As these seasons have continued to occur throughout my walk, you’d think I would not be surprised by the fiery trial (1 Peter 4:12) and yet I always come back to these same places. But God is constant and His love, patience, and grace towards me do not change. I have found over the years many things that are helpful and beneficial during times like these. In a valley-like season when we tend to overthink and life feels very complicated, it is good to return to the foundation, the practical, and the simple things that we know are good for us and our relationship with the Lord. For all of us, we know that continuing to take a step forward is the right response. Matt Chandler often says, “it’s okay to not be okay, but it’s not okay to stay there.” Those steps forward do not have to be grandiose but there are many little things we can move towards that we will find to be uplifting during times like these.
As hard as it may be, I encourage you to open your Bible and just read something. Read verses and passages pertaining to your current struggle. David continually cries out for God in the Psalms, Job doubts and questions the goodness and authority of the Lord, Christ sympathizes with us throughout the Gospels. Even if it is for five minutes, push yourself to read and if you have enough strength, try to memorize a verse. My go to lately has been Philippians 4:6-7… “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” And if you find that you do not have the strength to read for yourself, have someone else read to you…this is a beautiful thing. I encourage you to journal if you do not currently. This is a great place to process your thoughts and write your prayers to the Lord. In your journal, reflect on and remember all the ways that God has been faithful to you in the past. When have you tasted and seen that the Lord is good? Read Christian books and articles. I cannot express enough how critical this has been in my walk. God has spoken to me, counseled me, strengthened me, and matured me through so many godly writers. If you need a recommendation feel free to ask me! Listen to biblically sound worship music and allow it to refresh your mind and soul…or cry to it, that’s usually what I do. Seek out mentors. We were not made to walk through this life alone. We need community that will encourage, challenge, and push us to the Lord. Seeking out the counsel of those who are older tends to be wisest but at the end of the day, seek out someone who you can safely and healthily share your life with. Plug into a church and allow someone else to preach into your life when you are struggling to preach to yourself. It is imperative that we are hearing the Gospel, always, no matter the season. If you are unable to preach it to yourself, someone else needs to. These are very foundational helps throughout our Christian walks in general but especially in our hardest seasons…they are a must.
Individually though, it is good to find things that are beneficial for you heart, mind, and body. Note: do not overlook the physical…our bodies are more connected than we often realize. For me, I have found sunshine and long walks to be quite helpful. For you it may be playing sports or drawing, listening to cheerful music, laying in a hammock, playing with your pup, going on long drives, baking some sweet treats, watching a funny video, buying fresh flowers, making yourself or someone else a meal… another note: it is good for us in our hardest seasons to seek to serve others. In our darkest days we are typically very inward focused and become too consumed with ourselves. It is a right and godly act to look outwards and seek to love and serve others. Challenge yourself or have someone else push you to share the Gospel with another. This not only is a necessity and a blessing in that person’s life but will be to you as well.
What can you do today? What brings you joy? What reminds you of and stirs your heart for the Lord? Pursue those things and in all of this, strive for thankfulness. This may be the hardest challenge of all but there is always something to be thankful for…a bed to sleep in at night, a car to get you around, a lit candle, time to rest, someone smiling at you, a cup of coffee, a hug, the opportunity to get a good education, or time to spend with your closest friends. Thanksgiving stirs up thankfulness. Do not let yourself overlook the immense blessings that God has bestowed upon you…not only is God glorified in your thankfulness but it reminds you of the goodness and love of the Lord and this in return will stir up your joy. Author of, Edwards on the Christian Life: Staying Alive to the Beauty of God, Dane Ortlund wrote,
The formula to joy is not God and (blank) so much as God in (blank). True joy derives not from God and job, family, sex, friends, food, rest, driving, buying a home, reading a book, drinking coffee- but from God in these things… Every taste of beauty in this world, from the roar of waterfalls to the chatter of birds to the richness of true friendship to the ecstasy of sexual experience, is a drop from the ocean of divine beauty. Every pleasure is an arrow pointing back to him. Joy is from, and only finally in, God.
Stay alive to the beauty of God in all things. God is enough for you. He is MORE than enough. He holds your future and your past; He is the beginning and the end. He is for you; He has called you by name. He cannot and will not forsake you because He has purchased you by His blood. You are forever His and He will see you through whatever season you are facing. These afflictions are not meaningless but are preparing you for an eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17). He is the ultimate prize. He reigns sovereignly and a day is coming when He will make all things new (Revelation 21:5). “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1: 3-7).
And “even if I turn out to be wrong, I shall bet my life in the assumption that this world is not idiotic, neither run by an absentee landlord, but that today, this very day, some stroke is being added to the cosmic canvas that in due course I shall understand with joy as a stroke made by the architect who calls Himself Alpha and Omega.” – Clyde Kilby
Pressing on with you,