When the lights go out

by Elizabeth Trotter on May 23, 2016


I want to do all the things. All the very good things there are to do in this world. So I overcommit myself. I don’t say “no.” I say “yes” instead, and spread myself too thin. Then my soul suffers. My work suffers. My sanity suffers. My family life suffers. My spiritual life suffers.

I suffer in silence, thinking I’m all alone. I’m the only one failing at everything. I’m the only one who can’t pull it together. I’m the only one who can’t catch my breath, who can’t catch up on work, who can’t catch up on school, who can’t catch up with friends, who can’t catch up with the God I say I love so very much.

And I, insecure missionary blogger that I am, am afraid to tell people.

To top all that off, the heat in Southeast Asia has been crushing me. The past two months have held record highs here, and we get a lot of power cuts. I echo Ramona Quimby in Ramona the Brave who shouted out “Guts! Guts guts guts!” when she wanted to say bad words. Instead, I yell “Cuts! Cuts cuts cuts!” and very nearly lose my mind.

After one particularly grueling 12-hour all-night power outage, something inside me broke — flat out broke. I lost my hope. I began to question everything. Why are we here? Why can’t we live in America? Why exactly do I serve this God of mine? And where the heck is He when I can barely sleep or even breathe in this heat?

I was struggling under the weight of all the expectations I had for myself: be a good mom, be a good wife, be a good home educator, be a good missionary, be a good team leader’s wife, be a good friend, be a good writer, be a good editor, be a good Christ-follower. And I couldn’t do any of it.

(If there’s one thing that overnight power outage taught me, it’s this: I am not nearly as good a person as I thought I was. Cuts cuts cuts: bad words all around.)

Finally, finally, I asked for prayers. I asked my closest friends and family in the States. I asked my teammates. I asked a few women in my organization. Then I confided my struggles to some other home school moms in my city.

I was met on so many levels by “me too.” I went from being alone to being supported. I went from drowning in my despair of cross-cultural servitude to feeling supernaturally upheld.

The next time the power went out in the middle of the night, I didn’t curse this land or this life or this electrical grid. I didn’t panic. I stayed calm and waited. I sang a worship song (which shocked even myself). I retained my sanity and my faith — something that could only have happened because people were praying for me.

The next day I remember waking up and thinking, seriously? Seriously? Is that really all I had to do? Ask for prayer? Why did I keep my struggles to myself for so long? Why did I think I had to hide? What kind of appearance did I think I needed to keep up anyway? Why did I think I couldn’t ask? Help came fast when I asked.

I spun my hopelessness wheels for too long. But I’ve learned again that I can ask. I can ask for prayer sooner rather than later — and so can you.

So today, if you’re spinning your hopelessness wheels, if you’re afraid to confide in someone or ask for prayer or even for practical help, can I encourage you to ask? Just ask. The God of the universe is here to help. The Body of Christ is here to help. Help is right here waiting, even when the lights go out and we find ourselves in the dark.

All we have to do is ask.

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About Elizabeth Trotter

Elizabeth loves life in Southeast Asia, something she never imagined was possible. Before moving to Asia with her husband and four children in 2012, Elizabeth worked in youth ministry for ten years. She loves math, science, all things Jane Austen, and eating hummus by the spoonful. Find her on the web at www.trotters41.com and on Facebook at trotters41.
  • Rachel ‘Pieh’ Jones

    I feel your pain! And I appreciate this reminder to ask for prayer. I had me some bad words related to power cuts this week as well.

    • Elizabeth Trotter

      Ack!!! The power cuts are SO BAD.

    • Marilyn Gardner

      I read these comments and I’m taken back to load shedding and pregnancy in Islamabad. Sitting with our feet in buckets of water, because that’s the only way we could keep cool. Elizabeth – thank you for letting us in on this, for sharing the before and after of prayer. I was speaking to a group on Friday night, and talking about how worry and hopelessness are easy for me – prayer is hard. Thinking of both of you in the heat and power cuts, while I’m in a place where I struggle with the cold. He is God of the hot and the cold and I’d best not forget.

      • Elizabeth Trotter

        The struggle with cold is real! I will never downplay that! But yes, our physical (dis)comfort sometimes gets in the way of us seeing God as clearly as we perhaps desire. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and all that, I guess (though I still aspire to be someone who sees God as clearly in the dark as in the light!).

  • Sarah Daubert

    Thank you so much. This is so timely for me, because I set aside today to work out my calendar for the next year and pray about my schedule ( and yes, it’s for the year- I’m working on an MA thesis that I need to have done before my next furlough). After I was done sketching things out I looked at what I had written and nearly burst into tears. How is any of this ever going to get done? Why do I feel like I’ve failed before I’ve even begun? I’m going to take your advice and set it aside and go find a friend to pray for me.

