by prayer, we should let our requests be known to God and He will give us peace.

I know all the verses. I know I should cast my cares on Him because He really does care for me.

But when I am in the middle of it, I freeze. I forget that there is a solution to my misery. I forget that I am loved and counted righteous no matter what I do. I feel like I have no hope.

But my feelings are incorrect. The feelings – those same feelings that are such a part of my personality – are wrong about one thing: Truth.

The truth that God will never leave me or forsake me, especially when I’m struggling, is never more true than when I feel like I’m alone.

The truth that I am loved with an everlasting love is not conditional, for it does not change when I feel unlovable.

The truth that I can be content and have joy in all situations is not dependent on my material possessions or circumstances, but upon a God who does not change.

When I feel the most anxious over what’s going on in my life, when I’m paralyzed with fear, and when it hurts like it never has before, the promises of God still stand.

 

Anxiety Over the Future

 

I once was utterly panicked over where I’d be in the years ahead.

In middle school and in the years before, I had absolutely no desire to go to college because I was afraid that I’d change my mind about what I wanted to do.

One day, I wanted to be a teacher. The next, I wanted to be a hairdresser. A week later, I decided I wanted to be a writer, and a little after that, I decided writing was much too difficult and I’d like to simply be a mother instead.

Thinking about the future – five, ten, fifteen years in advance – sent me into a bit of a panic. What if I get a degree in something that I decide I hate? What if the first day on my dream job is a flop and I start questioning my existence? What if I fail? What if I never marry?

And the panic-filed “what-ifs” cluttered my mind until my future planning almost became nonexistent.

Of course I knew that anxiety wasn’t really healthy for me. Of course I’d been told that God was in control. But did I believe it? I don’t know if I did.

Somewhere in my mind, and I assume in the minds of others, we think that we have to do everything alone. I think we have it in our minds that God holds the future, but hold in our hearts the burden that we have to handle everything ourselves. While this seems like such a paradox, it’s a prevalent mindset.

In a way, it’s connected to the stress ordeal – we think we must handle everything, know everything, be in control. But we don’t.

The best liberation from anxiety over the future is knowing that God is bigger than anything. He is bigger than our stress, He is bigger than our anxiety and fears. Nothing surprises Him, and nothing is too hard for Him to handle.

But what about our pain? What about the fact that life is really scary and unpredictable, and so many times we really don’t know what to do?

Pain exists. Anxiety is real. But God is more powerful than anything we struggle with, and He is worthy of our trust. He’ll never let us down.

It’s not worth it to live in a state of anxiety, yet in those times, we must cling to God the most instead of running from Him. Can life be terrifying? Absolutely. But nothing is terrifying to God. He wants us to run to Him in our pain so that we can grow in our relationship with Him.

Is it hard? Yeah, it is. And I won’t pretend that I know it all or that I have a perfect life.

But whatever the state of our lives may be, God does not change. He always wants us to look to Him in the midst of our problems. No, we can’t do this life alone – and that, friends, is alright.

*aj

Sneak Peek of My Book!

Sneak Peek of My Book!

Happy Tuesday, my friends!

 

On Saturday, I announced to you all that I am writing a book. Aaahh! I’m really excited, and I am having a ridiculous amount of fun with it.  And what better way to kick off the excitement than to share a sneak peek of the first chapter that I’m writing?

 

My first chapter is about stress, anxiety, and depression, and effectively dealing with it. While this may seem dismal, fear not! I decided to write this book, specifically dealing with issues pertaining to the Christian life, in order to confront the tough things we all face.

 

So while some topics may seem more serious or somber, I want to share this message: there is always hope, and God will never abandon us.

 

I hope you enjoy this excerpt. The writing style is slightly more formal than what I use here, on Scattered Journal Pages, because I’m not quite sure who my audience will wind up being for my book. Who knows where I’ll be by the end!

 

Stress: Parts 1 and 2 of Chapter 1

 

If you’d mentioned the word “stress” to me when I was a preteen, I would’ve laughed and said that it probably wasn’t that bad, whatever it was like. If you’d slipped the words “anxiety” or “depression” into a conversation, I might have solemnly said, “Oh, Christians don’t deal with those things.” But I would have been undeniably wrong.

