We all go through difficult seasons of life where we ask ourselves, “How did I end up here and where am I going?” We see life as if through a fog, desperately groping for something to cling to in the confusion and chaos.
Whether it be addiction, loss, a disorder, a broken relationship, or a change in career, we all experience the confusion that comes with living in a broken world.
“Clarity” is a word we desperately need to emphasize this decade, as every new year offers us a chance to reflect on who we were and who we are becoming. Yet, how do we find clarity in such a fractured, broken world filled with so much confusion, heartache, and pain? Where is the clarity when we lose our jobs, our health, or our loved ones?
Life seems to be so clear and easy when we are children, only to become adults and discover a very difficult reality: life is not fair. We will all suffer and we will all walk through seasons of darkness where the pain feels overwhelming.
So … what then? How do we find clarity in the midst of life’s messiness?
Find a few people worth trusting to do life with.
Everyone longs for intimacy, especially in the seasons where nothing is stable or certain. We love our friends and family when life is good, but the human spirit desperately longs for love and companionship in the presence of darkness, pain and loss.
A good friend is hard to find, so I’m not implying that this is as simple as joining a friend-finding app and uploading your ideal comrades. The truth is, good friends are very, very rare; yet, I do believe they exist. Haven’t met them yet? Keep looking (and in the right places). Church, small groups, coffee shops and social events often afford us the opportunity to connect with others.
Whether you meet them tomorrow or in a year, there are people out there who will care about you and who will love you where you are, not where you want to be. You may not have met these people yet, but they do exist.
Seek counsel from someone who is older and wiser than you.
Some of the greatest words of encouragement and strength I ever received came from people who had gone through what I experienced and yet, they were still here. In fact, they were living their lives with purpose and meaning, filled with hope for what God was doing in their lives. One such person was a guy named Joe who I met when I lived in Los Angeles.
As a guy who was struggling with a severe anxiety disorder and depression, I was in one of the darkest places I’d ever been in my life. Joe knew what I was going through from his own experiences in the highs and lows of life.
He didn’t placate me with words like, “Get over it, Andrew. Just think happy thoughts.” Instead, he reminded me that I wasn’t going to be stuck in the pain forever. Once after a walk around the city he looked and me and said, “Andrew, this too shall pass.” He didn’t pen that phrase, but he sure knew how to say it without coming across as some giddy optimist who didn’t know what I was facing.
A warm embrace and words from someone who had been in my shoes, but had lived to tell the tale were a soothing balm to my soul.
Be intentional about who you choose to become.
Whether we care to admit it or not, we create the future through the choices we make today.
If you want to become an astrophysicist, you don’t get there without study, hard work and the right educational training. If you are suffering with a mental health disorder, you’re not going to find healing if you turn to distractions to drown out the noise in your head. Get the right help. That may look like therapy (which I highly recommend for everyone), medication or something else. Maybe it’s addiction and you don’t know how to recover. Ask for help; it’s available. Maybe you’ve lost someone and the pain is eating you away. Don’t shut people out who care about you, but rather invite them in to the darkness to sit with you.
You choose what comes next, even though it is often incredibly difficult. We create who we become.
Never underestimate the power of prayer and God’s Word.
One of the greatest lessons I learned several years ago in my spiritual journey was that my long and drawn-out prayers didn’t impress God, nor did they mean closeness with God. I could spend an hour praying and feel incredibly devoid of God’s presence.
Brennan Manning addresses this very matter in his book, Abba’s Child, which challenged my understanding of what it means to be in intimacy with the Father.
In reading his words, I began simply praying, “Daddy, I am yours.” For a few weeks, I simply left my prayers at that and then read the Scriptures.
Learning that my mere moments of intimacy with Him were enough (and delighted God) brought such joy to my heart! Speaking with Him continued into my day, as I was riding the train to work, doing the dishes at home, or taking a walk. Rather than it being a set aside time of 30 minutes to an hour, it became a lifestyle of conversation. He wants our hearts and our love, not our legalistic rituals.
If prayer for you looks like taking a walk and talking with God, then do that. If it’s getting on your knees and praying in your room, then great! If it’s training yourself to step away from performance-based Christianity by simply praying, “Daddy, I am yours”, then start there. There is no right or wrong way to know God and seek His face.
It’s OK to approach Him with what you have, rather than trying to pretend to be someone you’re not. He will meet you with grace and sufficiency for what you lack.
Even if you follow these steps that I–a mere mortal–have suggested, the pain and clarity may still remain for a time. If I had discovered the secret to finding perfect clarity, I wouldn’t need Jesus or wise counsel from others (which I desperately need every day).
It’s alright to be in a season where things don’t make much sense, because nothing outside of the spiritual lasts forever–not even the pain. As my friend Joe said, “This too shall pass.”
What isn’t good for your soul is forfeiting intimacy with others, denying wisdom from those who have been there before, choosing a destructive path and turning away from intimacy with the Father.
If you lack clarity right now, know that you’re not alone. There are people who love you, there is a God who created you for more than merely surviving another day, and you always have hope for a better future.