I took these two photos on my recent trip to Wandearah. As soon as I took them, God dropped something into my heart to share, and as always, it bounced around in my head while I thought about how to word it. I would love to say that I always get woken up in the morning with astounding flashes of wisdom, that are pre-prepared in a grammatically correct blog, but, sadly, this definitely is not the case. My dream for Hope Images has always been to bring hope through my images. This has been something I have been slowly working on over time and by combining writing Essential Hope blogs with the photos, it takes me a step closer to that. Hope is the light in our darkness, and without hope, it is so easy to be overwhelmed by the circumstances around you. These two photos are a perfect illustration of the difference light can make. I wanted to share some things I have noticed throughout my life about hope: things that have helped me feel more hopeful, things I have learned about the power of hope and light, and just general observations.
These two images were taken on the same day, literally taken about five minutes apart. The only difference is in the one on the right, the sun has broken through the clouds and illuminated the surroundings. The shot on the left looks dark and depressing. There is a completely different feel to it than the one on the right. Again, the only difference here is the light. No matter what you are going through in your life, continue to allow God to shine a light into the darkness. Allow Him into the parts that you really would rather keep hidden. Darkness thrives on secrets. Secrets keep us bound. No matter what is happening in your world, find a trusted person that you can talk to if you are feeling hopeless. Note that I said a trusted person - be careful who you trust with your innermost thoughts. There are some things that need to be discussed with a counsellor or other qualified professional, even your pastor. Don't spend one more day living in the darkness. Start taking steps towards the light.
I don't say this lightly: I have been through some stuff. We all have. In previous blogs, I have talked about a time in my life where I was in a mess. I was making destructive choices because I was dead inside and hiding away in darkness. I was overwhelmed with life, hiding by burying myself in work, which led to a cycle of guilt for being away from my daughter for so long and working so many hours. The more guilty that I felt, the more of a failure a felt, so instead of letting someone know where I was at I kept going, pretending things were ok, while systematically isolating myself from friends, family, God, and anyone who may have been able to shine a small light into my situation. I got myself to this place because in my life there were a series of traumatic events which I didn't deal with properly. I pushed them down, ignored them, and decided I was strong. I used up every single reserve that I had and then when I had nothing left, I went chasing things to make me feel happy. Those things led to more guilt, feeling of failure, and self-hatred, and then made the isolation worse. Taking the first step to talk to God after shutting him out for so long was hard, but it was so freeing. Taking the first step to talk to people that I had shut out was even harder, but you know what - people were kind. They were loving, they were caring, and they had been there all along wanting to support me, but I wouldn't let them.
Romans 8:28 says, 'and we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those that love God and are called according to his purpose for them'. It doesn't say that as Christians, life is rosy and full of sunshine and rainbows. It says that no matter our circumstances and what we can see around us, God is working to bring it all together for our good. This is the hope that we can cling to: that God is good, that His word is truth, and even when life feels like a complete nightmare, He is the hope and light that sustains us in the darkness.
When you feel like you are overwhelmed with darkness, make sure that you have some strategies in place for yourself. I like to retreat to the beach and spend some time praying, thinking, and walking. Make sure that you do the things that you need to do in your situation to take care of yourself. It is okay to admit that you need to stop for a while and just rest. It is alright to say 'I can't do this today'. Something I do a lot of is journalling. I journal what I am thinking, praying about, or just what I am feeling. I also like to take photos (shocking I know), so if I am feeling a little stressed out, I will set my alarm for 5:00 am (which is a lot of people's nightmare) and drive out to the Barossa to shoot the sunrise. It isn't about the images I produce. It is about time alone, recharging, creating and seeing the beauty that surrounds us. It helps me to remember how blessed I am even in the midst of tough circumstances. If you are struggling, have an on-call person that knows your stuff that you can reach out to and say, 'Hey I need you to pray for me, I'm struggling.'. Have an escape from life in the form of your hobbies and passions.
Who do you follow? Who are you seeing over and over again in your feed? I am not the social media police and you can follow whoever you want to, but if you struggle with body image issues, there is no point following people that constantly post bikini selfies and leave you wishing you measured up. If you struggle with depression or anxiety, following people who constantly post negative posts are probably not wise people to follow. Fill your feed with people that encourage, people that lift you up, and people who positively challenge you. I had to go through my feed and remove a number of people that I was following who were not adding value in any way to my feed. They may have been funny, pretty, cute etc, but they were not posting things that I found encouraging, uplifting, or useful to make me think positively about myself and my goals.
A little bit of light can make all the difference in the world. When we have no light, we tend to feel aimless and like we are drowning in the darkness. It isn't the way life is supposed to be. If you know anyone who is struggling, please share this with them. If you are struggling, please reach out to someone today. Hope allows us to keep moving forward. Hope is the light in our darkness.