My strategy for dealing with my children’s bad dreams has always been to turn all the lights on and talk about it … in as much detail as they can remember. Somehow, out in the open, in the presence of accountability, the monsters lose their power. Most of the time, the dreams just don’t fit together or hold up under close scrutiny. By dissecting them in the light, they can be seen for the disconnected, irrational, blown-out-of-proportion thoughts that they are. Even when nightmares are based on genuine trauma, I can provide comfort and reassurance based on the present reality.
Our circumstances have convinced us that they’re powerful. But, like bad dreams when you turn on the light, emotions and fear have a way of wilting when exposed. Instead of spending time and energy indulging them, now is the time to hold up the lamp of Scripture and talk to our Father about what’s true. This is where the tide will begin to turn. In the illumination of His Word, the monsters will be seen for what they are. Feelings are real … but they’re not reality. They don’t stand a chance.
Our main focus when our circumstances overwhelm us is to persevere … and to press in to God. I was up late one night battling extreme fear, sadness and anger toward a painful and difficult situation that I was working through. God and I were having a very out-loud conversation and I was protecting my heart for all I was worth. I argued. I cried. I bucked and balked. I knew that He was telling me to get up and get my Bible from across the room. My defenses were at full capacity, and I really just wanted to slip into that place where I didn’t have to think or feel. I was also way too tired and emotional to flip pages trying to find something to make myself feel better, so I could stamp “God told me” on it.
I tried to calm down and go to sleep, but I couldn’t. Have you ever tried to sleep with someone staring at you? I finally threw off my covers, stomped across my bedroom and sat down with my Bible. I didn’t flip very long. The page opened to the first book of James, and my weary eyes were drawn, as if by a magnet, to verse 4. I began reading … Let endurance have its perfect result … Let’s just say that this particular verse wasn’t the encouragement I was looking for. Let’s also just say that I didn’t really appreciate this nugget until the next morning when God unexpectedly and clearly affirmed it through a friend … at which point I sat down, asked forgiveness for my attitude, and unpacked it in its entirety.
“Let endurance [cheerful hope, patience, constancy, patient continuous, waiting] have its perfect [complete, of full age, completeness – of labor, growth, character] result, that you may be perfect [complete, of full age, completeness – of labor, growth, character] and complete[complete in every part, sound, entire, whole], lacking [fail, be absent, be destitute, wanting] in nothing.”
I read a definition that said, endurance is “the ability to stay in suffering with hope until God accomplishes His purposes”. In giving me this verse, His focus wasn’t on the endurance … it was on His heart’s desire for me.
That says more than just “hang it there”, doesn’t it?