A dear friend – more like family, really – back in the States recently wrote me about some intense emotional difficulties she was having. Something really rough had recently happened, and she was also under lots of situational stress at the time. Altogether, a good environment for crazy feelings to erupt. She talked about having flashes of joy and periods of peace, but always being so close to the brink, teetering on the cusp of despair.
I’ve had my own run-ins with strong, negative feelings and situational stressors lately. I wrote her back, sort of from my own experience. Apparently, by some twist of Providence, it was helpful. Maybe it will be helpful for some of you. Maybe not. But, here it is, with some minor alterations:
“So, here’s what I’m learning here. This tug of war between peace and anxiety, depression and despair – it’s at the surface level of my soul, and yours. It’s the surface of the planet, where weather changes rapidly and nothing is sound. In periods like this, when I’m fighting for joy and what I’m getting is anger, it’s important to realize that these feelings are on the surface. But there is another layer to my created emotionality. There is the deep, still center. The planet core. There, “Christ may dwell in your heart through faith.” It’s when all hell is breaking loose on the surface that we have a chance to learn to burrow down deep, to meet Christ inside us, and to commune with him in the interior rooms. The mystics referred to this as mystical union with Christ, and they talked about sinking down with your mind into your heart until you’re seated with Christ in your still center and knowing each other there. Put another way, peacefulness is a feeling that reflects the reality of peace. Joyfulness is a feeling that reflects a reality called joy. Despair is a feeling that reflects a reality called desolation. And anxiety is a feeling that reflects a reality called chaos. Now, here’s the thing – you’re pressed but not crushed, struck down but not destroyed. The realities of joy and peace – whatever is happening on the surface – are already inside you. 2Peter is clear about that. The inward you IS being renewed day by day, whatever is happening to the outward you. Inside the planet core you HAVE peace and joy. “The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” That is all inside you already. You’re not waiting to get it. But it’s in the basement, where Christ is sitting with a hot cup of coffee and a good, sturdy chair to get ‘stuck’ in. Go downstairs, and if you don’t know how, ask Jesus for directions. He’s already there, so he’s found the stairs.”
I pray you find that space inside you, and learn to dwell with Christ in your own heart by faith.