Dealing with the Difficulties in Life
It would be a wonderful world if there were no difficulties. Unfortunately, all of us encounter our share of difficulties as we live our lives. Common problems create ordinary stresses. While we can feel overwhelmed occasionally, with patience and perseverance the problems do pass. Crises come along when circumstances are beyond our control. The break-up of a marriage, an unexpected move, losing a job, illness or addiction, the incarceration, death or suicide of someone we love—these crises and countless others have more enduring effects.
Everyone has had the experience of hearing bad news or realizing that they have a big problem. You know the feeling: your head hurts, you feel nauseous, and the tingle of fear creeps up your spine. There are three basic ways we can react to crisis: we can get angry, we can withdraw, or we can take charge. Sometimes we proceed through all three in turn.
Anger is an all-too-common response to bad news. We lose control of ourselves, screaming and shouting; maybe even throwing things. Do you remember having temper tantrums when you were a small child? The grown-up equivalent might include fighting, driving recklessly, swearing at people, or even drinking excessively. Tantrums, and other destructive behavior, might work for pre-schoolers, but it's not a healthy way for adults to handle a crisis. In fact, it can compound the problem.
Perhaps you withdraw when you encounter some kind of crisis? This too is a normal reaction. Many of us just want to be "left alone" to sort out our thoughts and feelings. However, when we avoid our friends and family, and refuse to talk about the problem with anyone, we begin to feel all alone with the problem. When we deal with problems in this unhealthy way, we can find that the problem consumes all of our thoughts. Depression, anger, and hopelessness take root. We may find ourselves exhausted, unable to concentrate or sleep properly, experience a loss of appetite, and feel like crying all of the time. This is a very dangerous state of mind which leads to bad choices.
The Chinese word for "crisis" consists of two characters: danger and opportunity. The most healthy reaction to a crisis is to take charge of the situation. A crisis presents an opportunity to choose how you will go forward with life in the way that is best for the long term. Initially, it is important to manage the stress we feel. Talk with a friend, go for a walk or do some other physical exercise, or relax with your favorite music. Give yourself a chance to think. None of these things will solve the problem, but they will allow you to decide on the next step. Choose someone that you trust and respect, someone who can really help you, and discuss the problem with them. Together you can sort out the problem, weigh the options, and consider what to do.
Turning to God
As Christians, we believe that God is near to us throughout every crisis we will ever face. We know that God kept his promise to Judah in the time of Isaiah to deliver his people. That promise was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus, who is Emmanuel "God with us." God is indeed faithful. We believe that God has cared for us and will see us through the current difficulty. Ours is a sure hope, founded in the words of the sacred Scripture. The Psalmist wrote:
"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom do I fear? The Lord is my life's refuge; of whom am I afraid? Ps. 27:1 "In you I seek shelter. In the shadow of your wings I seek shelter till harm pass by." Ps. 57:2
Jesus reassured his disciples of his continuing presence with them with these words, "And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age"(Mt 28:20). None of us is ever alone.
Christians of the first century also struggled with difficulty in their lives. They faced heartache and betrayal, persecution and death. They wondered where God was in the midst of all they endured. With powerful words, Saint Paul encouraged the early church at Rome to have confidence in God. He wrote in Chapter 8:
"We know that all things work for good for those who love God,
who are called according to his purpose." -- Vs. 28
"What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or
Persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?" --Vs. 35
"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." – Vs 38-39
Helping a Friend in Crisis
Have you ever had a friend ask for your help in dealing with something really difficult?
You can help a friend through any crisis with your presence. Be with them. Don't talk; just listen. Take them and their feelings seriously. Let them know that you understand what they are telling you and that you care for them. (Try not to talk about yourself and what happened to you—this is not the time.) Be patient. Offer to do things with them that they would normally do, so that they are not alone. Sometimes a little encouragement can go a long way and the routine can be comforting.
An important way that you can help a friend in crisis is to encourage them to talk to someone who can provide assistance depending on the nature of the crisis. Offer to go with the friend to talk to a counselor, a social worker, or a priest—anyone they trust and respect who has the experience and resources to help with the problem. Many people are reluctant to take this step. They want to handle things quietly and avoid embarrassment. It is a mistake to agree to be secretive. Crises are serious and your friend may require professional help. Enlarging the "circle of support" is usually the best way to get the kind of help your friend will need over a longer period of time.
Share with your friend that faith helps you to deal with difficulty. You can offer to pray with them. This could be an especially welcome gesture if they have not prayed for a long time, or if they cannot find the words to pray in their confusion or grief. You can certainly pray for them and let them know they are in your prayers. You'd be surprised how this small act can console even the most non-religious person.
Some people find that little cards with a scripture or note of encouragement are a good support. It's an easy way to quietly let someone know they are in your thoughts and prayers. Give them a Bible or a small devotional prayer book. These can be a pathway for someone who wants to be closer to God, but who doesn't know how to start.
You might invite your friend to Church on Sunday. The scripture, the music, the ritual, the gathered people are all places your friend might encounter Jesus. Being with people who believe can kindle a spark of hope. Their prayer and their kindness to one another is a healing environment for someone who is struggling.
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