No one escapes tough times – rich or poor, young or old. Circumstances may be different for each of us, but whatever it is, we will be challenged by it. For some it may be finances, for others it might be health or relational difficulties.
But whatever you face, you will likely be angry or scared or hurt or frustrated. Perhaps you will feel all of these emotions.
Many years ago
Nan & I hit a relational wall. We were emotionally disconnected, living nearly separate lives. Both of us wondered if this was the end of our marriage. We both felt lonely and misunderstood. Would we end up another ugly marital statistic? Fortunately Nan dragged me to counseling (kicking and screaming I might add) and things eventually got better – after they got worse for a while. We came out much stronger – and I came out a saved believer in Christ.
What did I learn from those hard times?
- Face the problem. It does no good to pretend that it doesn't exist. You may not have a solution at the moment, but it is unlikely to go away if you ignore it. Sometimes it takes me a while to break denial, but experience tells us that procrastination usually makes things worse.
- Brainstorm. There might be little you can do, but throw around a lot of ideas. It will give you a feeling of some kind of control. You won’t feel quite as hopeless. Then take any reasonable action you can. Keep searching for options even when you don’t feel like it.
- Manage your emotions. In the midst of difficulties you may feel like lashing out and blaming others or even God. Or you might want to turn it inwards and take a downward spiral into depression. You may need a moment to control your reactivity. Do your best not to feed your brain anxious and negative thoughts. Instead practice self-soothing.
- Don’t compound the problem. Resist the urge to medicate the pain with substances or behaviors that will only make the problem worse.
- Share your struggle with safe people. We need to let others come alongside our burdens. This is particularly important if your tendency is to withdraw. If married, make sure you stick to same sex friends or a trusted counselor. You don’t want to make it worse with an emotional entanglement.
- Pray – don’t deny the power of God. There is a tendency to rely only on the tangible when we are in the midst of something difficult. We can end up feeling hopeless when we run out of steam. If we remember to pray first, not last, it could make a big difference in our approach and sense of balance.
I have a lot of empathy for people going through hard times. That’s why I counsel.