For some time, I have started several columns without ever finishing them. The ideas were there, but the energy was lacking. Last year during our magazine’s (Just Between Us) 20th anniversary, I was able to pull favorite columns from the last several decades. In God’s goodness, He gave me a break. I was empty and tired. Having just come through a three-year health crisis with my daughter’s and husband’s health, I was burnt out. Until we came through, I didn’t realize what it had taken out of me. I couldn’t just go on as normal after those intense years of depletion. I had to recognize where I was at and be honest with myself and God. What was my body, spirit, and coldness of heart telling me? Unfortunately, our fast-paced culture doesn’t make it okay to stop; we don’t give people time or permission to recover from the storms of life.
Not long ago, the phone rang. It was a depleted pastor’s wife who had been through breast cancer, depression, and church conflict, and she was spent. She, too, needed to recover from life. You can’t just keep going on to the next thing. Sooner or later there will be some kind of fallout.
The realization hit me that I couldn’t go on like this anymore. By opening my hands to release my exhaustion, I was also opening my hands to receive God’s provision which started with an intimate knowledge of what I needed. God was whispering, “I feel your fatigue and I’m concerned about you. You need time to recover.” He didn’t let me escape that truth.
When people ask me now how I’m doing I say, without guilt, that I am in a time of recovery. For the last couple of years, I have been trying to figure out how to work through this needed phase in my life.
Scripture has many examples of recovery phases – God rested on the seventh day and Jesus after long days of draining ministry with needy people, slipped away to what? Recover! Into the hills ALONE (Matthew 14:23; Luke 6:12). The dictionary defines recover as “to get back, to make up for, to regain the strength, composure or balance of, to reclaim.” Recovery gives us the necessary time to regain our balance, slowly allowing God to put things back together again. Ecclesiastes 3:7 puts it another way, “There is …a time to mend.”
Here are five things that have helped me as I have intentionally worked on my recovery:
- RECOVERY IS NECESSARY. We need to see the importance of allowing God to restore. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Psalm 23:3, “…He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul.” I’m glad these verses are in the Bible; it indicates that at times our souls need restoring and rest.
- RECOVERY REQUIRES STAYING CLOSE TO GOD. With all the chaos my life had become, God began to restore my soul in the stillness – the times I spent in His Word and in prayer. There was something very healing that came out of the stillness, particularly in being still and knowing that He is God (Psalm 46:10).
- RECOVERY IS HARD WORK. You look at the painstaking work of disaster recoveries and you can see that the work will take months or even years. I am two years out of my personal storm and I can honestly say I’m only now feeling like I’m back to my old self. Mending doesn’t happen overnight. Counseling may also be necessary along the way to help work through our fragile emotions.
- RECOVERY INVOLVES TAKING CARE OF YOU. When everything was finally stable, I felt God saying you need to focus on you now. I needed a break in a big way. So I took a “mental health” vacation and went for a long weekend to visit a friend. By changing the scenery, I felt God slowly restoring my soul and re-energizing me physically. I didn’t have to think about responsibilities; I could sleep in; I could have fun. As Proverbs 17:22 says, “Laughter is good medicine for the soul.”
- RECOVERY REQUIRES A FRIEND WHO WILL WALK WITH YOU. You need friends who will validate your raw emotions without judgment and spiritual answers while giving you hope; friends who will walk beside you with encouragement, prayer, and fun.
While difficult experiences can enlarge our souls, they also cut deep into our lives. Recovery creates growth – it gives our mind, body, and soul time to rejuvenate, recharge, rebuild, and repair. Let’s give ourselves and others permission to recover and mend so God can make us whole again!
*First printed in Just Between Us Magazine, (justbetweenus.org)
SHELLY ESSER has been the editor of Just Between Us (justbetweenus.org), a magazine to encourage and equip women for a life of faith, for the last 26 years. Additionally, she is an author and freelance editor. For the last 15 years, she has been caring for her chronically ill daughter and husband. Her heart and passion is to walk alongside women to help them deepen their faith, and bring encouragement and hope, especially in life’s difficulties. She and her husband have four daughters, a son-in-law, and live in suburban Milwaukee, WI.
Radical hope. Compassionate change. Equipping those affected by chronic physical and mental illness through community and education rooted in Jesus Christ.