What do we do when tragedy hits? When we receive a cancer diagnosis, face major surgery, we can’t have children, or the country where we minister faces major challenges? Tragedy takes many forms. Over the years I’ve learned some ways that help me to cope with hard times.
1. When something drives me to my knees, it’s not a bad thing. When I'm at the end of my resources, I reach a point of desperation, and there’s nowhere else to go. I get on my knees, or l lie face down and find Jesus. He’s always there.
2. I remember God is helping me to grow. My friend used to say, “When it gets really hard, I look for my lesson and try to learn it quickly. I curl up my body, cover my head and say, ‘Please hurry up, Lord!’” I wonder why God doesn't teach us through easy times.
3. I'm transparent but hard things are difficult to share. So surprise––I am not the tower of strength and faith people think I am. But when I'm transparent, it’s incredible how people share their own stories. They encourage and they pray with me. Thank you to everyone who walks with me in the valleys.
4. I don't envy others. When I'm in pain it seems life is so rosy for everyone else––especially the welloff, happy, beautiful people. I thank God for his blessings in their lives and pray for them. They may look wonderful from the outside, but I remind myself that I don't know all of their stories.
5. I don’t know the end of the story. As my teacher, Steve Brown, says, “It isn’t over till it’s over.”
6. I smile. There was a time when I couldn’t find a smile inside me. I read an article that said if you smiled, it produced endorphins in your body and you would feel better. So every morning I smiled at myself in the mirror, feeling ridiculous and hypocritical and muttering under my breath,“This is stupid.” But I suggest you try it.
7. I count my blessings. The small things are piling up. Irritation grows to anger. The world feels as if it’s falling in. That’s when my missionary experience kicks in. We used to pray every night with our children, ”Thank you, God, for food in our tummies because some children have no food. Thank you, God, for a bed to sleep in because some people sleep on the hard, cold floor. Thank you, God, for a roof over our heads because some have no shelter.” In the past, I can remember feeling so bereft of blessing that I had to sit down and list all my blessings. Hands, feet, eyes, food, clothes, shelter, family, friends, strength to wake up in the morning. I made a list of all the good things about my husband and my children to remind me to appreciate them more. Lists are good.
8. Phooey on you, Satan. So you shoot darts at me. You put doubts in my mind. You whisper lies in my ears. “Does God really love you? What kind of loving God would put you through this nasty situation? Where is God?” Our family went through hard times when I was growing up. Because of my difficult past, I can identify and speak with some authority, “God loves you and has a good purpose for your life and your suffering.” So Satan, I’m just filling my thoughts with who I am in Jesus!
9. Persevere and thank God for the suffering. Really? The same way I suffer, Jesus suffered. Actually that’s not true, for Jesus suffered far, far more than I have ever suffered. He did not just live a difficult life. He died a horrible death. He suffered not just physically, emotionally and mentally, but He wrenched Himself away from the arms of his Father and covered Himself in the filth of every sin mankind has committed. When I suffer, I appreciate his suffering just a little more. I am so grateful I have Jesus who understands and relates to me through my suffering. I have heard Him say,“I’ve been there. I overcame. You can too.” One day, there will be no more suffering, no more crying, no more pain.
10. Keep trusting God and have faith. The best part of heart-breaking stories is when people talk about coming through the other side still hanging in there with God and trusting Him. I,too, can testify that God keeps his promises.“Though you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned.” “Nothing can separate you from the love of God.” “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
By Lydia Nigh (SIM Canada missionary)