I found myself in a mud puddle last week. Not a literal mud puddle, but a mental, physical, emotional and spiritual mud puddle. If you’ve been there before, you know what I’m talking about – a day, or string of days, when no matter how hard you try you can’t get it together. Frustration outdoes all reason. Patience takes a holiday. Love, joy and peace vacate their places in your heart to make room for anger, self-pity, and discouragement. Yuck!
I struggle through these puddles. If my situation were a literal mud puddle, you’d find me chest deep in the water slinging mud everywhere as I slap and twist and tug trying to drag myself out. All the while I dig the whole deeper and sink further and further down.
“Why can’t I climb out of this rut?” I ask myself.
Satan preys on my foolish pride by telling me things like, “If you loved Jesus more you wouldn’t feel this way,” or, “Your faith just isn’t strong enough.” As I prayed that God would see me through, He showed me ways to live in the mud puddle, instead of how to get out of it.
1. Examine the heart: A few years ago we moved into a rental home in Jacksonville, Florida. We unpacked and made a list of things to grab at the store, then loaded the family up to run errands. Before we left I asked Luke if we could bring the dogs (2 Great Danes!) in the house while we were away. We never do that – especially not in a rental house. Luke looked at me like I was crazy and without any hesitation said, “No!” I pleaded my case and ended up in tears as we pulled out of the driveway with the dogs in the backyard. Luke scratched his head trying to figure out how leaving the dogs in the yard brought me to tears.
It took me most of the afternoon to figure it out, too, but finally the light bulb came on. Our dogs bark a lot. Some people are not fans of barking dogs. At our previous rental home the neighbors basically hated us because of our dogs. They left nasty notes on the front door or came to the fence hollering at me. When we drove off on our errands that day, the dogs were not the issue. I feared our new neighbors may be hurtful again. I worried I would feel isolated from everyone I lived around. I longed for companionship and peace.
Often when I fall into these ruts I try to treat the symptoms instead of the sickness. Bring the dogs in the house. That will solve the problem. But it won’t. It will only mask the true issue for a short time, then the loneliness or hurt or rejection or whatever it may be that brought me to this place will rear its ugly head again and demand to be dealt with.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!” Psalm 139:23 (ESV)
2. Throw away self-inflicted expectations: What if the only standard we knew was the Word of God? We didn’t have shelves full of books to offer parenting help or marriage tips. We didn’t have the internet to search for advice every time something stumped us. All we held was God’s Word. Would the expectations you set for yourself look different? I can bury myself under a mile-high list of things I must do … or else. Or else my children will feel neglected and unloved, or my home won’t be a place of peace and rest, or I won’t be a light in the darkness. These expectations trap me under a rock too heavy for me to lift and too smothering for me to accomplish anything worthwhile. It the middle of a mud puddle I’ve realized these self-inflicted expectations weigh heavy on my hope to “have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10 ESV)
3. Sacrifice thanks: I never think of saying thank you as a sacrifice, but God talks about continually offering the sacrifice of the “fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” (Hebrews 13:15 KJV)
Continually, not just when it’s easy. I find this step to be one of the most helpful during my mud puddle periods. And I believe when God finds a heart that seeks to praise him and offer thanks, He will reveal to you all the more the blessings that surround you. Instead of focusing on how long my husband’s work days last, leaving me with all the responsibilities of home to tackle alone, God turns my grumbles into thanksgiving: “Thank you God for healthy children, for work to do, and for a washer and dryer to help me do it!”
4. Trust the process: I spent about two months of my fifth pregnancy on bed rest. Bed rest! Did I mention it was my FIFTH pregnancy? That means four other munchkins ran around every day needing supervision, food, clothing, and an occasional bath. I actually asked God the question, “How can I possibly do more for you laying in this bed than I could do if I were able to be a mother to my children, wife to my husband, and anything else that allowed me to leave the house?!”
But God knew better than me. He used that time not only to minister to people around me, but to teach me A LOT! I thrashed and splashed trying to fight my way out of that puddle, but God had me right where he wanted me.
This step requires faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God. With faith, though, we hold the shield that will “extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” (Ephesians 6:16 ESV)
Don’t mistake this list for the cure-all, get out of that puddle in an instant, instruction guide. Instead, I pray it provides hope for your journey the same way it did mine.
Are you in a mud puddle right now? Or have you ever been there? Which one of these steps is hardest for you? Which is the most helpful? Do you know someone who could use a helping hand as they wade through a mud puddle?