‘It’s okay not to be okay’, you’ve probably heard the saying before. Maybe in a song, maybe in something you’ve read or maybe from a friend, either way I’m sure you’ve heard it before. Although I had come across the saying before I never really understood the depth of it – until this summer that is.
You see, I have a natural tendency to brush things aside, especially my emotions and how I really feel about something and this summer made me realise that that is a toxic way of living: it’s not healthy for me, nor for others around me.
Those who are faithful Insight blog readers would have realised that the blog has been off the grid for a while now, so I guess I owe you all a brief explanation. It has been a busy year. From January onwards I was on a year in mission and service programme (YIMS): the first segment of the course lasted for roughly four to five months and I was placed on a seminary campus learning with the theology students as a little prep for my mission trip. The second half of the trip was supposed to be a mission trip abroad.
In the beginning, things were going great my aspirations were coming true; at the end of last year I put down in my diary as a goal for 2022 that I wanted to become a Bible worker (someone who works for a local church and helps share the gospel in the community through various means). God started me on that journey this year through the YIMS programme. I was accepted as a Bible worker for a year in the beautiful, surfer's paradise. The exotic but westernised New South Wales of Australia. God did exceedingly abundantly above all I thought or asked for (Ephesians 3:20). I was all set, all I needed was my visa (and a little injection of cash). I was waiting and was hopeful of leaving the shores of the UK by July, latest August.
Everyone was excited for me as I shared where I was going for my mission trip. Outwardly, I was cool as ice but internally I was uncontrollably excited. I love evangelism (another word for sharing the gospel) and Australia was going to be a great learning curve on how to reach the community as well as an opportunity for me to step out of my comfort zone. The church I was heading to in Australia was so vibrant and I was super excited to soak in all I could during my time there. I was also buzzing about being able to export all the amazing evangelism techniques I would acquire whilst there. On top of that, it was going to be a new start, a new adventure across the world and of course a pleasant weather change too.
But then June came and I got an email from the New South Wales Church Conference (they were in charge of getting me to Australia and past immigration), this was the sum of the message:
“… all volunteers that were scheduled to come are now not going through to come to Australia to serve…. We would like to thank you so much for your time. Our humblest apologies… for this outcome.
Please don’t give up on the calling God has for you to serve.
There are many positions available out at the moment, please continue to apply and keep shining for Him.
I hope there is another chance in the future for you to come and serve here in Australia.”
My heavy heart sunk to the depths and it shattered. I was disappointed. I was gutted. And at the same time, I felt lost. I didn’t know what to do next. My whole year was planned and based on me venturing over to Australia. What was I supposed to do now?
Well, remember that natural tendency of brushing my feelings aside I mentioned earlier? Well, it occurred here.
Now if the disappointment wasn’t bad enough, I had to add the topping of breaking the news to my friends and family. They were gutted but offered me so much encouragement and hope which I really needed. But amidst all of this I was yet to face up to my real emotions about the situation. I brushed my feelings aside, and I accepted the reality but I didn’t deal with the feelings of that reality. To help mask my real emotions about the situation I said to myself “It's okay Douglas, these things happen, I guess it wasn’t God’s will.”
However less than 2 months later my true feelings caught up with me. The encouragement I received from the email to continue to shine for Jesus and to not give up on the calling God had placed on my heart occurred. In other words, the calling which I knew God put on my heart began to fade, the fire for Jesus flaked away and I stopped shining for Him.
The reality was, I was struggling on all fronts: physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally.
Going to Australia hit me hard and I didn’t accept that it was okay not to be okay with not going. I brushed my feelings aside and acted like everything was fine when it wasn’t. I pretended like I didn’t really care but I cared so much. I didn’t deal with how I felt and that plagued me from the inside out. I began to despise God internally as a result of the heartbreak, I thought He was holding back what I believed was the best thing for me, I thought He was withholding my heart’s desire which He saw me inscribe with the fingers He made in my white journal just a few months prior.
I was hurting. And my hurt was plaguing everything else in my life.
I didn’t accept and come to terms with the fact that it’s okay not to be okay.
One of my good friends, however, gave me some amazing counsel which really helped me get through the fog of disappointment that was clouding my life. She advised me to sit in my emotions. She explained it as taking time aside and just thinking about 'how you are feeling’, ‘being honest with yourself’ and writing those realities down. But before doing so, invite the Holy Spirit into the process with you. As you do that, she advised, and you come to terms with how you really feel, your true emotions, open your heart to God and tell Him everything.
You see for me I hadn’t yet acquired or reached a higher echelon in my relationship with God where I could tell Him the rawness of my feelings. For me, in my mind it was too much for Him, being so real was too… disrespectful to God, so to speak. How could I let God know how I really feel? How could I tell Him the feelings plaguing my faith in Him and which were limiting me from seeing past the murky cloud I was stuck in?
But isn’t that what a relationship with our Heavenly Father is about? Isn’t that what prayer is about? Speaking to Him as to a friend?
And so I tried it, I sat in my emotions, in my feelings, I invited the Holy Spirit into the process and it changed everything. Other issues were unearthed that were buried underneath the surface. Emotions which were unbeknown to me surfaced and God revealed to me how they were affecting my ability to move on, my ability to take my friendship, my relationship and my faith in Him to a higher level.
As I came to Him with all of my burdens, as I lay all my cares upon Him I was reminded that He cares for me (1 Peter 5:7) and as I did that He gave me the rest that I needed (Matthew 11:28). The weight that was weighing me down, the weight that I could not handle alone was all of a sudden gone and I learnt that it’s okay not to be okay.
My favourite hymn ‘My Lord and I’ has these beautiful lyrics:
“I tell Him all my sorrows,
I tell Him all my joys,
I tell Him all that pleases me,
I tell Him what annoys;
He tells me what I ought to do,
He tells me how to try,
And so we talk together,
My Lord and I”
As I recall the tragedy of Job, as I read the Psalms, as I recall my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane troubled and pained, as I picture Him on the cross agonisingly screeching “My God, My God, Why hast thou forsaken me” I am reminded of the fact that – it’s okay not to be okay, it’s fine to tell Him that you are not okay, to be real with Him about how you genuinely feel.
My prayer for you is that you may tell Him all of your sorrows and all of your joys, my prayer for you is that you may tell Him all that pleases you as well as what annoys – my prayer for you is that you can be real with your heavenly Father, whose love and care for you is unfathomable.
My prayer for you is that your heartache, your pain, your disappointment may not draw you away from Him but closer to His warm embrace, as He comfortingly encircles you in the arms of His love and whispers to you in His still small loving voice - “it’s okay not to be okay.”