Strategies to Thrive in Difficult Circumstances
This was a day like no other. I was devastated by the news. It was personal and professional failure. The news meant that I would continue in the same circumstances with daily reminders of my failure. That day has continued to haunt me and has become a ‘what if’ day that still comes to my memory even though more than 20 years have passed.
Everyone has days that shatter their hopes and dreams. Sometimes we go through times and seasons of extreme suffering and disappointment. How do you survive those times? How can you hold on to your faith in the face of such extraordinary difficulty? Are there some strategies you can employ to remain strong through the valley?
Four Important Realities
Realize that your circumstances don’t define who you are. Just because you are experiencing extraordinary difficulty and hardship doesn’t mean you are somehow diminished. Your spirit, your personality, your faith and your determination will rise above these circumstances.
Realize, as well, that these circumstances don’t define God. Every day, good and bad, God is unchanging. He’s the same God when things are bad as when things are good.
Don’t ever forget the reality of God. Never forget his loving nature, his mercy and his grace.
God is omnipotent. He has all power and is faithful to employ that power for you at the right moment and in the right way.
God is omniscient. He knows everything. He knows what you feel and he knows the right answer for your life at this very moment. You can rest in the assurance that his answer is perfect because he is good.
God is omnipresent. He will never leave you. His love will never leave you. He assures us in his word that we cannot escape his love even if we wanted to (Romans 8:38-39). How much more is his love available to us as we seek it!
Prayer. Ask, ask, ask – and don’t stop asking. But don’t ask why! Rarely is this prayer answered. Instead ask: what can I learn from this? What are you trying to teach me? What do I do now? Ask for strength and wisdom and spiritual growth. He will answer these prayers.
Bible reading and study. The answers you seek and the encouragement you need can be found in God’s word. Don’t neglect it through the difficult times.
Worship. During the most trying times of our life, worship can take on a profound depth. When you persist in worship when you are struggling, hurting and in despair, God often breaks through with his glory. He helps those who are weak.
Fellowship. Especially don’t neglect time with other followers of Jesus. Satan wants you weak and isolated so he can pick you off and devour you! Don’t fall into the “I’m not good enough to go to church” trap. Imagine being desperately sick or injured and saying “I’m not good enough to go to the hospital.” The church is a place of healing for the soul.
This can be very hard but try these three perspective hacks to help you cope:
Take a long view. Step back and try to project how long your present difficulty will last. It won’t last forever – you know that. It might be a day, a week, a month, a year but eternity belongs to God and our eternity in heaven will be glorious. Remember what Paul said: Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16–18)
Think back – you have probably weather some difficult storms before. Encourage yourself with your past success (or survival) of other hard times.
Look deep – Remember the tree. As winter approaches the leaves fall off and it looks dead. The roots, however continue to grow deep into the ground. Trees gain great strength through the winter. You can grow deep in the winter of your soul. Trust God for this process to happen in your life.
Three more positive things you can do for yourself:
Find an encourager. You need someone who is upbeat and positive; someone who has strong faith and is practical. You don’t need someone who can throw a good pity party! That doesn’t help! Go to that person and hang out together for a while.
Escape. Even getting away from your problems for an hour or two can help with perspective and your attitude.
Be an encourager. Something as simple as passing this article to someone else can make a difference. Call someone and tell them you love them and are praying for them.