    • Elizabeth Trotter

      So glad you’re reaching out to a friend for prayer; and I will join you in prayer right now:

      God of all things, even the calendar things, we ask you to quiet Sarah’s mind as she looks at her schedule for this coming year. We ask you help her see the empty places in her schedule and to help her discern whether those empty places can be used to finish her MA, or could be used to get quiet by herself with you, and draw strength from You. We know you are enough for her this year, for both the school work and her own spiritual and emotional thriving. God, pour yourself into her right now, help her know she’s not alone, help her know You will walk her through this, show how much she is loved and how much she is NOT a failure in Your eyes. Thank you that she has real-life friends to pray for her, and I ask that those friends continue to pray for her in this next year, so that she knows she’s supernaturally upheld by the body of Christ. Thank you for helping us even when we feel we’re in the dark. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

  • I know those days when it’s so hot you can’t breathe and the power is out for hours (it’s the same in Delhi now, and I’m secretly glad to be in the States!). It made me so raw and grumpy… ugh! Glad you reached out and there were safe people who encouraged you and are lifting you up.

    • Elizabeth Trotter

      Yes — very raw and grumpy! Glad you can relate and that I’m not the only one!

  • RLH

    YES. I’m gonna take this opportunity to fuss about the Phnom Penh heat this year. It’s intense. Our grocery (oops, that’d be eating out) budget is through the roof because “It’s too hot to cook, much less wash dishes in this place.” Anyways.

    So many answered prayers lately. Our team made a huge steps towards working with children at risk in a bad part of town. We immediately got hit with crazy spiritual warfare. Three (five now!) days of good health in 6 weeks; marriage struggles; children’s issues; and weird things… like someone/something trying to choke me in my sleep every night.

    Praying has chased every.single.thing. OUT. With the whole choking thing… I wasn’t sure if it was spiritual warfare or just my cough, so I told God that “IF it’s spiritual… make it stop, immediately”. It never happened again.

    And those are just the top of the answered prayers.

    Still struggling so hard right now though. :'(

    • Elizabeth Trotter

      I will YES right back at you! It has been intense. So intense.

      I admit I sometimes intellectualize so much of our faith, and I forget the power of prayer. But certain things were just too “coincidental” after I actually broke down and asked, that I was reminded again of the miraculous power of prayer.

      Thanking God with you that He has brought you through so many things so far, and if I may, could I pray with you some more?

      Dear Father, Almighty One, we know you hold the very fabric of the universe together, so of course we know you hold the fragile fabric of our souls together. Thank you for upholding this precious family in these difficult months. Thank you for answering their prayers. We now ask You for more: more help, more provision, more power. Father I pray for their marriage, that You would knit their hearts together in love and mercy. I pray that you would give them clear minds in this awful heat, so that when they come together to talk over things, that they truly see the real issues at hand. I pray you would give them a sense of calm and peace as they navigate the issues in their marriage and family. I pray for them as they minister to their children’s current needs, that You would give them wisdom and kindness and the necessary firmness in whatever is going on at home. I pray for their health, that they would continue to have GOOD health days, that you would watch over their bodies and help them continue to heal from the bad days. And lastly, I pray for their ministry to at-risk children, that the good work they’ve begun will continue in the way You are directing them, AT THE SAME TIME that You uphold their emotional, physical, and spiritual health. We ask for both, at the same time. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

      • RLH

        Thank you so much. That was beautiful, and so kind of you!!

  • Betsy Peterson

    Elizabeth, again I feel so connected with what you’ve written. And yet here I sit by an open window with cool breezes and familiar Missouri birds greeting me their good mornings. I guess you must be my sister in Christ. Thanks for asking for prayers and being vulnerable. I am praying for you!

    • Elizabeth Trotter

      Thanks for your prayers Betsy! I believe we all need the love, support, and prayers of the body of Christ, no matter where we live. But just because we’re hot over here in Asia doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy your cool breezes in Missouri — and may you enjoy them WITHOUT guilt!

  • Chie

    The heat is getting me too especially being pregnant. I was born and grew up in this country…but almost 10 years in US had changed my definition of comfort. That includes not sweating even in summer living in the midwest. We’ve only been here in PH for a little over a year figuring out our ministry and it seemed we’ve been here for a long time, almost at the brink of giving up. Thank you for sharing this, nice to know that we are not alone. That we share the same struggle even with long time missionaries.

    • Elizabeth Trotter

      Oh I’m so sorry, Chie! Pregnancy is an uncomfortable time no matter what, but in this heat, wow, I just cannot imagine. You have my deepest sympathies!

      I don’t want you to feel alone in your struggles. So very much, I don’t want you to feel alone. And the truth is, you are not alone. You’re never alone. And the first term can be hard, so hard. So your struggles are very normal.

