When Life Sucks…Check Your Lenses!

Have you ever worn glasses? Maybe they were sunglasses, or prescription glassed, or maybe prop glasses for a performance or that “perfect touch to a look.” Whatever glasses they were, didn’t you just hate when you had a smudge on them? It ruins your view, messes with your ability to focus and see clearly, and worst of all, they’re often a bear to get off the glasses! They smear and smear until they finally start coming off.

This world is often like that smudge to the lenses of our vision. Our lenses are developed by both our environments (things we’ve been exposed to both tangibly and intagibly) and by our upbringing (or lack thereof) combined with the things we’ve learned work and don’t work. Consequently, everyone’s perspective is a bit different, but we all see the same world. Contrary to popular beliefs (and even a few studies), there is an objective reality, but it usually takes a couple perspectives to recognize the objective from the subjective (another evidence that God created us for community, but that’s another post for a different time).

So, just as my site is even called, Through Nerdy Lenses, how we see the world is our unique perspective, or our unique set of glasses. Some wear rose colored glasses, seeing the world in ways better than the situation seems to justify. Others wear thick glasses, zooming in on the details some of us breeze on by. Yet others choose to “act cool” and try to go without glasses, bumping into a wall here and a stool there, trying to hold a certain appearance but bumbling through the paces. And just as each person is unique, they’re perspective is.

And yet a commonality of all people is that we all get smudges on our glasses. Some people are fastidious cleaners, removing every tiny smudge when it comes around. These are mostly optimists and a few realists. The optimists are constantly trying to help people see clearly because they’re seeing the best and wish others to see it too. Realists are often cleaning glasses because they want as objective a perspective as they can get, not being too hopeful but not being too depressed. (For the purpose of this post, we’ll just assume everyone is doing this out of the best possible intentions and interests!).

Then there’s a group called pessimists. Some of these folks are truly mislabeled realists who just see a bit more of the darker side off things. And yet, some of these are almost unwilling to have their glasses cleaned because they can’t remember what the world looks like without smudged glasses. After all, if you appear all funky, how can one believe you’ll clean something up. Unclear lenses can make for horrible judgments of people and bad choices made because of fear and snap decisions. But hidden in this group is a group that just seems to be the muck bringers. No matter where they go, or how hard they try to clean their glasses, smudges keep coming!

And for those of you in this group, you’ve probably heard the term “depression” more than not. When I was young, there was “the blues.” Then came “depression.” Nowadays, we have mild depression, moderate depression, severe depression, recurrent episodes of depression, and the king Daddy, manic depressive disorders. So, why are so many people so deeply saddened by the world around them? Let me submit an answer for your consideration.

So many are struggling with deep sadness or grief because so many of us are getting our glasses smudged! Now, before you throw cabbages and tomatoes at me and declare that I’m a jerk, I am not intending, by any stretch of the imagination, to undermine or diminish the reality of being in a depressive state. Most who have walked with me over the last decade have seen me in such a state. So, I deeply empathize! And when I let my walls down, it is apparent that I still battle that demon!

Nonetheless, as one who has been, and often is, in the trenches, I am calling out “there is hope!” And I’m not a snake oil salesman. In point of fact, I couldn’t sell water to a thirst man! But I have learned a lesson or two over the years, and one such lesson was to check my focus, or as I put it here, “check your lenses!” (As a point of empathy, I know this is hard to receive. Sometimes, the darkness closes in so close that you can’t see any light, no hope, no way of escape. I beg you to trust me that morning is coming, and even if it is the smallest sliver you’ve ever seen, there is light coming!)

A phrase I’ve held on to for over 20 years now is the old adage that “the darkest hour is just before the dawn.” Sometimes, the moment when we’re ready to give up is the very moment when we’re about to see a victory, if you will. The pain, grief, sorrow, or trial is just about to break (if not end, altogether), and yet, we can’t see that; so, we’re ready to give up just when we’re about to get relief. Like a man walking in the desert, we fall into the sand and die of thirst, just on the other side of the ridge where an oasis exists. Thus, I’ve often pushed myself over that ridge, no desire to carry on, but not willing to accept the cost of giving up.

When I’m focused on my pains, my failures, my shortcomings, and the darkness, nothing will get better, and each day is just another day of monotony and pain. I’ve wrestled with the demon who tried to convince me that it’d be easier to just be home with the Lord than to continue to serve Him here. But as a wise pastor friend once observed, “when you’re in the place of self-pity, everything you’re hearing is a lie!” When you’re in that place of thinking your life is over and nothing will ever get better, please, dear Reader, know that the enemy of your soul is whispering in your ear! And I beg you to garner whatever teaspoon of strength you have, resist his lies, and submit to God.

Well, what does that look like? How can I? My life is trash; you don’t know my situation! How can you tell me to gather my strength? I have none! How can you tell me to resist him and submit….what does that mean, anyway? Submit to God?

Those are all very good questions, and I’ve wrestled with most of them. If you’ll allow me, let me try to answer them.

First of all, submitting to God is as simple as accepting that you’re going to keep going. The nuances come when the direction you’re going is not consistent with what He’s told us to do. But at it’s simplest, submitting to God is just trusting Him for one more sunrise, one more noonday, one more sunset, and then trusting Him for one more sunrise again. Eventually, you look back and realize He’s carried you through a dozen days, half a year, a decade.

But even then, how does one gather strength when they have none?! I remember feeling that way when I came across an article in which a Navy SEAL noted that when most people are ready to quit, they’ve only given 40% of what they can give. 40 PERCENT?!? That’s not even half-way! That’s not even the MAJORITY of one’s energy! FORTY PERCENT?!?!? But I can tell you, truthfully and with over a decade of experience, that he’s right! Now, I don’t recommend everyone run at 90% or 100%; that’s for the extreme emergencies, and you need a little reserve for such moments. But I have heard dozens of people tell me, “man, I could [raise 3 kids on my own] like you’ve done!” And I marvel because, I would’ve said the same thing before I had to! When we are willing to push, just the smallest mustard seed of faith, Jesus makes us able to do AMAZING things!

“But you still don’t know my situation!”

You’re right! I don’t. The nasty detail of this kind of communication is that I rarely get to know other people’s stories. I truly enjoy more personal interactions! But the reality remains. There’s a saying the world loves to tout, “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle.” And you know, the longer I live, the more true I’ve found this to be.

You may not be raising 3 kids on the spectrum. Maybe you’ve got just one kid, and he/she is a low-functioning autistic; you’re heart is broken, wishing you could communicate more with your child, wishing you didn’t wish for a night to yourself once in a while, guilt-ridden by the feelings you secretly hold. Or maybe you were “slept around” and you’re literally paying for it in child support. Perhaps you got into drugs, and they laid your life bare and scorched the ground of your life. But whomever you are, please here me when I tell you, my Jesus is stronger than that!

There’s a fantastic song by Reliant K, and it almost always makes me cry, if not full-on ugly cry weeping! It’s called “For the Moments I Feel Faint”, and the chorus says this:

Never under-estimate my Jesus!

You’re telling me that there’s no hope,

I’m telling you, “you’re wrong.”

Never under-estimate my Jesus!

When the world around you crumbles,

He will be strong; He will be strong!

Reliant K, For The Moments I Feel Faint

Dear Reader, if you have found yourself feeling hopeless, like you can’t face another day, let alone the next half-hour, please turn to Jesus! There’s an old hymn, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.” Equally good is the Third Day tune, “Cry out to Jesus.” It really is as simple as choosing not to live for yourself anymore, accepting His Lordship over your life and His sacrifice in your place, and then choosing to pursue a relationship with Him. He’s waiting for you! He loves you so much, He’s willing to wait until the end of your life or the end of all things, just to know you. Think of that for a moment: The God of the Universe, through Whom all things were made, Who sustains all things, HE wants to know YOU! He wants to sit down for coffee with you, walk along the path with you, help you with your kids, help you balance your checkbook, and every aspect of life. And He wants you to know Him!

And if you are a believer, but the trials of life have beaten the joy out of you, you are not alone! Not only are there many believers who suffer with you, our Lord suffered with you. Jesus even expressed that very feeling on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?!” That deep grief when so much pain has been endured, when your strength has been gutted, and you find yourself just wondering, “Why, God? Where the heck are you!?!?!?!” He is right there, with you, holding back the darkness from consuming, providing that little bit of cash to keep you from going broke, causing your kids to fall asleep a little quick that one night, or bringing someone to help get you out of the bad situation. He is right there! And He’s not afraid of your grief; He’s asking you to give it to Him! He’s not avoiding your pain; He’s asking you to lay it on Him, and He will carry you! Look up, look into the waiting eyes of our INCREDIBLY loving Savior and Lord! (I’m typing this through eyes filled with tears, both for your situation and for the immense love I know awaits you, if you’re willing to press into Him!)

Godspeed – 1 Corinthians 15:10

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