When You Find Yourself in a Dark Hole, Start Digging

When You Find Yourself in a Dark Hole, Start Digging

When you’re in a dark hole, it can feel like there is a loss of hope, but you can dig yourself out with some wisdom and encouragement.

It was a hole that I had fallen into. I was in a deep dark hole where the sun didn’t seem to reach.

That is what a mental illness can be like—All-consuming, overwhelming, and a  ‘blocking out’ of the reality of anything possibly being different. The fog bank is all-consuming.

I was in a hole, but I was not alone. Alongside though were bible characters who had also been in a similar place. Elijah, Moses, David, Jonah, Jeremiah, Job, Naomi, Paul, Peter, Judas, to name the ones that we know of that had emotional struggles. Even Jesus struggled with his dark night of anguish and a time when the sun refused to shine.

God handed me a spade and encouraged me to start digging.

The Anonymous Hole Dweller

One of the interesting observations I have made from blogging for many years now is that there are many people that I would call ‘Anonymous Hole Dwellers’. They know they are struggling; they want help but don’t want others to know about it.

It’s a privacy thing.

I’ll solve this on my own, D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself), and there is a fear of what others will think and how they will react.

So they reach out to find help on the internet. They Google search their pain-filled questions, see a page or two here on Turning the Page, spend some reading, and then they are gone.

They remain anonymous – unknown.

I want to give them a spade and encourage them to dig. Perhaps Turning the Page can offer a couple of footholds for their journey up and out.

The spade

To me, a spade represents hard manual labor. I’ve used a spade many times. In fact, I own about six of them. Each of them slightly different and suited for various tasks.

I have dug so many holes and drains that I know the feel of a good spade.

It’s dirty work: sweat, mud, and tired muscles. You cut the turf, push the steel into the soil and wedge the dirt out. Then you do it again and again.

Over time you make progress. You gain a sense of satisfaction at the progress made. It’s tangible and real.

But I don’t know of anybody that gets excited about digging.

It’s much like what this quote says about opportunity.

The reason most people do not recognize an opportunity when they meet it is because it usually goes around wearing overalls and looking like Hard Work. Thomas Edison?

Most people I have found don’t want to wear overalls and pick up the spade and do the work. Some people have become so used to their hole that they have made it their home. Decorating the walls with internalized victim stories, they live in an echo chamber of past events. Critical voices keep them from looking up.

When God hands you a spade

Let’s go back to that dark hole.

You are at the base of a deep dark hole, and the only way out is up.

So a spade is in your hand. You grasp that spade, and you start to chip and dig away at the walls of the hole.

After a little while, you have dug out a small hole big enough to put your foot in.

Then you dig another hole in the wall for your hand to grasp on to. You do this over and over again until you have dug a ladder, as such, out of the hole.

You climb a little, and you dig a little. Dirt is filling in the hole under you. You are sensing the light above filling your senses. Hope is beginning to rise in you.

You dig a millimeter more. You slip now and then, but because it’s your hole and it’s you that is doing the digging, you progress on.

With every successful notch made and elevation gained, something is changing in your brain. The electrical pathways are becoming more positive.

The way you used to think becomes a distant memory.

There is a new you that is emerging. Stronger, deeper, and more centered.

There is a resilience to your nature so that when the winds and storms of life blow, you don’t buckle. You bend and move with the flow.

It’s a millimeter foothold.

I like to think of recovery as millimeter ministry. It’s small enough to make it feasible and highly achievable.

What are some millimeters?

  • reading your thinking compass every day
  • taking medication (if prescribed) every day
  • doing something nice for you every day
  • going to bed at a regular time every day
  • meditating on some Bible verses every day
  • getting pragmatic about some of the pressures bearing down on you everyday
  • problem-solving rather than problem dwelling everyday
  • exercising a little every day
  • nurturing the beautiful and meaningful in you every day

It’s an ‘every day’ rhythm of digging a little bit each day. Habits, patterns, and practices changing your life.

I will cheer on your digging

I’m not going to rescue you from your hole, but I want to cheer on the progress and offer suggestions.

I have noticed that rescuers and quick-fix merchants often have a need in themselves that they want to fulfill. Instead, I will encourage the millimeter that turns into a centimeter.

I have a hole of my own, which is my responsibility. You can cheer me on and fuel my heart with whispers of courage.

Let’s dig together

In my book ‘Broken to built,’ I reflect on how Jerusalem’s wall was rebuilt after devastating destruction with an ‘And next to them’ attitude.

Broken to Built: 31 Days of Rebuilding with Nehemiah recovery bible

It’s an awareness of others next to us in our rebuilding and digging.

It’s hard, dirty, and often thankless work. But there is a beauty and wonder at the progress made when the dig is focused and alive.

When you’re in a dark hole, it can feel like there is a loss of hope, but you can dig yourself out with some wisdom and encouragement.

Quotes to consider

  • Only a secure person can empower others. Those who have to remain in control can never let go long enough to allow others to make mistakes and learn from them. David Riddell
  • Nothing digs ditches like shovel fulls of dirt.  Rick Hanson
  • Metanoeite, or change of consciousness, can only come with time. Patience is the very shape of love. Without it, religion is merely about enforcing laws and requirements. Richard Rohr
  • Every ‘rescuer’ needs to know that sometimes people will need to feel worse before they can feel better. D. Riddell  

Questions to answer

  1. What does your hole look like?
  2. What is a millimeter foothold that you can dig today?
  3. Why do some people like to decorate their holes and make them their homes?

Further reading

Mental Health is … You Taking Ownership of You

When You’re Feeling Stuck in a Dark Hole

In Recovery YOU Have To Do The Work

Woo-Woo + La La Land = Spiritual Abdication

Barry Pearman

Photo by Mari Potter on Unsplash


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When You Find Yourself in a Dark Hole, Start Digging

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