Life as a Foreigner

Accepting Jesus’ Friend Request and Managing Feelings

Lately I’ve been feeling down because of a sense of loneliness. Although I have good friends in spots in different parts of the country I’ve been living in, I’ve struggled to make close friends where I’m living due to several factors, mainly because it’s a little hard and awkward to make close male friends, especially as a married woman.  And the girls I find who could potentially be my friends have a problem problem relating with me. Some other reasons are the language barrier, and I guess because I feel many people keep relationships at a shallow level and enjoy gossiping.
I’m seeing that what you might call, “the international expat grapevine,” is very tight, and though friends of friends I’ve slowly been developing friendships with other American expat girls who have Indian significant others. I sent a message to one of them who has had more on-field experience than me, and this is what she responded:

‘1) it’s not your imagination about relationships (here) being on the surface — people here are very insecure and Indian women are not discreet about each other’s “heart issues” and gossiping is rampant

2) spiritual warfare is ramped up and the opposer knows just how to amplify the intensity of the acculturation and discourage you from the calling on your life

Actually, during those episodes I really learned what it meant to be the friend of God. Jesus is a friend, but I don’t think up until I experienced that level of loneliness that I knew what it meant to be His.
During very hard times, when I could only get through the day hour by hour (if not minute, by minute) I would seclude myself in worship. Like literally. There was a school of worship nearby and I would walk there and sit/walk/talk/dance/lie down/kneel in God’s Presence until I could feel the oppression lift off and I was renewed in my hope, only then would I dare to get back up and walk back out into the “field”…and I always felt much better. My go to is always praise/worship.’

Her message reminded me of before I was engaged to Amith.  I felt lonely and desperately wanted a husband, and I had to learn to find my fulfillment for a husband from Jesus.  Likewise, I must learn to find my fulfillment for friendship from Him as well.

I am emotionally at this point as I adjust to living in a new country, and as depression is my weak point.  I know many of my fellow ex-pats experience the same thing.
The enemy is going to use your adaption process to try to discourage you from your calling.  Here are some of Satan’s lies:

  • It will always feel this way.  It won’t!  You have entered into the hardest phase of the adaption process.  The good news is, this means that you’re moving along.  As you work your way through this it will get easier.
  • There is something wrong with you for experiencing this.  This is normal, so normal that researchers have described the pattern and books have been written about coping with it.
  • That you’re inadequate, you can’t be useful and successful here.  God has been preparing you for this all your life and He won’t stop now.  It’s His work through you, and He crosses all cultures, all life transitions, all of our deficiencies.  No fear, just trust, calling on Him for help, and He will fulfill His purpose in you and through you.


Tips for good feelings management:

* Acknowledging them and not guilting yourself.* Tell trustworthy people about them.

* Stay engaged with supportive people who can understand.

* Taking mental breaks, like going for walks and talks with a friend or loved one.

More suggestions:

1. Vent through journaling and/or sharing with a trustworthy loved one, or some other way of expressing your feelings which won’t be a negative influence on others.

There is a difference between venting and sharing.  Venting is unedited emotion that isn’t necessarily reasonable, it’s just letting off steam.  Sharing is expressing a situation with more openness to discussing it and maybe problem-solving.  Sometimes you need to vent to get to a place of readiness to share.
Venting can tire a listener out, especially if they feel somewhat responsible for the other’s discomfort.  Sharing usually bonds people closer.

2. Remember that you don’t have to be a different person to live in India.  You are adding understanding and skills to your repertoire.

Just like when you wear a bathing suit and act casually at the beach and but wear much more formal clothes and behaviour at church, you are always the same person, but you choose different clothes and different behaviours in each situation.  In a sense, you are learning how to tie and wear a cultural sarree.  It will take practice and a lot of help at first, and you will get frustrated and long for good ole skirt and T-shirt sometimes, but it will get easier, and you still can wear skirt and T-shirt in some situations.  Same here, but you get to choose who and how you want to be in each setting to be successful.

3.  Remember that God uses everything for your good, including this.

So rather than trying to fight off the feelings, when they come, ask God to use them effectively in your life to deepen your relationship with Him, and to further equip you for His service.  See these feeling as a tool He’s using and ask Him for wisdom in how to get the most out of this experience.  Ask Him to carry this load of feelings for you when it gets too heavy for you.

4. Observe what you’re experiencing and processing like an outsider would, and document this.

Then you will be able to understand and support another young woman when she comes to India.  Maybe you’ll even write an article for a missionary magazine that will help missionaries adjust, or at least feel normal in their adjustment process.  If ya gotta go through it, don’t waste the opportunity to maximize your ministry opportunities from it!

5. Continue those mental breaks from processing all of this.

Intersperse your day with things that are relaxing or fun for you or that challenge you, things that distract you into another space for just a little while.  Like bathing in a dark room with candles.

Here is a thing that some people enjoy occasionally:  a supreme, all out, extravaganza pity party.
If you like writing, try to write it out.  It might sound like this,

“My life really stinks!  I hate it!  It’s not worth living!  Why?  Because so-and-so does not approve of me.  Yes, I know that I am dearly loved by God who takes care of me in every way.  I am dearly loved by my husband, my kids, my parents, and a bunch of friends.  They would enjoy me and talk to me any day.  I have a comfortable house, a safe living environment, more food than I can eat, good health, an education, freedom, a good job, and money to buy things I don’t need.  There are 7 billion people in the world.  But this one person won’t make eye contact with me.  My life is utterly ruined!”

See how that works?  You must take it very seriously, how bad your life truly is.  It’s a lot of fun.  You can even invite a friend to your pity party via email.  Their response may not be quite the weeping and gnashing of teeth that your life difficulty deserves, in fact, some responses I’ve received in the past have led me to believe that my friend was actually laughing at me, but then, you can just add that to the tragedy of your life.
“And, I can’t get no respect!”

6. Exercise every day if you can.

Something that gets your heart rate up.

7. Eat!  Eat!  Eat!

Oh, wait, that only results in tight pants.  But do make sure you’re getting enough protein and iron.

8. Even though your feelings are a result of an explainable circumstance, circumstances can trigger endogenous (genetic) depression that needs medical help to re-stabilise.

Check in with a mental health therapist if feelings continue and keep you from preforming normal activities, or if you find yourself becoming increasingly forgetful and “spacey.”

9. You’ve been through difficult times with difficult feelings before.

Remember back to what helped you get through those times and do some more of that.

Psalm 25:14-15

The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.


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