Perhaps you are a single mother who’s working full time. Your kids are with a babysitter or in day care all day. You feel angry, bitter, guilty. Or maybe you’re a pastor or youth worker in a church. You spend every single hour serving God, loving people, and making a difference in the lives of others. Yet your own marriage is a disaster. You’ve lost the art of communication with your spouse. Passion is only a word in the dictionary. You’re ready to call it quits.
Perhaps you’ve gained thirty pounds over the last year, and you’ve finally admitted that food is your only true friend. You may have a problem with drinking, or are afflicted with a sexual addiction, or find yourself emotionally or physically abusing others. Whatever your challenge may be, it has you in a nice grip from which you can see no escape. One thing for sure: You are exhausted. Each day is another twenty-four hours of pain and struggle. You scream inside but no one can hear you.
When our lives start to sputter and we forget to follow our dreams, we tend to become stagnant. We stop thinking, caring, observing, and reaching out to others. This is usually subtle, but it’s the first critical stage of coming distractions. Because of this stagnation and cessation of emotional growth, we stop giving our bodies and minds the proper stimuli they need.
Fear, feelings of guilt, animosity, an unforgiving spirit, loneliness, frustration, or a Lone Ranger mentality can siphon off our energy, potential, and zest for life. Left unresolved, these attitudes develop a life of their own, creating stress that over time can lead to emotional exhaustion. Thoreau once said that most people “live lives of quiet desperation.” They look good on the outside but internally they are a seething mass of pain and fear, walking a tightrope of emotional instability, hoping against hope that no one removes the safety net, because they know they are heading for a fall. Until this quiet desperation is dealt with, the exhaustion will remain, and there will be little hope for inner healing.
What do we do when life seems hopeless or out of control? We move into areas we think will help: more work, more alcohol, more obsessive/compulsive activity, more entertainment, more frantic escape from reality. But it’s always more and more of the wrong thing. Instead of helping us regain control of our lives, it produces an internal environment that evolves into burnout. We feel an uncontrollable sense of disease, but because we’re on a vicious cycle of unproductive activity, we keep doing the same unproductive activity over and over. When our burnout and stress builds to a level at which we cannot endure pain any longer, we cross the line to physical and mental exhaustion.
Before long we forget who we are and what we’re about. We start to decompose. We no longer feel special. We wonder if God has even taken away our giftedness. We look into the mirror, and we don’t like what is looking back at us. We no longer see a beautiful creature, designed in the image of a loving God. Instead, we look through bewildered eyes and see only what is wrong.
We forget that joy comes from within, never from external sources. We fail to remember that spiritual emptiness produces impotence. And because we have selective amnesia of what is truly good, loving, and kind, we become displaced persons, every bit as confused and alone as hapless refugees who stumble onto a foreign shore.
If you are struggling to find joy in your life, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help. Our team is skilled at navigating issues surrounding addiction, depression, stress and anxiety. For more information, call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.