Yesterday marked two months since I moved to Germany. For the most part, it has been a relatively smooth transition and God continues to be faithful every step of the way.
But this weekend I feel like I’ve hit a wall. I suspect hormones and tiredness have something to do with it, but that does not negate how I’m feeling. It is right that I permit myself to recognise it and admit it. I think up until now I have been so intent on declaring strength and peace and courage in my circumstances (which, again, for the most part, has truly reflected how I have felt) that I have perhaps stifled some of my other emotions for fear of them being construed as negative (whether by myself or by others).
You might be familiar with the movie ‘Inside Out‘ (click for a fun snippet to jog your memory!) It explores this concept and cleverly personifies the different emotions experienced by a young girl. This particular girl, Riley, and her family have just moved from the American Midwest to San Francisco, bringing with it new surroundings, a new school, and new challenges.
Inside her brain, we are introduced to her emotions – Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust – all of whom watch a projection of Riley’s life and respond accordingly, depending on which emotion is operating the control panel at that time.
Naturally, Joy endeavours to remain always optimistic and takes the lead, seeking to see the positive in all situations faced by Riley. However, as the reality of their new life sinks in, Sadness begins to taint more or more of Riley’s thoughts.
The movie follows Joy’s quest to subdue Sadness and restore Riley to the happy-go-lucky girl she once was. But in the end (spoiler alert!) Joy realises that it is sometimes appropriate and necessary to feel sadness too. Having run away from her family, it is Sadness that prompts Riley to return home again, while finding joy in reuniting with her parents. Sadness permits Riley to miss her old friends and recall memories of significant moments of her life back in the Midwest, but Joy encourages her to begin to build that in her new city. The movie illustrates that no single memory, thought or experience can be accurately described using just one emotion. Each emotion plays a necessary role.
So here it is – today I feel lonely, sad, frustrated, confused, weak, upset, rejected, exhausted.
I’m finding it so hard to build friendships, especially in a different language and culture. I’m emotionally exhausted after every church service and every Connect Group. I feel so vulnerable continually putting myself ‘out there’ – to try to connect with people and engage in meaningful conversation – for fear of rejection. For this introvert, it takes so much courage to walk into church every week, full of unfamiliar people, desperately scanning the crowd for the handful of known faces that I have already been introduced to.
But while emotions are valid, they do not always portray truth either. I may feel lonely but I am not alone, for God is with me. I experience sadness or frustration because my daily reality is not always what I had hoped for, but it is exactly what God had ordained for me that day. Confusion, rejection, and exhaustion may seek to overwhelm me but I rest in the knowledge that I can wholeheartedly trust God despite those feelings.
None of us feel on-top-of-the-world at every waking moment, but sometimes we try to act like that is the case. I’m learning that it is OK to demonstrate weakness, vulnerability, and uncertainty because this is when God’s strength, grace, love, faithfulness, power, and glory is best demonstrated.
“…but He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you [My lovingkindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.” Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ [may completely enfold me and] may dwell in me. So I am well pleased with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, and with difficulties, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak [in human strength], then I am strong [truly able, truly powerful, truly drawing from God’s strength].” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (AMP)
So today I cried in public. I’m usually a private crier, and a seldom one at that, but today that was not an option. I fought back tears for the 20-minute bus journey back to the train station and found some relief when a 10-month-old girl initiated a game of peek-a-boo with me on the bus. But, when I could fight it no longer, I sat outside the train station and cried. It wasn’t pretty and it certainly wasn’t something I was comfortable doing, but in that moment it was necessary.
However, I did not remain in a state of feeling sorry for myself (even though I did feel sorry for myself in that moment). Instead, I sat on the train and prayed. I listened to worship music as I walked back to my apartment. I sat on the balcony and journaled. I talked through my spectrum of emotions with God; all my frustrations, my concerns, my desires. And slowly peace returned to my heart once again.
Today may be a difficult day (and I say that lightly, considering the devastation in London last night), but it doesn’t detract from my confidence that:
- God brought me to Germany for a specific purpose (of which I am still seeking clarity in) and I experience pure joy knowing that I am at the centre of His will for my life.
- Despite insisting that there was nothing particularly special about me choosing to move to Darmstadt, since arriving here I am more and more convinced that God led me to this area for a reason and I am so grateful for a couple of existing friends who have made the transition inexplicably easier.
- I have no doubt that Move Church is the right church for me, having been clearly led there by God. Therefore, the right friends, the right opportunities to serve, and the right provision (e.g transport to make the 80km round trip) is also included as part of God’s plan.
- My focus for this season is to learn the language and to learn the culture, both of which are progressing well at a good pace (even if I do get a little impatient at times!)
So if you’re struggling today too, tell God how you’re feeling. Every raw thought, feeling, and emotion. He alone can give us the peace, courage, and comfort that we so deeply desire. We can give Him our worries, our frustrations, our fears, and our disappointments, and He will always respond with peace and rest.