Emotional Health•Recovery • 6 minutes to read
2020 was bad. There, I said it.
But if you’ve been in recovery or healing for any amount of time, you know: just because something is bad, doesn’t mean we can avoid it.
This last year, many of us experienced loss, trauma, difficulty, and TONS of stress.
With all that 2020 unexpectedly brought into our lives, what does it look like to walk into a new year with purpose? What does it look like to be healthy in 2021? Is it possible?
Call me an optimist, but I say yes.
But, I think for these things to be possible, we need to do at least three things: grieve, reflect, and hope.
You’ve heard someone say, “Good grief!” This reaction is normally one that carries negative connotations. We tend to think this way about grief, just in general. Grief equals bad in my mind. And let’s be honest, the definition of grief isn’t much happier.
GRIEF: deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement.
By its very definition, grief shows up when bad stuff happens.
So, why would I encourage you to grieve, like, on purpose?
Grief, contrary to what feels normal, is like a balm to our souls.
Let me break it down––I encourage you to grieve because, without it, these feelings of loss and suffering you carry will go untreated. And like all wounds that remain untreated, it will get infected and cause more issues.
Think of our pain, loss, and suffering from this last year. Okay, now that you have the list of 48 things you’ve tried to avoid thinking about, I want you to imagine them as a large open wound on your person.
If you walk through your day, allowing life and relationships to bump against this wound, while it’s uncovered and untreated, infection is coming. And once it’s infected, its impact grows.
Grief, though a painful and joyless process, is an effective way to treat the wounds of pain, loss, and suffering. As I’ve learned, grief tends to cycle in and through multiple steps, and for some people, they may experience these steps multiple times.
Here are the steps:
- Identify and acknowledge our pain, loss, and suffering
- Identify how it makes us feel
- Identify the narrative we’ve allowed it to tell us
- Allow ourselves to feel the pain
- Share our pain, loss, and suffering with God and others
- Accept the reality of our loss
It won’t be fun, but anything we can do to avoid the infection of our heart is well worth it.
When you look in the mirror, you see your reflection. For some of us, this is a really difficult thing to do. We don’t like what we see, we see all the imperfections, and we walk away disappointed. But looking in the mirror shows us the truth about ourselves.
This is also what internal reflection does––it gives us the truth about how our inner selves process our outer world. If we want to live a life of health in any area, reflection is essential.
Over the past two years, a great gift that I’ve been given from the Lord has been the practice of journaling.
I can hear some of you thinking, “We get it, journaling has helped you, Trevor. Don’t you have something new to share?”
My response––honestly, no.
With zero exaggeration, the regular practice of journaling has changed my life. Literally. And I think I’ve figured out why.
Rarely, do any of us, at the end of day, sit down with our spouse or our kid or a friend and process our entire day. We often process how work went, if anything cool or fun happened, maybe even share a low point in the day. But my guess is, we don’t share everything.
By “everything” I’m referring to how we experienced our day in our inner world. Our thoughts, emotions, physical reactions, fears, guilt, and so on. I know, if I sat down with my wife and shared my entire day, I’d probably have to dig her out from under the mountain of my day’s experiences. This doesn’t sound fun for either of us.
This is where journaling has helped me.
In my journal, I can be present with my emotions. Reflective of my thoughts during the day. I can put the day under review and explore, knowing that the only thing I’m burdening is a blank page.
Truly, the most impactful realizations and reflections over the past two years have come from my time journaling. Sure, these times are walking along the edge of my conversations with others, my time in Scripture, and the relationships I have. But journaling is what ties all these experiences together and helps me make sense of it.
Journaling is my way of looking at my internal mirror. What’s yours?
Hope and I have a complicated relationship. If I’m honest, hope is a lot like some of my past relationships. When I back off, she starts to invite me back into a relationship just to pull the rug out from underneath me when I start pursuing her.
Hope is powerful. It’s scary. And honestly, after a year like we just had, hope is crucial to living the life God has designed for us.
What is hope? Hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. An expectation for a desired outcome to take place.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but hope is extremely motivating. If we have hope, there is a lot we can withstand. There is a lot we can endure in order to see the potential outcome come to fruition.
But what if hope is dashed? What if a year like 2020 happens and it sucks all the energy and momentum out of our hope?
These are the times where God graciously reveals what we have hope in.
There were plenty of things to have hope in during 2020: politics, our sports team being successful, the vacation we’ve been planning for a year, the birth of a child, holidays with family, events we’ve been anticipating, and so much more.
But these things might have been milked dry of the hope we once carried. They took the wind from our sails and caused us to walk through this year with a limp. And this is where God shows us what’s holding top spot in our lives.
In the coming year, we have the opportunity, on a daily basis, to place hope in the one thing that won’t ever disappoint. The one thing that will remain constant. The one thing that will forever be most beneficial for our souls. You know the answer: Jesus.
As we step into the first year of a new decade, I encourage you to grieve all the loss, pain, and suffering from this previous year. Allow this process to be the ointment your soul needs to take your next courageous steps in your journey. Also, press into reflection. Allow God to use the mirror of reflection to show you where you need Him and where growth is possible. And grab hope’s hand and walk alongside her this year. Grab her hand and walk toward Jesus––He has some amazing things ahead for you this year. Believe it and walk into it.
Happy New Year, everyone! I will be hoping with you.