      As you said you’re almost on the brink of giving up, could I pray for you right now?

      Maker of heaven and earth and all things good, we remember that you are our Shepherd, You are the Good Shepherd. Lead Chie to still waters, and make her lie down in green pastures. Restore her weary, desolate soul. We know your goodness and mercy follow her always, and we ask that You help her FEEL your goodness and mercy in this moment, and in the days to come. When she feels like giving up, show her how You’ve prepared the way for her, and how you’re always walking beside her, even in the valley of the shadow of death. Take away her fears; cast out her fears with Your great, big, unchanging love. Lead her in a right path, and give her the hope she needs to carry on. Even when she feels surrounded by enemies on all sides, give her You Yourself in abundance. May she know you are enough for her in every situation, and may she be surrounded by brothers and sisters who can support and pray for her. In the name of Jesus our redeemer, Amen.

  • amy medina

    oh the heat. and the power cuts. right there with you. Although, thankfully, the earth has groaned on its axis and given us winter over in our part of the world. We are happily enjoying life in the 80’s. But our summer just about did me in this year. Feeling for you.

    • Elizabeth Trotter

      “Groaned on its axis and given us winter.” Such a great way to describe it. Enjoy it! I heard other parts of Africa were late in getting their rains this year 🙁 I think every hot season is hard, but I’d say this hot season did me in even worse than usual, and my husband agrees — I think there were times he was scared. Yikes! We have had some rains though, so I’m *hoping* we’ve now survived the worst of it. But my question is, how exactly do you survive hot season at Christmastime??

      • amy medina

        12 years here for us, and all the long-timers agreed that it was the worst hot season we ever experienced. Now that it’s over, I don’t even know how I got through it. It was a blur. A blur of sweat and frazzled nerves. Christmas….well….we do feel sorry for ourselves….and we always travel to the mountains for the week after Christmas. We wear socks and hoodies and that makes everything better. Oh–and we always run the air conditioner in the living room in December. It’s our gift to ourselves.

        • Elizabeth Trotter

          “Now that it’s over, I don’t even know how I got through it. It was a blur.”

          Truer words were never spoken!

          And yay for the mountains in summer! We go to the hills (not quite mountains, but still, cooler than the city) for a week too.

          Also, yay for air conditioning. But I think we’ve talked about that elsewhere, ha!

  • Anna Wegner

    Me, too. It’s our hot season (Mali) and I wonder what we are doing sometimes, too! I tend to say worse things than “Cuts, cuts, cuts.” It does help to talk about it with someone and know you are not alone. I have some great friends here who have helped!

    • Elizabeth Trotter

      Well I started with “cuts cuts cuts” a couple months ago, and then unfortunately devolved from there. 🙁

      I so agree that talking to someone helps, and so glad you have those people in your life!

      Are you back on the field now? I had thought you were on a “home” service? (I hate our terminology for that, but what else can we say?) Well if you’re back, then welcome back — even if the heat is most certainly NOT welcome!

  • Meghan Weyerbacher

    This is great, Elizabeth! The first 2 paragraphs resonated with me big time. Prayers and blessings to you!

    • Elizabeth Trotter

      Thanks Meghan! And yes I think the first two paragraphs are more universal than the tropical living issues further down the page 🙂

  • Love this. Thanks so much Elizabeth. My deepest friendships have come from sharing my struggles with other women and discovering they are going through much the same. It is so good to share together, cry together, pray together, laugh together. God bless you as you continue to hang on in there. Joy and blessing to you.

    • Elizabeth Trotter

      “My deepest friendships have come from sharing my struggles with other women and discovering they are going through much the same.” Yes. Yes yes yes. I know this, so why would I forget it?? Here’s to continuing sharing our lives — our *real* lives — with our friends.

  • Heylane

    Thank you for giving us the privilige to pray for you (and others). That may sound spiritual blabla, but I mean it. I feel priviliged when people ask me to pray. When they feel they can be open and vulnerable. And then to pray and “uphold them”. A bit old fashioned to say it like that, but that is how it feels. A way to keep someone upright, to keep someone standing. No matter the distance between us.
    I have had to learn to ask for prayer too. And am still learning. But every time I conquer that fear of not being able to do it alone and do ask I feel like hands are holding me up. I can feel the hands are preventing me from sinking to ground in a puddle of tears and despair I know I did the right thing.

    • Elizabeth Trotter

      Yes! It is exactly like that — like Moses’ arms being upheld in battle. It is so beautiful what the body of Christ can do for each other, even if the language is old fashioned 🙂

  • It’s so good to ask for prayer, eh? With you, sister.

    • Elizabeth Trotter

      Yes, so much good in the asking, and in the receiving. And I know you know exactly what I mean!

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