We’ve all had bad days and tough times. The first two weeks of 2023 threw some crazy and unexpected things at me. The last 8 months of 2022, my husband and I were separated and living in separate states. We will likely remain this way for a few more months. We’ve been married three years this month – a global pandemic began almost two weeks after we got married.
We’ve all gotten bad news from a doctor, the scary phone call, the world-transforming news. Many of us lived through that global pandemic and experienced fear, uncertainty, loss, and separation. Everything looks different now.
This year, and the last three years, I’ve learned what to do when times are hard and bad days are present. I’ve learned that there are three main things that we can do to keep going: 1) refocus, 2) self care, and 3) pray. There are other important things (like being in community) but, these are the most important.
First, switch your focus. Often, we get stuck focusing on the suffering of our problem. We get so stuck in it, that we get a sort of tunnel vision on the problem. Sometimes, we miss a solution or we forget that we’ve survived worse circumstances than this one. We sometimes can’t see anything but the problem.
The problem will always be the problem until you find a solution or overcome it. However, the solution will not present itself until you look for it. We can’t overcome a difficult situation if we don’t move past it.
To find solutions, we need to identify it, see where it comes from and figure out what our part is in it. From knowing these answers, we can find a solution. A good example of this is a doctor, lawyer, counselor, or pastor will ask a lot of questions, think about how the symptoms express themself and then identify a solution.
Most of us have experienced going to the doctor, when we make the appointment someone always asks why we want the appointment – we don’t usually go to the doctor if there’s nothing wrong. The doctor asks for symptoms, listens, and learns before giving a possible solution or two. Then we get to act on the solution to the problem. It’s the same with our everyday life problems.
Second, care for yourself. Often if the problem is not a physical one, we like to ignore it or cover it up. A man’s heart hurts when he’s disrespected by his significant other and ‘boys don’t cry’ so he pushes the feeling down and keeps going. He’s damaged. A woman’s trust for her partner is broken when he hits her, she ignores it and covers a bruise, pretending nothing happened on the outside. But on the inside, she’s suffering greatly. We have a hard day at work and just move through the motions in the evening believing ‘who cares about that stuff’. We slip and fall on ice or water, we keep going instead of sitting and resting. We work for years without taking a day off because ‘it needs me’.
The truth of the matter is – tough times and hard days are difficult. They take extra energy, they are painful. The stress has an impact on our physical, mental, and emotional self. We need rest.
Ever heard of being hangry? We like to joke about it but, recently I’ve experienced going into a stressful situation and realized my anxiety was ramping up and that I was hungry. I delayed the situation by 10 minutes and ate a bowl of popcorn. When I was presented with the opportunity to become angry, I passed it up. We get angry when we haven’t eaten. Eating healthy is taking care of ourselves.
When we can’t think straight because we’re tired, when we’re too sad to interact, and when we are confronted with suffering in any form – what is the response? Care. Care for the tired part and take a break or a nap. Care for the sad part and let it cry and take a break. When we see suffering allow the part of you to feel the pain, cry if needed, speak about it if needed, and act in response.
Self care isn’t about coddling, pampering, and overindulging. It’s not weak. Self care is kindness to your mind, body, and soul. It’s acknowledging that we’re human, not infinite, and we need rest. It’s more than a bath and wine on Friday night. It’s about feeling your feelings, giving yourself permission to be imperfect, and being still.
Third, we need to pray. Sure, when times are hard we do need that community of people. We do need to call a safe parent, call a church friend, or call a best friend. We may need to look over at the work BFF because he or she KNOWS what just happened was nuts.
The bigger truth is, we need gratitude and request prayers. We need to tell God thank you for the thing (the job that is stressing me out) and tell God what we need (I need help because I feel like I’m in the deep end right now). Both are true at the same time – we do need the job AND it’s stressing us out so that we need help. And he knows both are true. He sees it all. So, who better to take it to?
When it’s a big, giant thing – divorce, illness, death, suffering, God is the One who can fix it. Plus, he always hears and always responds!
We often think we know what we want and ask God for that. I know I have done just that in the last 8 months. I’ve prayed for a miracle, hearts changed, understanding, and reunification. I wanted my miracle served up fast food style, my understanding like a flash, and their hearts changed. But God loved me too much to do it that way.
I was angry that God let things be this way and I told him so. I did not get struck by a bolt of lightning either, btw. He often comforted me, when I asked to know he was there he showed himself to me, he frequently brought other people to love me, he reminded me frequently to care for my soul and my body. He gave me rest while I was in the valley. He prepared me to accept my miracle, my blessings, and gave me understanding. It’s taking time. But it’s worth it.
There truly are blessings in the hard stuff. We can’t see them while we’re in the middle of it because it’s just hard and painful. The truth about life is that there’s a duality to be found in many things. We have a beautiful and painful life. Marriage is both easy love and a lot of work. Sunsets are both an ending of a day and a beginning of the night. Each ending is also an opportunity for a new beginning.
It may take some time but we eventually thank him for the hard things. Maybe we say – thank God I didn’t get the opportunity to marry that guy or gal. Maybe it’s wow, I really dodged one there! Maybe it’s like mine where I said ‘thank you for all of this time to be silent and spend it seeking you.’
After thanking God, we ask. We ask for his will to be done. We ask for God’s will because the Holy Spirit joins us in these requests, Jesus taught us to pray this way, and because his will is good and perfect.
We still want the miracle, the healing, the reunification, the relationship, the thing. God is not a vending machine. He knows what is good and right. He is a good father and he gives good gifts.
Finally, going to God and relying on him gives us rest for our soul. I’ve learned that Sabbath, connecting with my Maker, and not doing all the things restores my soul. It’s an opportunity to view God’s love for me. Praying to him, leaving my worries to him to fix, giving up control, and surrendering to him relieves most of the pressure from me. I wake up the next day ready to keep going and do it all over again.
We need to do these things all together – refocus on the solution, allowing self care, and taking things to him in prayer will get us to the other side of the tough times and hard days. doing them over and over will remind us that He cares and he is good. If you need permission to rest, give yourself grace and permission. You’ll thank yourself for it later.
What types of self care do you use when you’ve has a hard day? Do you need prayer? Join the conversation and leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.
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