God’s grace is sufficient

The first time I received therapy, one of the main issues I learned to handle was avoiding my emotions. For most of my life, I had believed that virtue consisted of ignoring emotions. Courage, for example, is not lack of fear; courage is doing the right and proper thing despite fear. Resisting temptation is largely ignoring what feels right and instead doing what one knows to be right. Love is not a feeling; it is a conscious choice to help another person, to make that person’s wants and needs more important than one’s own wants and needs, to be a servant to others rather than making other people one’s tools to be used or one’s obstacles to be overcome.

Anxiety and depression, then, were merely bad feelings to be shoved aside. They were impediments to doing what was right, but I could still do what was right despite those feelings. If my anxiety sometime was expressed in outbursts of rage, then that rage was simply a bad temper, one more feeling to try to control. If my depression made me resist getting out of bed or getting work accomplished, I got out of bed anyhow and got my work done anyhow, no matter, how I felt. In some ways, those accomplishments were a noble victory; in others, they reflected an incomplete awareness of my life, a lack of emotional health that was keeping me from reaching my potential.

My first therapist helped me to understand that feelings are important. Feelings are inner communication, warning that something is not right and needs to be corrected. This therapist helped me learn how to recognize triggers that lead to anxiety. Awareness of what was out of balance in my life helped to establish ways of correcting the imbalance rather than muddling through the situation. But being able to list the reasons I might feel depressed in 2020—reasons such as quarantine and isolation, political turmoil, job uncertainty, aging, and changes in the family—were not enough to help me overcome the feelings of depression. They were not enough to stop me from making some bad decisions in response to those feelings.

My second therapist is helping me work toward a new awareness of balance. She is not telling me to ignore my feelings, but she is demonstrating how to make a cognitive response to an inaccurate (or incomplete) feeling. We have discussed some of the typical human responses to stress—seeing only the bad and none of the good, feeling blame for problems over which one has no control, and assuming that things are not going to get better no matter what. One of the most perceptive approaches she has taken is to ask what I would say to a peer going through the same kinds of problems and discouraging situations. What I would say to someone else, I need also to say to myself.

Other factors are also part of the therapy she is recommending. I need to get sufficient exercise, find family members and friends who are supportive, and find ways to relax and recover energy. I pointed out that reading is my primary way of relaxing but also a way of escaping problems and being isolated from family and friends. (I have finished fifteen books since the beginning of the new year.) Because of downsizing of my department at work before the virus crisis, and because of the quarantine we have endured for ten months, I don’t have contact with friends outside the immediate family. Along with ways to balance those limitations, I am also learning to remind myself that “God’s grace is sufficient.” Could I lose my job because of further downsizing, accentuated by the virus crisis? I am doing my work duties to the best of my ability; I have no control over what the administration decides, and God’s grace is sufficient. Do I feel guilty that the congregation I serve is so small and has financial struggles? I am being faithful to God and his Church, and God’s grace is sufficient. Do gloomy Saturdays further deplete my strength to get things done—both necessary things and healthy, helpful things? I do what I can, and God’s grace is sufficient.

I am grateful to my online friends for your prayers and your encouraging words. I am grateful for medications and therapy, blessings from God that are provided for health and productivity. I am grateful that God’s grace is sufficient, even though I often forget that promise and look for something more. I am confident that, with God’s help, I will weather this storm, and that better things are coming. J.

13 thoughts on “God’s grace is sufficient

  1. Tend to think of our response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) as a bigger disaster than the virus. One of those things we cannot change, however.

    This prayer, https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/prayer/serenity-prayer-applying-3-truths-from-the-bible.html, is an old favorite. Since it seems to be a favorite among therapists, I am sure you have heard it before, but others may enjoy it.

    We live in the “Information Age.” It is an era where anyone and everyone makes constant demands for us to do “something.” Me too!

    Since we are finite, we have to choose. So, we ask, “what is God’s Will, for my life?” The only thing I know to find the answer is to search the Bible and pray.

    God gives us people to love. That may be the best answer He gives us.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I often suppress my feelings as well. This past year I have had a lingering anger… I didn’t even know why. Anger at the lack of being able to connect, anger that I have been stuck at home so long… I don’t even know. But I think I subconsciously blamed God. I wasn’t sleeping well and I finally knew I had to address it. I had to force myself to talk to God, to remember all the good he has done, and to accept with through faith that he was still doing good even though I don’t see it right now. I had the best night of sleep last night I have had in several weeks. Deciding to end my days with prayer and a devotional so I don’t talk my anger to bed with me. Thanks for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. In this new house of ours that reminds me of the movie The Money Pit, there is a front room, like a parlor of sorts— it’s quiet. I’ve put some of my books in a breakfront that had been my grandmother’s — sadly there is not room for all my books —- however I thought of you — I thought of the quiet and how nice a place it will be to read— your reading is deep and healing — it gives you knowledge but also solace!!
    Thank you for sharing your journey.

    Liked by 1 person

    • How nice to find a quiet space where you can be alone with your thoughts and your books. We also do not have a room that would hold all my books. (We would need a room the size of Professor Higgin’s library in “My Fair Lady”!) But with the children grown and out living their lives, I have reserved a room for reading, and many of our family books are in it. God’s blessings to you in your new place. J.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. One of my favorite OT names for God is “El Shaddai” – the All-Sufficient God. He, and He alone, is our sufficiency. What a comfort that is when we come face to face with our own insufficiency!

    Praying for, and with you, as you work this all out.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. While my formal education is in the behavioral sciences and I am not any sort of certified professional (nor do I play one on TV), it’s been my observation that many times anxieties and emotional swings are influenced by age and can also change with life priorities, along with events… and from simply maturing from our various relationships. Sounds like first therapist might have fulfilled an earlier response to your needs at that age and life events of the time. The second one seems to be recommending some changes to meet the current need, perhaps largely induced by this pandemic. Nonetheless, I understand it can also be tough to shift therapists after you gotten to trust one for so long. God is a good anchor in which to hang tight, in refuge until your storm moves on, rather than flailing about in a seemingly relentless sea of charged emotion. I am sorry for your turmoil, but very encouraged by your attitude for staying the course. You never picked this battle but you have immense courage to meet it head on, my friend.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Doug, for your kind words of encouragement. I believe I learned as much as I could from the first therapist (and am grateful for her help). I hope to make progress with this second therapist as well. J.

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  6. It sounds like you’re doing all you can. I actually do look back at earlier bouts with some satisfaction that I persevered in doing the healing things when it felt like doing them was climbing a mountain. I hope you will feel that you conquered when you look back at this.
    Take care.

    Liked by 2 people

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