Yesterday in my post Where there is no hope in God’s Promises I talked about the friends I know who are struggling in hard places wondering if and how God is present. It was in fact just one of a series of posts from the last couple of weeks on this theme. The others are:
These have been some of the most popular posts I have written over the summer, partly I am sure because I have shared my own struggles but also because many others are in the same place of struggle. Our lives and our emotions are as volatile as the stock market has been over the last couple of weeks. But when we struggle what do we do? How do we struggle through the birth pangs that invariably accompany resurrection? How do we find again the hope in our salvation that God intends to be the lifeblood that sustains all our efforts?
There are of course no simple solutions, but fortunately there are practices that can bring us into the place of peace and joy that God intends for us – and some of those practices are not what we think.
When Elijah fled into the desert because of his fear of Jezebel God did not start with spiritual activities – God started by giving Elijah rest and food, a very good place for all of us to start when we are in tough places. So here are some suggestions:
- Get plenty of sleep. When we are down and struggling and not sleeping our perspectives get distorted. Sleep is rejuvenating not just to our bodies but also to our souls
- Eat the right food. We react to stress and struggle either by binging on comfort food like chocolate or by stopping eating all together. Neither of these responses are good for us. A balanced and nutritious diet can go a long way in restoring our tattered equilibrium
- Spend time outdoors and get plenty of exercise. These usually go hand in hand. Walking, running gardening, swimming (in the sea not an indoor pool) are all ways to connect to God’s good creation and the energy that such connections make for us.
- Don’t be afraid to share your struggles. Fear is one of the most gripping and demoralizing of all emotions. It saps of our energy, it paralyses our minds and often results in panicked responses that are nothing like what God intends. But when we share our fears with others their support and encouragement is often all we need to overcome it.
- Listen to the silence that God stirs up within us but also to the wisdom of friends, colleagues and consultants. If God intends resurrection when we are looking for healing then we may not be very open to the new ways that God plans to move. In the last few days I have talked to a number of friends whose advice is I am sure part of the wisdom that God wants to impart as we seek a way forward
- Move forward in company with friends. I think that one of the most powerful lessons God is teaching all of us at the moment is that we are not isolated individuals. We walk the journey towards God as part of a great company of Christ followers – we walk together with those who have gone before, those who surround us now and those who will come after. And some of those who walk with us have wonderful stories to tell of the resurrections God has accomplished in their lives. Listen to them, draw encouragement from them.
- Pray – and I don’t mean intercede telling God what you want and how you think it should happen. Sit quietly in the presence of God reminding yourself of the ever loving ever caring One who never leaves not forsakes you. Spend time soaking in God’s comfort and compassion. Allow God to speak to you in the silence of the moment. Open yourself to the power of God’s resurrection life transforming and making you new.