Don't let that title fool you. When it comes to getting to the other side of a difficult personal struggle, the real issues are always spiritual. God is at work amidst the mayhem and pain and disorder and change. And complete and uninhibited cooperation with Him is the only way to get through.
But I've also found that there are some very practical, tangible things I can do in the difficult moments, when the pain feels overwhelming, the minutes seem to drag, the temptation to jump ahead of God is great and the emotions are running high. These are the moments when I need to silence the voices of the enemy in my head, cling to truth and do something to lift my spirits. Know what I mean?
While my hair was wrapped in little pieces of foil and I was sitting under the dryer at the beauty shop recently, I read an interesting article about practical things to do to lift your mood after a break-up. Of course my series of posts here relate to more than just romantic splits, and this magazine was a secular one, offering nothing of seeking the Lord or yielding to the Holy Spirit. But it got me to thinking about some of the things I've learned to do when I've needed to shift gears during a difficult season.
So, since the weekend is upon us and you may find yourself with extra time on your hands, even as you continue to battle on through your personal struggle, I offer you a list of simple, practical and tangible things you might do when the going gets too tough to handle.
When your personal struggle is overwhelming you, you might:
- Walk it off. Better yet, pound the pavement with a steady jog. I've just taken up running again this past summer after an eight-year hiatus. But I've always loved the way running (or walking briskly) can lift my spirits like no body's business. In fact, I'll admit that there have been times when I actually resisted going for my run because I was having too much fun at my pity party, and I knew that about a mile into a run the party would start to dwindle. Imagine!
- Watch something light and funny. Whether it's an old-fashioned sitcom like I Love Lucy or a silly movie like Airplane, a little canned laughter might strike your funny bone and loosen you up. But I'd stay away from dramas and heavy love stories.
- Cook up something new. I like to cook when I'm in a stew, but if I stir up something I know how to make too well, my mind tends to wander into dangerous territory. It's better for me to concentrate on using new ingredients and an unchartered recipe.
- Turn on the music. I play praise music almost nonstop in my home and car, especially when I'm going through a difficult time and I need to train my mind to dwell on truth. But sometimes I think it helps to crank up some upbeat tunes from the past as well, something from high school, when life was oh so sweet and simple!
- Thumb through a magazine. Not only do the simple, short articles in magazines help me move my mind along to simpler matters, but my favorites also tend to have inspirational stories about people who have faced and conquered much bigger mountains than the one I'm climbing.
- Have tea. No, don't just plop a tea bag in your coffee mug and warm the water in the microwave. Get out a real tea pot, heat the water in a kettle, and set yourself a pretty tray. Just the act of treating yourself to something so pretty and time-consuming can be very empowering.
- Get outside. Not just for the brisk walk, but to soak up some sunshine, play in the snow, trim the bushes, walk the dog, enjoy a picnic or read a book. The light and the vitamin D you absorb from the sun actually help lift your mood.
- Explore something new. Last week I sneaked off on my own to discover a national park that is just down the road from me. I had never bothered to turn off the highway and go to it before. I just drove into the park, visited the visitor's center briefly and wandered around a little. I wasn't there more than 30 minutes, but I left with new perspective and fresh excitement. I had been somewhere new!
Now, here are some things you should not do when the going gets tough and you feel overwhelmed:
- Don't read a book...unless it is simple and completely unrelated to your current hurdles. Books hinge on plot lines, and troubles are the stuff plot lines are made of. Beware. Somehow every story line parallels my story line when I'm in the depths of despair! But if you do want to read something secular (because I'll be honest, even serious Christian novels don't set well with me when I'm blue), may I suggest a Fannie Flagg novel? She's such a funny, quirky writer. Her stories delight me!
- Don't play the blues. I admit it; I gravitate toward sad songs when I'm sad. But they do nothing to get me to the other side of my own blue mood. In fact, I try to even steer clear of the more melancholy and contemplative Christian songs. Songs about crying and praying by the bedside of a dying child may remind us of God's faithfulness and love when all is right with our own little world, but when my world is seemingly falling apart those tunes just add tears to my bucket.
- Don't go shopping. Stay away from the malls and the websites. Remember, you'll have to pay that bill eventually.
In case you just wandered over here today and you're not clear on this, I'm not suggesting you get through your difficult days with these simple little remedies. I'm all about having a good, thorough, heart-felt meeting with the Lord first thing every morning. And I'm all for seeking wise counsel from godly friends, and praying with them. And I'm definitely, most certainly all about meditating on and memorizing biblical truth that speaks to your issues. God alone is the answer to our deepest woes...and our smallest ones.
But I know from experience, that there are a lot of little moments between your quiet time with God in the morning and your vespers at night. And while I'm all for praying without ceasing, I do believe I've even heard God speak to me recently, "Kay, I've got this. Now go along and play!" But, of course, sometimes I still don't feel like playing. So those are the moments when I need to busy my hands, keep my eyes on something other than myself, and occupy my mind with something useful but light. That is the time when God is at work, behind the scenes, in the quiet. And if I can keep myself busy and happily occuppied during that time, He can work with me out of His way. That's when He can change my heart, right my attitude, redirect my steps, shed a little light and refocus me.
Let me know what simple, practical things you've found helpful to get you through the difficult moments and lift your spirits.
Labels: personal struggles, struggles