Struggling through survival mode? Through our suffering we grow and learn to identify our strengths. We just don’t see it at the time. If you are reading this, odds are that you have survived things you probably thought you wouldn’t. You have most likely spent at least one night in the darkness, wondering if you would ever see the light again. Maybe you even had a period of time that you stopped searching for the light altogether. Until one day, when the rays of light began to find their way through to you.
Looking back now, during those hard times, can you see the way God was still there? Still working on your behalf? Who or what was the life raft He threw your way? Did you reach for it or were you still blinded by pain, navigating life in survival mode like I was?
For me, I feel like God has had to work hard. Through different seasons, different trials, and circumstances I can picture all the people, the exact moments, and conversations where I know now that it was Him trying to reach me. Trying to save me. But I was too wrapped up in my darkness to see it then. I had built a thick concrete wall around me and could not let anyone in, not even God.
I’m not proud of many of my decisions or behaviors during that time of darkness, but I know now that I did the best I could to survive. I latched on to several unhealthy ways to cope. Avoiding the one thing that would have really set me free, Jesus.
I held so much anger and resentment toward God for “taking away my mom” that I was not willing to let Him in. How could I trust Him again with my heart when I felt like He was the one who broke it? For many of us that lose our mother at a young age I imagine the unanswered question ‘Why?’ is tough to move past. I needed someone to blame for the pain I felt and that someone was God.
Throughout my journey I can now see how God placed the most amazing, nonjudgmental best friend in my path. She was there through high school, we kept in touch through college, and to this day she is still a part of my life. My high school basketball coach ended up being someone that I could reach out to when I spent so many nights home alone wondering if I would make it through to the next day. In college my friends would invite me to church, but I would never go. I was not ready to forgive or perhaps to acknowledge the painful place I held buried deep inside.
I spent so much time feeling alone, unloved, and unwanted even when in a crowded room surrounded by friends. Even with championships, trophies, and honor societies. It was easy to put on the mask of what I knew others wanted to see, yet still feel so broken, isolated, and ashamed.
I realize now that throughout most of my life I have remained in ‘survival mode.’ When the Motherless Daughters Ministry found me, I was at a breaking point in my life. The battle for my soul had reached its peak and God was telling me that it was now my turn to step into the ring. I either needed to take that leap of vulnerability to step toward healing or I think I may have fallen to the bottom of a deep, dark pit. So, tearfully, and afraid, I took my first step toward the light.
Thirty years after the sudden death of my mother I had no idea the grip that the pain of her loss still had on me. I had no idea that my inner child was still afraid, untrusting, and held such a strong fear of abandonment that it played out in every day conversations and actions. I had been in survival mode all these years and did not even realize it.
Becoming aware of this was a scary place to be. Realizing I needed to let go of the façade of control that I held over my life. Giving a voice to the painful memories buried deep inside of me and beginning to learn how they still affected my life as an adult has been a difficult, eye opening, and rewarding experience. But it takes courage. Courage to admit that you are not okay. Courage to accept help that is out there and actually face the things that you worked so hard to bury just so you could continue to put one foot in front of the other.
As I began to realize that I was never truly alone, that God was always with me and a part of me, I was overwhelmed with so many emotions. I felt unconditionally loved yet full of shame, sadness, and regret. I was not worthy of what Jesus has done for me. Understanding and accepting that Jesus had never given up on me has been a humbling journey. Realizing that His love is not something that we can ever earn is both humbling and freeing. There is freedom found when you are willing to be vulnerable and put your trust in God.
Along the path that I have walked I have learned so much about myself, my faith, and my God. You cannot control your way or behave your way into Heaven. You must submit and surrender the power and control you think you have over your life. This is scary and difficult in particular for those that have suffered through terrible loss and trauma.
Those of us who have faced trials and suffering are often shot straight into survival mode. It’s in our human nature. But, in survival mode, we often lose sight of our spiritual nature. Overrun by the feelings of our humanity in a fallen world we become led by the flesh and earthly desires when operating in survival mode. At some point you will be able to step off that hamster wheel of just surviving. You will take your first breath realizing that you don’t have to have all the answers and it is okay if you are not the one in control.
Not everyone goes through a period of losing their faith after grief, trauma, or other life circumstances. But those of us who lose their way can still find themselves facing a new dawn. In the absence of what was ‘known’ or ‘comfortable’ we begin to see what God has ahead of us. What God has meant for us all along and we begin to align our path with His.
Throughout our life circumstances we may have veered off the path of His original plan, but we will always end up where He wanted us to be. There will be a time in your life that you are re-awakened to His light. There may even be a specific spot or location where you can visualize when this happened to you. When He finally found His way through to you. Where your vision becomes clearer as the fog of survival mode begins to evaporate. And if it hasn’t happened yet, don’t worry because it will.
Our time spent just surviving can last days, weeks or years. Often, we are unaware that this is what is happening in our lives. Or, if you’re like me, it could even be decades before you realize you have still been going through the motions of survival mode. Before you find the courage to forgive and peel back the layers of grief that are still painfully hiding inside you. But when that day comes, I pray that you will have the courage to take that vulnerable step forward toward the light of His grace.
Song of the Day: Phil Wickham, ‘Battle Belongs’