Over the course of our lives, we will all experience a struggle of one kind or another. We are not alone when we encounter heartbreak, death, or sickness. But when the worst of times comes, when we’re forced to face these trials, our goal should not be to try to smile them away, to ignore the pain and suffering, or to shove them down into a deep, dark place.
So what should our goal be?
It’s easy to panic in the midst of the storm as the disciples did in the boat — when, with blank minds, we forget who is by our side and assume the absolute worst. But panic cannot be our next step. In fact, panic often prevents us from taking any next steps at all.
It’s also easy to let this trouble of ours fester and stew beneath the surface, resulting in anger and depression deep down below the feigned happiness. We find someone else to blame, whether God or doctors or others, and resent them throughout our day. If we let it, bitterness then easily infects and destroys our lives. It turns our tragic situations into something much worse, lives not lived to their fullest. Ignoring the greater plan God has at work, we wear bitterness like a weight that prevents us from moving forward or accomplishing anything.
What do we do, then? What actions or steps can we take when all seems lost and horrible? Nowhere in the Bible does God promise us a safe journey. Nowhere does it claim that there’s a magic button he can push to take all our pain away and free us from our struggle. It doesn’t tell stories about individuals who skip through life completely unharmed. That just isn’t the way it works.
If you’re searching for next steps amidst your storm, here are some practical ways you can cope with this reality:
1. Remember that God is with you. He will never leave or forsake you.
We have to remember that God is by our side. We know this from Jesus’ last words in Matthew 28:20. “And surely I am with you always,” He promises, “to the very end of the age.” This statement reveals that Jesus is with us today, no matter what, fighting our battles with us. He’s right by our side.
I know that He’s willing to stand by me and comfort me while I cope with our family’s circumstances, and He’s willing to do the same for you. He won’t leave you. He won’t abandon you. To protect yourself and others, you must remember this important truth.
2. Praise God before the breakthrough. Praise Him before the miracle appears.
This next step might seem strange. When trials hit, if God is going to enter the equation for you at all, your natural reaction is most likely not to worship Him. You might turn to Him with vulnerability, yell at Him, lay your problems all out on the line, and generally vent your frustrations to Him about your storm. I truly believe there’s nothing wrong with this, but don’t solely focus on the negative or let this frustration take up your entire time with God, especially if you have a relationship with Him.
As you remember the God by your side and all His amazing qualities — His love, His grace, and His power — thank Him and praise Him for them!
Follow the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:18:
In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Even before your miracle has occurred, you need to praise God. Don’t wait until He’s done something. Rather, praise Him for who He is and who he’ll always be. Many times when I’ve chosen to do this during my family’s battle with Georgia’s brain disorder, I’ve found the whole thing much easier to deal with. I find my perspective shifting. Bitterness and panic fade away when you praise and thank God for who He is even before your miracle comes.
3. Surround yourself with people who will speak life over you and your situation.
“Haters” always have something negative and awful to say. You know the ones. Often, they’re easier to turn to when you want to sit in your horrible situation and don’t really want a way out.
It’s so crucial that you do not turn to these people in your hour of need. Instead, find the cheerleaders. Find the people who will speak words of hope, encouragement, and life when you need them most. Find the people that Proverbs 27:17 describes:
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
Do you currently have someone sharpening you? Do you have people around you who like to dream big, who smile and laugh a lot, who always know exactly what to say? Is there someone by your side who tends to have more faith than others and says “You will” instead of “You’ll never”?
I encourage you to take a serious look at your life. Think about all the relationships you have. What types of friends are these? Are you surrounding yourself with haters, or are you surrounding yourself with cheerleaders?
The community surrounding Julia and me has helped tremendously in our situation. We’re fortunate to have many friends who encourage us, make us laugh, and bring us life. We can talk with these friends about Georgia and about the sorrow in our lives, and we always leave feeling better about the whole thing. They’ve been one of the most invaluable aspects of this journey. I’m not sure how we would survive without them.
Who’s encouraging you?
4. Don’t get bitter; get better.
The truth is that trials, though horrible to endure, can often teach us a ton. We can learn from them and even come out of them as better human beings.
Whether gaining new empathy and compassion for others or learning to rely more and more on God, it is possible to come out of your situation stronger, healthier, and better. Bitterness will only prevent you from getting there.
5. Don’t let the enemy convince you that you’re the only one going through something.
The enemy likes to get into your thoughts when difficulties arise. He likes to whisper things like, “No one really understands what you are going through. You have it worse than everyone else.” Be wary of this trap. If you let yourself believe that you’re the only one going through something, you’ll lose the ability to have compassion and mercy for others.
We’re all going through our own struggles, pain, and difficulties. Let your situation only increase the empathy you feel for others. Don’t let it isolate you.
6. Get perspective.
Again, this practical step involves not distancing yourself from others and not rehashing your situation over and over again alone. It’s important to have a solid perspective of the trial that you’re currently enduring. I’ve found two strategies that work when fighting to gain a healthy perspective of my circumstance.
The first is processing with other people. This is where vulnerability again plays a huge role. We’re meant to endure trials together and in community. Each person has his own take on your situation, and the more you talk with others and listen to what they have to say, the more well-rounded your understanding of your circumstance will be.
The second is journaling. Writing down what I’m going through has helped me process and better understand my situation. If I write down my emotions and thoughts in dark moments, then I can step away and read them later, this time viewing them with slightly different eyes. It’s amazing to read an entry from the day before when I thought the world was ending and discover that the next day I feel very differently and view my situation much more rationally.
7. Don’t make any major life decisions until you calm down, drink some water, and get a good night’s rest.
Rest is so essential. It’s evident in Genesis that rest was even important to God, who chose to rest after He created the earth.
If you are someone who, when facing something bad or experiencing a conflict, immediately goes into problem-solving mode and searches for the solution, my advice to you is to slow down. Many times it’s good in moments of trouble to begin solving problems right away, but sometimes when news is not life threatening, we shouldn’t respond right away with an action plan. When we discover our daughter’s brain isn’t developing, or when we get hurt by someone else’s words or find ourselves having an argument with our boss, we typically feel a range of very big, very real emotions. These emotions may include anything from anger to sorrow to frustration to panic to anxiety. When emotions are pumping through our systems at a hundred miles per hour, it is not the best time to make major life decisions.
It’s important to stay calm in these moments. I know it seems silly, but when you experience trauma, it’s the practical things that you tend to forget first. Sleep a full eight hours and then, when you’ve calmed down and gained a healthy perspective, you can make some rational choices.
These are the steps I’ve found to work best when I’m smack-dab in the middle of a trial. They have shifted my thinking, made waking up in the morning possible, and helped me look to the remedy, to God, with the right attitude and posture. I know that with God and with the people He’s placed around me it is possible to survive something like Georgia’s sickness and to thrive even in the midst of it.
It’s possible for me, and it’s possible for you.
Excerpted with permission from Unreasonable Hope: Finding Faith in the God Who Brings Purpose to Your Pain by Chad Veach, copyright Chad Charles Veach.
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Read through the actions steps for times of trial and crisis again. What are you going through right now that requires these steps in order to persevere with greater faith, strength, courage, and health? Come join the conversation on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily