Discipline During Restful Seasons
For a few months now I have diligently been working through a chronological Bible plan that will result in me reading the Bible within a year. This is my second year dedicating time to reading the Bible all the way through. My husband is also using this plan, and much to his frustration, I am 41 days ahead of where I should be (and where he is). This is because I was spending many a morning tucked into my cubicle at work, shoving a banana with peanut butter in my face and pouring over God’s word- flying through multiple days in just an hour. It was a sleepy season- pretty easy for the most part with a few of those falling dreams that make you jump. We had moved out of the shock-filled season of a surprise pregnancy that was followed by a miscarriage at ten weeks. And then out of a chaotic season of literally living in two states at once. I was getting up every morning at 4:30am to work out and then roll into work to eat my breakfast and take in the Word.
Was is the key word here. None of that is happening anymore. You know why? Because right now things SUCK.
I am absolutely being overly dramatic- but just grab a coffee, hang tight and revel with me in my internal dialogue.
I am 13 weeks into a very welcomed and very much wanted pregnancy. As I mentioned before, I already lost one baby to a miscarriage at 10 weeks. There was much anxiety and many questions around my ability to carry a child to full term- Was I even capable? Was it my age? Are the effects from past decisions now catching up to me? All of that to say- I should be joyfully wrestling through the woes of the first trimester.
I am NOT joyfully wrestling through the woes of the first trimester. I am miserable. Strep throat? Flu? Pneumonia? Cold, fever, chills? Sprains and bone breaks? I am good to go- powering through like a workhorse. Nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting? Jesus, Father God, take me home because maybe I’m ready to leave this place. End it now because this is too much for me (like I said, dramatic- but I am a total wimp). I was just not cut out for those three terrible ailments. And you know what the Lord gave me? All three of them. Every day. Most mornings it is so bad, I am puking in my mouth while running to the bathroom before my alarm even goes off!
Ok, enough T.M.I. I think you get the point. Just know, it hasn’t been pretty and my attitude hasn’t been either. I’ve felt terrible and it’s compounded by the guilt I feel for not actually being joyful over something so many people don’t have the privilege of experiencing. Things have been so rough that I have felt very little excitement over this pregnancy, and I know how absolutely selfish and awful that is- which then makes me feel even worse. Severe, constant sickness in any form (whether morning sickness, autoimmune diseases...etc…) can be very isolating and lead you into a very dark place. They can rob you of so much, including the energy to be diving head first into the Bible or your relationship with God. I hear you- we are called to be joyful in the struggle and we should always be striving towards that goal but it is HARD and it is OK if you have not perfected that yet. That type of joy is forged through many a season, many a lesson and some of us are still learning.
I think feeling this distance and disconnect from God is a symptom of a variety of struggles, including (but not limited to) sickness, loss and depression. We all go through tough seasons and we come out of them changed and equipped for more. But it is our job to build up an arsenal of survival, so when the impact hits, we don’t fully crumble. We do this through discipline during our easy seasons.
Think about it from a public health angle: When faced with infection, healthy bodies have a better chance of fighting it off than those that aren't healthy. A healthy body is equipped with the necessary substances to turn into a war machine. During the infection, a healthy body might drain itself of vital resources combating the disease and may need major recovery but it still started with what it needed to fight. Unhealthy bodies, like those of children who grow up in impoverished areas without access to good food and water, aren't equipped to fight the way healthy bodies are. They succumb much quicker to disease, have higher rates of death and also fall prey to illnesses that have minimal effect on healthy bodies.
It is no different with our spiritual health.
Yes, tough seasons are made for full reliance on God and His strength but it is still our responsibility to put on the full armor of God. This way, when those struggles come and we are hot, weakened and exhausted- we are equipped to fight. In our good days we should be actively preparing for the storms that will come (I get it, that's gloomy but its truth. Paul tells us we will struggle in our lifetime as Christians). You invest money in retirement, right? Why would you not invest in your future self?
So, practically, what does this look like? Looking back on my restful season and the work I put in, here are some things I see benefiting me now.
1. Stay in the Word consistently. In good seasons, it is really easy to get distracted by all the goodness going on around us and we often find ourselves putting God to the side. I know I personally have had thoughts of “ well, its ok if I miss just this one day of reading- I can always catch up tomorrow”, only for that one day of missed reading to become five days of missed reading. The Word is life-giving in all seasons but aside from the obvious fact that, if you aren't consistent in the good times, you sure as heck won't be consistent in the bad times. Although we need the Word breathed into us every chance we get, we also desperately need the consistency during the tough times.
2. Memorize scripture. There are moments on my rough days when I don’t have the energy to open my eyes, much less dive into studying the Bible. I am also currently in 1st Kings and 2nd Chronicles where it’s detailing the structures of the temple King Solomon built. Although I am sure one day this will truly rock my world, right now, it is not doing a dang thing for my sick and tired soul (I mean, I am sure it is doing something...but…). So on those days, when my current reading feels like a belly crawl through a jungle floor covered in bullet ants or when my belly is literally crawling up my throat, I rely heavily on what’s cemented into my brain. I repeat God’s Word over and over and luckily, the Holy Spirit is more than happy to dredge up accurate and needed scripture from my built in brain library.
Here's the thing: you don’t have to comb the Bible thinking “Ok, let me be on the lookout for rainy day scripture”. You just have to find verses that speak to you or chapters that you feel are applicable to you and put in the work to memorize them. Maybe even ask (no really, ask) the Holy Spirit to give you a little *DING* when you read a verse that you should memorize- and then memorize it. Even if it feels like it makes no sense for you to lock it down in your brain. Trust the Holy Spirit- He knows WAYYYYYY more about your future than you do.
How I memorize: I memorize one line a day. Is that slow? Yes. Could you do more? Absolutely! I memorize by writing it down ten times in a row and then writing out everything I have memorized up to that point in one go round. That way, what I memorized yesterday will be actively recalled (and further cemented) today. Tailor this to you and if you are memorizing a whole book or chapter, maybe don’t write down EVERYTHING you’ve memorized up until that point but only a few previous verses.
3.Keep up with your community of women. It is so easy when you start that amazing relationship or start busting it at a wonderful new job to drop your community, skip a day at small group, let your coffee dates with friends be replaced with dates with your new man...etc. It is so crucial that you don’t let your community slip. It can be hard to balance the new thing with the old things but it is so important that you fight for those relationships because when the rough seas hit, it will be those relationships that will keep you afloat. They will fight for you on the days when you can’t even talk on the phone because if you open your mouth you are going to be sick. They will fight for you through prayer and encouragement. They will support you, bring you ice cream and hold your hand when you go through that break up or get that diagnosis. They will come out of the woodwork to feed you, physically and spiritually. Most of all, if you have truly fought for your relationships, they will understand where you are in the roughness and they will meet you there- with grace and love that is a visual representation of the grace and love your Father has for you.
Whew. I feel light headed from all this writing (or maybe it’s the extra four pounds of blood my body is producing for this little nugget). These definitely aren’t fix-alls and this article isn’t going to change your situation today, but I hope it helps you feel less alone in your struggles, equips you with some fighting tools and inspires those of you in the good seasons to put in some well invested work. Until next time, I will be working on finding joy and gratitude in this season. Thanks for listening, Ladybirds. I love you all.