“The human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?”
A few months ago I re-read this Proverb and it again spoke to my heart. Afterwards I felt a deep sense that I should make a series of videos about it. Because for me these simple words tell a profound story about sickness & suffering. They also give insight into some of my own story about the reality of enduring long term sickness.
The proverb explains that the human spirit can endure a lot of things. Throughout history, many many people have had to endure long seasons of deep suffering. In fact, things probably used to be much worse. There were less medicines, less diagnosis, less surgery, less wider help & support. So people have always – throughout history – had to endure suffering, pain, and sickness. Sometimes for their whole lives. So we know that the human spirit has shown, again and again, that it can endure a lot.
HOWEVER the proverb goes on to contrast that “a crushed spirit who can bear?”. Meaning that although humans can endure a lot – there is another state of suffering of the human spirit that can feel impossible to bear.
That is why I wanted to make these videos. To discuss what it feels like and how to endure and find a way through the seasons when our spirits feel crushed.
Another translation of this proverb says:
“A cheerful spirit gives strength even during sickness. But you can’t keep going if you have a broken spirit.””Proverbs 18:14 NIRV
So here we have another meaning for crushed, which is the word broken. The same Hebrew word is also sometimes translated wounded. Basically, this tells us that a season of a ‘crushed spirit’ is characterised by feelings of:
BROKENNESS – WOUNDEDNESS – INNER PAIN – DESPAIR
If you have ever experienced a season like this, you will know exactly what I’m talking about. For some people it may be characterised as depression or extreme anxiety. For others it may well lead them into a time of suicidal ideation/ thoughts of wanting to leave – or escape – this world & all of its pain.
It is certainly a season that is very very difficult to bear and endure.
I have been there myself. I have tasted of the darkness of a season of a crushed & broken spirit. Some might call it ‘the dark night of the soul’. It’s a time when everything feels so dark and oppressive and it’s so difficult to see any light, any joy or to see a way forward. You feel stuck or lost in such a season. It can also be extremely dangerous, especially if someone is actually also feeling suicidal because there seems ‘no way out.’
This is why I made these videos and why I am writing this blog post to introduce the series. I hope that it reaches out to people who currently feel immensely lost, dark and crushed. My prayer is that it helps to bring some hope again – even if just a flicker of a flame. So that you can find a way through. I believe you can find a way through – because I did. Despite not being able to see it at the time.
In this article, I want to introduce you to a summary of each video and the main points in each one. You will discover, as I tried to explain many times, that this content has been inspired by what I have learnt on my own journey since I first started out on my journey of long-term illness (spinal CSF leak & arachnoiditis) in January 2015. Over those six years I have been through at least three intense seasons of ‘a crushed spirit’ as I write about in Breaking Through the Darkness and A Window into a Suicidal Mind.
So these are some of the ways that I have found a way through & discovered a new way of living despite the deep ongoing challenges of living with these conditions & managing them on a daily basis.
VIDEO 1 : ACKNOWLEDGMENT & VALIDATION.
In this video I talk about the importance of being honest, opening up & talking to someone about the truth of your struggles. In my experience it is vitally important to get what is locked in the darkness of your mind out into the open. When it stays stuck on the inside the chaos takes over and the mind quickly snowballs out of control. Getting our thoughts and words out of whirring around our heads can help us to bring more order to our thoughts, help us process and understand ourselves and others better.
It then helps if you can speak to someone who will validate your struggles and help support you through them.
VIDEO 2: ACCEPTANCE & LETTING GO
In this video I talk about my next step in finding more serenity: peace & calmness. That is leaning to ‘accept the things I cannot change’ but also courageously ‘changing what I can.’ This can often include going through painful season of grieving & letting go of who you once were or your dreams for the future. I also talk about learning to live more in the present. Which doesn’t mean we don’t face, process and find healing from yesterday’s trauma. But simply means that we choose not to get stuck there. I also talk about having hope for the future whilst not getting lost in its never ending what if’s.
VIDEO 3: CALMING THE MIND
I start off by honestly talking about my experiences of my mind feeling totally out of control. I remind us that we may sometimes need professional help from doctors etc before we can move out of such an intense season. I then go on to share about these main points:
- Getting what you are thinking out in the open. A mind where thoughts get trapped can quickly turn very dark. It’s important to share how we are feeling honestly with others.
- Protecting your mind – being careful with what you read/ watch/ listen to/ who to talk to. Guard what you feed your mind with.
- Thought replacement (not denial) filling your mind with better thoughts. For me this includes bombarding/ renewing the mind: Listening to and reading things that encourage and inspire you. Love was also something I would try and focus on and was a real anchor for me.
- Gratitude: Focusing on what I do have rather than on what I don’t.
VIDEO 4: FINDING NEW PURPOSE – Purpose in Pain
“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.”Martin Luther King, Jr
- Transform suffering into a creative force for good. Our own experiences put us in the privileged position of being able to feel more empathy & connection. It also puts us in a more experienced place to provide advocacy & fight for justice for others (as well as ourselves). This can include educating others about these illnesses & raising awareness about these conditions.
- I am not what I do: Establishing a new identity. This will include the grieving of letting go of who we once were so that we can learn to discover new purpose and achievement in the small things. I wrote a whole blog article about this a couple of years ago titled: What is my Purpose: Do Small Things with Great Love. In it I wrote about how I was inspired by God to find purpose by daily asking the question: “Who can I show love to today?”
- Discovering a new way of living – Finding what we can do despite all of our restrictions. This can include doing small loving things. It could include spending time with others at home, calling them, writing or sending a message. We can often find more purpose in thinking about others rather than just being consumed by ourselves.
- Bearing suffering as a source of achievement & setting an example to others. I read Viktor Frankl’s ‘Man’s Search for Meaning,’ a few years ago about how he and others endured the desperate suffering of the concentration camp by discovering a higher purpose.
“…the way they bore their suffering was a genuine inner achievement. It is this spiritual freedom— which cannot be taken away—that makes life meaningful and purposeful.”Victor Frankl
This can also include a realisation that us finding a way through can be so significant for those coming behind us on these journeys. Some of those people could actually be your own children, your family or friends in the future.
My prayer for you is that these videos provide some inspiration to help you endure – and hopefully find a way through – your own season of ‘a crushed spirit’. Or perhaps instead they might help to educate you to learn how better to support loved ones who are going through immensely difficult seasons of suffering in many different ways.
We all at times need others to help us come through these darker & more desolate seasons. I truly believe that we are not meant to face these things alone.
“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
So most of all today I want you to know that you are not alone. I have been there myself and it was the hardest and most painful thing I have ever had to face and come through. But I can tell you:
THINGS CAN GET BETTER AGAIN!
So never give up hope – clutch onto it, even if only by your fingernails – and do what you have to to make sure you can stay holding on. Because I do believe one day you will look back and be glad that you did. And maybe – just maybe – your own story of overcoming can then be a guiding light to others. To help them find their own pathway out of that crushing, broken & wounded place. Into the calmer & greener pastures of more holistic wholeness & deeper rest for your soul. Despite your challenging circumstances.
“O Lord… You know me more deeply and fully than I know myself. You love me with a greater love than I can love myself. You even offer me more than I can desire… Take my tired body, my confused mind, and my restless soul into your arms and give me rest, simple quiet rest.”Henri Nouwen
To understand more about my medical case & story please see my new summary video of my whole medical journey please see this video.