We all have to face adversity and difficulties in our lives, but how do we cope with it? Whether it is surviving at home with children or family members, stress at work, illnesses, financial issues, life circumstances or we live in a country like Cambodia and are sold into sex trafficking, we all face adversity. One person’s problems are not necessarily greater or smaller than another’s, they are just different. Jesus said we would face tribulations, but what do we do about them?
Well-intentioned people are often so keen to offer advice, but when it starts with “All you have to do is…” or “Just…” it can become annoying, making out that your problems are so simple they could be solved with one simple solution. Surely if that was the case you would have thought of it already! If you take out those preceding remarks and replace them with, “Make sure amidst everything you still do…” then the annoying advice can become helpful!
- Focus on God. Not ‘just’, or ‘all you have to do’, but do this as you do other things. Sometimes this is sufficient to resolve something. Many psychology experiments show that the more one focuses on pain and discomfort the more intense it becomes, whereas if our focus is shifted onto something else the pain eases. Other times problems do have to be solved and things do have to be processed, which requires our focus but we can keep God at the center, asking for His help and advice and ensuring we keep directing our focus back to Him in between other tasks.
- Be thankful, despite what is going on. “Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). What we focus on we empower. Our thoughts affect our emotions, which affect our behavior. Negative thinking leads to negative feeling emotions whereas positive thinking leads to more positive feeling emotions. For example, thinking ‘This person does not like me’ can lead to feeling sad, upset and rejected. Thinking ‘I am important to my friend’ can lead to feelings of happiness, acceptance, and joy. Even if all we can manage is to thank Him for loving us, this will always be true or thank Him for the sunshine. You know it is a bad day if all you can manage is “Thank you that you love me”, but that is totally ok if that is all you can say, and what a great truth to cling to! One person was healed of illness by thanking God every 10 minutes and put a buzzer on her waist to go off at regular intervals to remind her to do so! This just shows the power of thankfulness and a positive mental attitude and the importance of not getting caught in vicious cycles of negative thinking and rumination. Lying in bed at night and thanking God for all of the things that happened that day that you are grateful for is a lovely and helpful way to fall asleep!
- Don’t suppress and bury everything. Give emotions to God, ask Him into them and sit with them until they die down. No matter how bad they feel they will eventually die down! If someone was terrified of flying and you put them on a long distance flight they would likely be pretty anxious, scared and panicky at the start, but eventually, these emotions would calm down. They would not stay in that extremely heightened state of emotion for 12 to 24 hours. Emotions are alive and you cannot bury things that are alive.They will eventually crop up again, potentially triggered by similar situations, possibly with doubling accumulative effects. They can even affect you physically with illness. Do whatever helps instead of internalizing them. Talk to God, verbalize how you feel, scream, hit pillows, write, scribble, paint, etc. No, we are not to be ruled by emotions, but God made us to be emotional beings and they are not to be ignored either! He can give you healthy ways of dealing with them so we can start each day afresh, not bogged down by the trials of the preceding days!
Patricia King and Joyce Meyer have both publicly described living by their emotions in the past. If their circumstances were good, they had a good day, if they were bad, they had a bad day. Now they describe being able to mostly live in peace and joy, no matter what the circumstances are. This is a challenge! We are told to live in peace, joy, and righteousness (Romans 14:17). Trust Him and give Him responsibility for everything. Hand over control and God will carry you, directing your steps. God also recently showed me that a degree of acceptance is needed before peace can be found.
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on you, because he trusts in you.” -Isaiah 26:3
Even the hardest challenge is an opportunity to thank God for the chance to learn how to find peace and joy no matter what! I am sure that once mastered it is a skill that can be applied in all situations.
So, no matter what difficult circumstances or adversity you may be facing, God wants to be at the center! He wants us to find things to be thankful for, to give Him our thoughts and emotions and hand over responsibility and control to Him. My challenge for you today is to aim to live in peace, joy, and righteousness, should you choose to accept it!
Perhaps you will remember the old song, “Give me joy [or peace!] in my heart keep me praising, give me joy in my heart I pray, give me joy in my heart keep me praising, keep me praising till the break of day. Sing Hosanna, sing Hosanna, sing Hosanna to the King of Kings. Sing Hosanna, sing Hosanna, sing Hosanna to the King!”
Written by: Caroline Harvey
Published on October 3, 2017