Look to the Sky

Written by: Dr. Tracy Bailey
Illustrated by: Jenny Edwards

If asked to describe myself, I say that I’m a generally optimistic person. Sometimes I can be reserved until I feel comfortable in a new environment, but I have been known to chat with strangers in line at the grocery store, and engage folks sitting next to me on the plane and strangers in hospital waiting rooms. Most of those conversation revolve around something lighthearted and positive like the sunny weather or the approaching weekend. I try to look for the silver lining whenever I can.

There have been moments, though, in the past few weeks when situations and circumstances out of my control threatened to turn my good nature into cynicism and defeatism. I could feel it creeping up like the first hints of a bad cold. Moments when I wondered if the world is on the brink of complete and utter craziness. A mass shooting in Florida, two African American men shot and killed by police, five officers murdered on the streets of Dallas, all on the heels of the first anniversary of the day a young man walked into Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC and executed nine parishioners at a Wednesday night Bible Study meeting. It’s incomprehensible. Overwhelming. Enough to make you scratch your head and wonder if God has forgotten us.

I spent some time with a friend yesterday who told me that events of late were beginning to make her feel as if more gloom hung over us now than ever before. She asked my perspective and I told her what I’m going to tell you now. Although many bad things are happening around us, there is also an abundance of good bursting forth as well. There is a strengthening job market, a rebounding housing market, and interest rates so attractive that refinancing is a dream. Cancers are being healed, health is being restored, people are standing together on the truth and putting aside differences. God is still on the throne, He is still working miracles and we can still trust Him to show up on time.

Just saying the words reminded me of what my default posture should be as I move through this world as a Christian: praise and worship. In the words of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, “Because God is with you all the time, no place is any closer to God than the place where you are right now.” This is true regardless of the circumstances and the events of the day. Whether they be personal struggles, professional failures, or national tragedies, life will get us down and we will become weary in well doing. Nevertheless, we are called to face every day and every moment with purpose, intention, and hope.

If you are in this place right now, don’t worry and don’t beat yourself up about it. You are not alone. We’ve all been there more than once. Just assess your current state and make a plan for digging yourself out of the hole, one spoonful at a time. Of course, serious cases of clinical depression should be taken seriously and treated by a doctor. Understand when your despair is prolonged and deep and seek help. Right now, though, I’m talking about the occasional run of the mill dark mood that can be triggered by disappointment or unexpected trials.  Here are five practical steps I have taken when I have felt myself slipping into mild states of hopelessness and despair:

1.     Gratitude. I’ve kept gratitude notebooks and I’ve even kept a gratitude list on my phone. On particularly tough days, I’ll record something for which I’m grateful at the top of every hour. And I stop for one minute to give God thanks. A few days of this is sometimes just what the doctor ordered.
2.     Surround yourself with positive people. Read books, blogs, and magazines that flood your life and your mind with positivity. One of my favorite uplifting books is One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Find out more about VosKamp’s book at http://onethousandgifts.com/.
3.     Exercise. Getting out into the fresh air with your favorite music pulsing in your ears can be one of the most exhilarating and rewarding gifts you can give to yourself and the people you love. Not only will be feel happier and more upbeat, but you will emerge stronger, healthier and more prepared for battle.
4.     Unplug. Turn off the TV, social media, cell phone. Carve out a few minutes to be still and quiet. Use that time for prayer, meditation, and reflection. Ask God to speak to your heart about how you can be a positive influence on the world. Don’t curse the dark. Light a candle.
5.     Create. Give yourself permission to paint, write a poem, play an instrument. Engage that side of your brain that rejuvenates you and reminds you how to breathe.

      When you start feeling the heaviness descend, recognize that you can look to the sky. You can still choose to believe in love, light and the power of the Most High God.