Whether you deal with any of these things or you don’t, or whether your depression or anxiety is medical or emotional, all these things are real. They’re painful, and there is no questioning the fact that they exist. However, they don’t have to undo us. They don’t have to ruin our lives.

 

Stressing Over Work, School, and Life in General

 

When I started high school, I had no idea what I was in for. I was sure I wouldn’t survive. So many days, I did school from 8 A.M. until 10 P.M., with only a few breaks, and I was utterly overwhelmed. I was terrified of failure, terrified of a B, terrified that I wouldn’t learn or something ridiculous like that. I was so scared that I would not get everything done, and of course I did, but I barely made it.

It was awful.

School became where I got my identity, and not who I knew God saw me as; that was poisonous. I placed so much of my worth on how much work I got accomplished, and for that year and the next, stress became my way of life.

I was absolutely miserable.

Maybe you can relate. Maybe your job’s got you tied up and it consumes every thought. You’re a workaholic. Or like in my case, a schoolaholic. Maybe your living situation isn’t the greatest and it weighs on you emotionally. I get it, because I’ve been there.

But that’s not what God wants for any of us.

Anything that takes up most or all of our thought life becomes greater than God in our finite minds. I don’t mean to condemn at all, because I understand what it’s like entirely.

Stress is like an ache, something that gnaws at the depth of your soul. It’s that pit in your stomach that manifests itself when you’re lying in bed and you remember all the things you need to accomplish. It consumes every thought, and every decision is made with whatever is wrong in the back of your mind.

It is so painful, so often unbearable, but many times, it seems inescapable.

And that’s what’s the worst of it.

 

But we are not without hope.

 

Stress Over Things out of Your Control

           

I think a lot. Many times, I worry about other people’s problems and forget that they can be handled by the people whose problems they are. Or maybe they can’t be handled. But it’s alright.

Sometimes I think that I must be responsible for everyone else, and every problem in the world, and that so often causes me uncalled-for stress and pressure.

I’m not talking about “bearing each others burdens,” as Galatians 6:2 says. I think it’s absolutely wonderful to help others, to have compassion, to pray for them, and to support them in their times of need. That is a beautiful thing, and something none of us can live without.

What I am speaking about is when we’re constantly letting ourselves be consumed by things that we have absolutely no power over, be it another’s poor life choices, the happenings in politics, or things that go on in the world.

But it’s not our responsibility to “fix it.” Oftentimes, that’s such a difficult stress to overcome, and simply because we can do absolutely nothing about it.

For us Christians, we don’t have to let that stress overtake us.

Because we know that the world is in the hands of God.

And while it’s definitely not easy, it’s possible to leave the weight of the world on God’s shoulders and not our own. We know that He sees all. We know that He wants the best for us. Yet, we spend days worrying and nights sleepless over what we cannot change.

The evil in the world is not of God’s orchestration; it is because of sin. We live in a fallen world, and we can’t expect it to always be good.

We have pain, we suffer. But this world is not our home, and the way the world works is out of our control.

By prayer and trust in God, let us let go of the misconception that says that we need to handle it all; we don’t.

We have to let God be God, and let Him be in control.

 

So, what do you think? Would you want any more excerpts of chapter 1 this month? Let me know in the comments!

 

*aj

 

BONUS:

I made a wallpaper for my iPod yesterday, and wanted to share it because I thought it really fit. This is one of my favorite Bible verses ever. And oh my word, graphic design is so. much. fun.

When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.

 

Where Does Your Strength Come From?

Where Does Your

I think this is one of the most honest posts I’ve ever written. It’s nerve-wracking to post something so open, and even though I’ve talked to so many of you through comments and emails and everything, it isn’t easy to be straightforward. But here I am, and here’s my post. I hope it encourages you.

 

I’m not always sure how people perceive me, whether online or in real life. Like, what’s the impression people get when they read what I write or listen to me talk? Am I quirky? Confident? Cold? Bubbly? Fake? Scared?

