Stress is a common problem in today’s modern world. Almost everyone has been caught in the tenacious grip of life’s stress. Many people think of stress as just something that happens, not something to be too concerned about.
Yet, for others stress can seem overwhelming. Now, when I talk about stress, I don’t just mean the little inconveniences of life. Overwhelming stress is the kind of stress that really makes us feel like we’re in a pressure cooker. It could be fear, depression, panic attacks, grief, the loss of or someone we are close to emotionally. Stress can also be from an illness or the stress we feel from taking care of someone who is severely ill.
Stress can be mild or it can be so overwhelming so overpowering that can make us doubt if we really want to go on with life. This is what author Thomas Moore writes about in his book, Dark Nights of the Soul, when he says, “At one time or another, most people go through a period of sadness, loss, frustration, or failure that is so disturbing and long-lasting that it can be called a Dark Night of the Soul.
A Dark Night of the Soul is the profound stress I am talking about.
Is this where you are in your life? Has your stress become so pervasive, so debilitating that it’s reached a point where you begin to wonder about the very fabric of life? Have you reached your dark night of the soul?
If you’ve reached this point then I want to give you one thing today, one idea, one image… that might be able to help you make it through this difficulty. What I want to give you what I call the image of the light at the end of the tunnel. Now we’ve all heard of this idea. It’s the idea of hope, of a way out from life’s difficulties. But have you ever felt it? Knew that such hope was not just possible, but a reality?
I know I have. Let me relate to you a story from my childhood.
When I was about 14, my friends and I decided to go exploring a cave near Knoxville Tennessee where I grew up. Not far from my home, a cave existed that was supposed to take you over a half mile underground from one part of an abandoned area to another.
Now one of the guys had been in the cave before and thought he knew how to get to the other side. At least he said he did. We’d soon find out that he didn’t really know the way through but his brother did. Of course his brother wasn’t with us.
So about ten in the morning we set off. At first it was fun, crawling like explorers in the darkness, sliding over the wet rocks. More than once we headed off in a wrong direction and soon found ourselves boxed in with no way to go further. And we were forced to retrace our steps. After about an hour and a half in the cold darkness of the cave and not being sure where we were going, we all began having some doubts as to what we were doing. Paul the boy who “knew the way through the cave,” had finally confessed that he didn’t really know where he was going.
So after falling into a three foot deep pool of water getting totally wet from the waist down and having one of our flashlights go bad-we all started feeling uncomfortable. Now, I’ve never been that much of a risk taker, and I at least really began having second doubts about this whole exploration trip. At one point the cave narrowed to a shallow point that was only 10-12 inches high. And then I began to get really scared. My mind began imagining wild things. I have visions of getting stuck and becoming trapped. Yet, because the cave was extremely narrow and I was in the middle, I couldn’t do anything but keep crawling.
And then my flashlight went out. And now the fear really began coming up into my throat. It was all I could do to keep from crying. And it seemed like there was no end to the cave, I kept moving ahead beginning to lose hope. And finally a shout came from Paul who was up in front.
“I see a light. I see a light.” Hearing his elated shout. And I craned my head up, twisting- and suddenly I saw it too- a small spot of light. It was a light at the end of the tunnel. The feeling of joy was overwhelming. A light, a light meant that we were going to make it out. We were going to overcome what had become a nightmare.
And I’ll never forget crawling out of that cave, into a field full of cows. I remember the smell of the grass, and the beauty of the sunlight. It was overwhelming. And I remember thanking God and feeling so grateful that we have made it to safety. And what this experience at fourteen taught me, I keep to this day. And that is you cannot underestimate the power of knowing that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
So if you’re suffering from overwhelming stress, debilitating stress- if you reached your dark night of the soul don’t become dismayed. Don’t give up hope. You can indeed overcome your stress.
Find a doctor. Find a therapist. Find a method that you believe in that will help you reduce or illuminate your stress. As a doctor who’s worked with hundreds of people with severe overwhelming psychological issues I know that you can succeed.
Don’t let stress be a dark night of the soul that keeps you feeling hopeless. Don’t let it ruin your life. Trust and have faith. You can indeed make it. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Remember some key important questions you need to ask yourself.
Will you seek?
Will you knock?
Will you open the door to your own heart?
Because if you seek a solution, and if you keep knocking, knocking and struggling, you can find a way out. If you open the door to your own heart- your dark night can be overcome. Your stress can be managed, reduced, or even eliminated.
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