She had just drifted off to sleep, when shortly past midnight the ringing phone jarred her awake. There had been a terrible accident. The other driver had been drinking…
She glanced through the window and saw the black car slowing down to a full stop in front of the house. That sickening feeling in the pit of her stomach will never be forgotten, of when the officers informed her that her son was killed in Iraq…
She paused at the open door down the hall and wailed in anguish, first in disbelief and then while reality set in, as her husband sat on the side of bed, sobbing as he read the note left by their daughter when she ran away in the night…
Her chest began to pound and she began to have difficulty breathing, when a few clicks on the computer keypad brought up those repulsive images, one after another; undeniable evidence of her husband’s addiction to pornography…
She borrowed her husband’s cell phone to make a call. Moments later her mind reeled in a state of shock and confusion, as she read the messages he forgot to delete; evidence that he’s been seeing another woman…
The list could go on and on. These are real heartaches that your sisters in Christ have experienced. Maybe you are one of those sisters. When we are knocked to the ground by life’s heavy blows, how can we get through it? Not simply surviving the blow, but enduring until we find joy in living again? I am not an expert by any means, but the school of hard knocks has taught me a few things.
* Ask God for help and strength – again, again, and again. The reality is that you might find yourself in a pit so deep that you hardly know how to pray or what to pray for. Search the Scriptures. Turn to the book of Psalms and draw strength from David’s prayers, when his heart was troubled and he felt oppressed on every side. “My soul, wait thou in silence for God only; For my expectation is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation: He is my high tower; I shall not be moved. With God is my salvation and my glory: The rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God” (Psalm 62:5-7).
* Build your foundation before the hard times hit. When Jesus told about the wise man that built his house upon the rock and the foolish man that built upon the sand, He did not say “IF” the rains come, but rather, they WILL come. Having a solid spiritual foundation is vital for being able to withstanding the beating. When grief is so intense, even the simplest tasks can seem too difficult. A person often goes into an “auto-pilot” survival mode. If we’ve already developed the habit of laying God’s Word up in our hearts, that’s where our “auto-pilot” will be most inclined to go. “I have remembered thine ordinances of old, O Jehovah, and have comforted myself” (Psalm 119:52).
* Confide in a trusted Christian friend. Having a tried and true friend to lean upon when the weight is too heavy to bear alone is what Paul had in mind when he penned the words “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). This can be very difficult if your crisis involves a breach of trust with someone you thought to be trustworthy. People such as myself, who tend to be more reserved in expressing their feelings, can find this particularly difficult to do. Look for someone who has already gone through what you are experiencing, but only if they have come through their journey spiritually intact. A bitter person will not be able to effectively help you keep your spiritual focus. If someone you know is going through a difficult time, don’t be like Job’s friends who assumed they had all the answers as to why Job was suffering and had no problem telling him so.
* Don’t blame God or turn away from Him. Other than our Lord, who knows more about suffering than Job? He questioned God, he readily admitted that he was not perfect, and yet he still did not understand why such suffering came upon him. He even made some foolish assumptions. However, Job did not blame God, nor did he turn his back on God. “Then Job arose, and rent his robe, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped; and he said, ‘Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: Jehovah gave, and Jehovah hath taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah.’ In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly” (Job 1:20-22). Job’s steadfast faith in God was the key to enduring his suffering, and he became stronger and wiser for having experienced it. Don’t beat yourself up, either. While we ought to be willing to reflect on our imperfections, repent of sin, and resolve to do better, repeatedly going down the road of “what if I would have…” is futile. You cannot undo the past, but you can go forward.
* Engulf yourself with positive messages that offer hope and encouragement. In addition to meditating on God’s Word, read carefully selected books and listen to sermons and hymns as you go about your work, drive in the car, etc. Even these things can hit a raw spot in your emotions and evoke feelings of sadness and that is okay. Sometimes you just need to cry. Keep looking for spiritual ways to soothe your soul. One suggested reading is Stronger Than Ever, by my brother, Jason Jackson. This book came about as the result of some crises he experienced in his own life.
* Focus on Scriptures that deal with anxiety, fear, and hope. Write them out on cards and place them in strategic places in your home – on the fridge, the bathroom mirror, by your bed. Scriptures such as Psalms 16:11, 43:5; Isaiah 41:10; Lamentations 3:21-25; Matthew 6:31-34; Philippians 4; Romans 8 as well as others. When you are feeling absolutely overwhelmed with grief, a detailed Bible study might be more than you can handle, but having some key scriptures to focus upon can help you keep on track.
*Give yourself permission to grieve, and then give yourself permission to set the grief aside for a little while. It might be helpful to give yourself a certain amount of time to be sad, cry, etc. and when that time is up, force yourself to move on to something positive and productive. Set a timer if necessary. Find reasons to smile, and then work at being able to laugh again. Although it may not seem like it when you are in the depths of despair, it is possible to find joy in life once again. Initially, it may be forced. But the time will come when the need to grieve will be less and the ability to feel happiness will increase.
* Help others. One of the most effective ways I have found to deal with trials is to look beyond myself and find someone else who needs some encouragement. No matter what difficulties you are going through, there are others who are going through trials that are worse than yours. One day you will be able to use your experience to minister to the needs of others. Instead of allowing bitterness to take root in your heart, allow this circumstance to bring about good. “In love’s service, only the wounded can serve, for they alone understand the cry of the bleeding heart” Barbara Johnson.
God did not promise that life would be trouble-free. In fact, He promised us that we will have troubles and trials along the way. The Christian, however, has some resources at hand that can help us climb out of the valley of despair. We have the Word of God; we have an open line of communication available where we can pour out our hearts to God at any time, day or night; and we have Christian family to lean upon. With God on our side, we know that He will give us the strength to weather the storm and reclaim our joy.
“I will extol thee, O Jehovah; For thou hast raised me up,
And hast not made my foes to rejoice over me.
O Jehovah my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me.
O Jehovah, thou hast brought up my soul from Sheol;
Thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.
Sing praise unto Jehovah, O ye saints of his, And give thanks to his holy memorial name.
For his anger is but for a moment; His favor is for a life-time:
Weeping may tarry for the night, But joy cometh in the morning.
As for me, I said in my prosperity, I shall never be moved.
Thou, Jehovah, of thy favor hadst made my mountain to stand strong:
Thou didst hide thy face; I was troubled. I cried to thee, O Jehovah;
And unto Jehovah I made supplication:
What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit?
Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth?
Hear, O Jehovah, and have mercy upon me: Jehovah, be thou my helper.
Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing;
Thou hast loosed my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;
To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent.
O Jehovah my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.”
By Joy Jensen
Joy and her husband George lived and served as missionaries in Iringa, Tanzania, East Africa for five years. They returned to the U.S. in April 2012 and have relocated in Hawesville, KY, where George serves as an evangelist. They have four grown children and two much-loved sons-in-law, as well as a treasured grandson. You can follow her adventures (and find many wonderful posts) at her blog.