T-Swift’s song probably (definitely) did not have this intent, but in many ways, I have asked these questions of myself in my own mental battles. When you’re in the woods, the storm, the fires of life, escape is the immediate desire. Some sense of normalcy is longed for with an intensity impossible to describe.
Maybe you have been “in the woods” for a while. Longer than you wanted, anyway (let’s be honest, any time in the woods feels like too long). How do you live well in such chaos?
Jesus fully admitted that “in this world, you will have trouble.” And I think that is where I often make camp. I pitch my hole-y tent there, trying to stay dry, avoiding the pain as much as possible, feeling overwhelmed.
“But take heart. I have overcome the world!”
I forget that Jesus gives me the opportunity to step out of my tent into the storm with confidence that my God is with me and will guide me even in the dark. I don’t forget that I am in the woods. I don’t suddenly stop struggling. I simply remember God’s faithfulness, take up my camping gear, and walk. The truth is, I’m not ever as trapped as I feel.
Things to remember when you’re in the woods:
1. You’re not alone.
Your experience is not isolated, strange, or hopeless. Some people are in the same woods as you are, or have been in the past. Find these people. If you can’t find them, know that they exist. Emmanuel, God with us, is still with us. He will never leave or forsake us. He is a good Shepherd that will always find us, always carry us, always bring us to the next patch of grass or tiny stream that will sustain our hearts.
2. You can (and should) take steps to help yourself. You’re not helpless.
Even if all you can do is say “help” to someone, that is an accomplishment. Be okay with being a robot for a while. Ask for prayer, start seeing a counselor, write down things you are thankful for or little goals for the day.
3. Feelings are not always reliable.
Emotions can be wonderful, when they are good. Even bad feelings can sometimes be helpful or necessary. But feelings do not equal truth. Feelings can exaggerate, catastrophize, and condemn. Know that feelings are fickle friends. Never bank on them.
4. Even in the woods you can see the sun.
Even when you can’t see it, the sun is there. Every day of our lives it will be there. It may be hard or near impossible to see at times, but the sun remains the sun whether I believe it is there or not. C.S. Lewis was oh-so-right when he wrote, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” Light wins. Good wins. You’ll see glimpses of it, even in the woods.