My dear friend Wren, from finchnwren.com has graciously written a wonderful post for us to read today. I hope you will be as encouraged as I was by her words!
Five Tips for Challenging Times
By Wren from finchnwren.com
How do you hang on when tough times come?
I always (not to brag) thought I had tough times handled. You know, surviving in crisis mode for a bit, then going back to my usual schedule. Oops! That was for all my OLD challenges. Not the ones that recently hit us.
During the past few years, our family faced some brand-new and vastly unforeseen trials. In areas of life that we really thought we had covered; professional work and good health. Significant troubles in areas that we’d never expected to struggle in. (Okay, maybe that was naïve; but it honestly never occurred to me that we’d have the difficulties we did!) And they went on…and on…and on.
Over this period of time, my faith and my trust in God really took a beating. Which in itself was a shock to me. As a former missionary, I had seen God do constant and amazing things. Even miraculous things. And I expected that of Him! But when the trials continued, as the prayers I prayed weren’t answered, the bright, shining faith that had characterized me became trampled and beaten down. I didn’t even recognize it…or myself. For a long time, and longer than I’d have imagined.
We’re not completely out of the woods yet. But it feels as though we’re stretching our hands out to the other side. And I am changing the ways I try to move through these trials. What a difference for me, my family, and my homeschool just a few habits can make!
I wouldn’t wish hard times on anybody. But just in case they come…here are some habits which will stand you in good stead!
- Stay in God’s Word. This may the very last thing you feel as though you can do. I get it! I definitely had days where I felt like I was dragging myself out of bed. I’d head downstairs; get a cup of coffee; and get back in bed with my Bible. And I’d read.
I didn’t always want to read the Word. But it not only helped me to start my days on a more positive note, it infused me with God’s words, spoken to His beloved children. Remember what Isaiah said? “…so is my word which goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11 NIV)
In another translation, it says that God’s Word will not return to Him void. And that’s what I need, for sure, whether it’s in tough times or good ones. I need a God and His words to me that I can always, always count on.
- Believe God’s Word over the “truth” of your circumstances. This could really be part two of step #1. Perhaps a tendency of those who struggle over a long period of time is to begin to doubt God and His Word. “Does God really love me?” “Is He really working for my good?” “Does He even hear me when I cry out to Him?” And maybe the biggest question of all: “Can I trust Him?”
When we are living through tough times, if we look ONLY at our circumstances, the answer to all those questions can seem to be a resounding “No.” That’s why it is absolutely vital that we answer those questions with, “Yes, this is so hard….but even if I can’t see Him, I TRUST that He is at work. Hearing my prayers. Doing things that are good that maybe I can’t see, yet. Loving me.”
There’s a reason (okay, probably many reasons) why God included 2 Corinthians 4:18 in the Bible. Here, it reminds me just where my focus should be. Not on my circumstances, but on the God who is beyond them who’s at work for my good. “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.” God really is doing something in our trials…even if it’s something we can’t yet see.
- Stay connected. Social events may not be high on your priority list when you’re struggling. And okay, maybe you don’t need to be attending a different gala every weekend. But don’t give up on connecting with your friends. Make that phone call. Go out for coffee. Set up a playdate for your kids with your good friend’s children. Just getting out into a different environment can encourage you and lighten your load. I was always surprised how much hanging out at the park with my friend while our kids played blessed me. It’s good for you….and for your relationships as well.
- Keep an eye on your own health. When we are in tough seasons, making sure that Mama is healthy can fall somewhere on the list below…well, everything else you have to do. It can seem so much easier to survive on caffeine and frozen dinners. But, you seriously cannot take care of your family and your homeschool responsibilities if you are not ensuring that you, yourself, are healthy. So…eat good food. Drink lots of water. Schedule your physical. Floss. ☺ This will bless and help you—and your family—not only in the long term but in the short term as well.
- Make family fun a priority (or fun for yourself, for that matter!) I have to admit that fun is generally on my to-do lists. Every day! But….like its effect on everything else, tough times can sometimes push fun out of my line of sight. I do have a son, however; and a husband who are going through this struggle with me. And they really, really benefit from lightheartedness, humor and fun.
So….schedule in some play! It doesn’t have to be on a large scale. (Although trips to zoos can be amazing!) Play a game of cards. Or a board game. Watch a favorite family movie, or read a favorite book…together. Go to the pool, or the park. Just seeking out time to do something enjoyable as a family can really make a difference. For us, it also keeps us close.
I am, in many ways, a pretty typical American. I admit that I do want the quick fix, or the fast turnaround. But life doesn’t always work that way, does it? So when you’re in a hard spot for the long haul---try out my 5 tips. (And remember: I’m not a doctor, nor am I equipped to diagnose anyone with anything. I’m just hoping to share some habits with you that will make a difference. ☺)They have helped me, and my family, as we seek to persevere through tough times.
Struggles may not always end as quickly as we’d like. But we can make choices that will make them…shall we say…less excruciating! And remember the end result for those who love God: “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.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17, NIV)
Remembering that might be the best habit of all.
Wren blogs with her sister at finchnwren.com. She’s the happily-married wife of the perfect man--for her! They homeschool their only child, a son. She loves Dr Pepper, a good novel, and gardening (especially at harvest time!)