 

I don’t know exactly how people see me, but I know how I see myself so many times.

 

Stressed. Weak. Afraid. Uneasy. Uncomfortable. Anxious. Frozen. Apprehensive. Shall I go on?

 

In my prayer journal this week, I wrote this.

 

“Please give me strength to face this day, this year, this life. I can’t do it on my own.”

 

It’s not as though there are too many major things going on in my life. In my head, of course, I run through a million things I need to do, tests to study for, situations and people to pray for, words I need to write, things I need to practice, jobs I need to do for people, how much I need to work, how long it’s okay to spend reading.

 

And it stresses me out.

 

The more pressures I’m put under, the weaker and more vulnerable I feel. I feel these ugly doubts creep up into my mind, that say things like, who do you think you are? A ‘writer?’ Blogging doesn’t even count.  A musician? An editor? *laughs* You think you could actually ever be good at any of those things?

 

I never voice these things out loud, but I hear them.

 

And when I become conscientious of these thoughts, I realize, wow. I really can’t do this by myself.

 

The more I feel this stress and pressure, these things that I feel like I’m drowning under, the weaker I find myself. But the beautiful thing about my weaknesses is that I do not need to rely on my own strength.

 

2 Corinthians 2:9-10

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

 

If I am self-sufficient and relying on my own strength to survive, I reject God in my life. And for the love of all things that taste like coffee, I don’t want to do that. I know I can not sustain myself and succeed, and so I gladly surrender.

 

Matthew 11:28

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

 

Psalm 18:2

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

 

Rest. Rest is what I need. When I know I can collapse into the arms of Jesus and give Him my burdens, I can face my day. My year. My life.

 

Are you overwhelmed? Run to Jesus, not away from Him. Are you scared? Seek refuge in your Heavenly Father, and not in yourself. Are you weak? Find your strength in your savior, and He will give you everything you need.

 

*aj

It’s Okay To Rest.

It's Okay To Rest.

 

It’s okay to rest.

 

I know, I know. This message that I’m about to share is probably not what most people are going to tell you.

 

We hear Christians everywhere, saying “Do this project!” and “Accomplish this task!” and “Work hard to serve God!”

 

But if we never realize that it’s actually a good thing to rest in Jesus for a while, we’ll easily burn out.

 

We hear messages like Do Hard Things, and get inspired to “work hard for God.” There is a time and place for that, of course. I’m not going to minimize the message of Do Hard Things or any others like it.

 

However, so many times, we try to do something big. Really big. Really significant. But in our own strength. And we burn out and become discouraged.

 

Doing hard things is a great concept, but it can easily become just like the story of Mary and Martha.  Are we so focused on doing things for God that we neglect to get to know Him?

 

Matthew 18:28-30

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

Rest is a good thing. In resting, we get to cast our cares at the feet of Jesus.

 

1 Peter 5:7

“Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

 

Psalm 55:22

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”

 

We can’t depend on our own strength to accomplish big things. For one, we can’t do it alone. And when we try, we become discouraged because we burn out.

 

Rest is important.

 

By growing our relationship with Jesus, we get to know Him. We get to set our anxieties of all kinds aside and rejoice in His strength over our own. We grow in our knowledge of Him, and also our personal knowledge of Him. He isn’t just the Lord, but He is a Friend Who Sticks Closer Than a Brother (Proverbs 18:24).

 

When we rest in Him, and not fret over big projects because we feel obligated to do them, we choose the greater thing.

 

I cited Mary and Martha earlier, and here is Jesus’ response to Martha preparing a huge dinner while Mary listens to Jesus:

 

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:41-42

 

Work is good, of course! But if we work so hard that we lose sight of the One we should be doing it for, it becomes meaningless and can render us useless.

 

Whether you’re 13 or 93, know that it really is okay to rest.

 

Don’t get bogged down by obligation to serve God. Instead, rest and grow in Christ and let that fuel you to do what He leads you to do.

 

Because honestly, that is what will allow us to be effective.

 

*aj