Today we’re sharing an excerpt from Elizabeth Woodson’s new book, Embrace Your Life: How to Find Joy When the Life You Have is Not the Life You Hoped For. Order your copy here!
I love watching home renovations on TV. So on the rare occasion I’m actually watching TV, I tend to only watch HGTV or The DIY channel. One of my favorite home renovation shows is Holmes Inspection. It’s a show about people who have major problems with their homes. Whether it’s a huge leak in the basement, a crumbling foundation, or heating/cooling issues, these folks are usually at their wit’s end. So, they reach out to the main star of the show, Mike Holmes, to come help them out. Mike is an experienced contractor and home inspector who will come and assess the situation. Then he and his team will fix the issue.
The common thread between all the episodes is that although the homeowner can generally see they have an issue, they tend not to know how deep it goes. During his inspection, Mike will start by examining the clear indicators of damage, like a pool of water on the basement floor. But, he will then pull up the floor or pull back the walls to find that the real problem is a cracked foundation or a wall that is crumbling because of termites. As an inspector, Mike is able to look beneath the surface to help the homeowners understand the roots of their problems.
It can be hard to recognize the roots of our longing because, if we’re honest, we’re all masters at masking it with certain behaviors or thought patterns. Often this masking is subconscious, as we do our best to navigate life. It is also different for each person, with everyone having a unique set of behaviors or thought patterns they use to immediately soothe any discomfort or pain that might arise in their soul.
For some of us, our value and identity are closely tied to who we are or what we do. For high achievers, when expectations about a particular situation or relationship are not met, we will not only see the situation as a failure, but will attach that label to ourselves. In response, we might experience an onslaught of negative thoughts and speech toward ourselves or others. These overly critical words become a slow dripping tool of destruction. In the moment, we don’t realize the damage our words are doing to us and others. But the depth of our sadness sometimes produces strong and powerful language that keeps us in a cycle of despair.
Or maybe it’s not negative thought patterns for you. Maybe, if you are anything like me in moments of longing, you find it easier to drown out all that negative noise by focusing all of your efforts on seeking comfort. I can find myself believing that, If I’m comfortable, then everything will be okay. All that’s needed is one more meal, one more drink, one more show to binge, one more hours-long session scrolling through social media, one more text from an ex, one more random trip to Target, or one more [fill in the blank with your favorite comfort coping mechanism]. I wish I could say I haven’t consciously or subconsciously said this to myself, but I have. I’ve learned the hard way that trying to combat pain by filling up on things that I think will make me feel good doesn’t work. As much as you and I might try, nothing can fully ease or soothe our pain but the Lord.
Or maybe you don’t drown out the negative stuff. Maybe you turn it all the way up, and instead of directing it inward, you direct it upward. After all, knowing that God has the power to intervene in your life, but sometimes chooses not to do so in the ways you want him to, is a hard truth to accept. So instead of a solemn disappointment, some of us process our real emotions by becoming angry with God, who we feel is responsible for our pain. We raise our fist and shake it at him with a barrage of “Why?” questions that are almost entirely unanswerable. We wanted easy explanations. We wanted God’s ways to match our plans. But they didn’t. And now, well, heaven’s gonna hear about it.
No matter what it looks like for you in your darkest hour, your longing can feel overwhelming and lies can sound like truth. So please know this friend, you are not a failure, your pain is not the enemy, and God has not abandoned you. He is present with you in your pain and is able to bring you the healing that your soul desires.
But, in order to experience God’s healing, you and I have to first recognize the symptoms of our longing. In other words, when there is water dripping from the ceiling of our lives, we need to pay attention. Self-deprecation, overly negative thoughts and speech, over-consumption of any kind, and/or anger with God are all signs that we have a deep source of pain that needs to be addressed. And then, instead of only focusing on the surface issue, (for example – trying to indulge on food or entertainment a little less often, or practicing positive self-talk), we have to go deeper than that. We have to get honest about the source—the roots—of our longing.
But like the folks on that home renovation show I mentioned previously, we can’t go through this examination process alone.
We need help.
P.S. You can experience teaching from Elizabeth Woodson in person at Lifeway Women Live Oklahoma City! Join us September 16-17, 2022. Learn more at lifeway.com/lifewaywomenlive.
Elizabeth Woodson is a bible teacher, writer, and speaker, who is passionate about communicating the rich theological truths of Scripture. She loves helping people internalize their faith and connect it practically to everyday life.
Elizabeth works as the Institute Classes and Curriculum Director at The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas where she teaches classes on the Bible, theology, and spiritual formation. She formerly worked as the Single Life Coordinator at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship under the leadership of Senior Pastor Dr. Tony Evans. Elizabeth is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary with a Masters in Christian Education and a cohost of the podcast Culture Matters.