Hope in Times of Hardship

Recently, I found myself wondering why it is that we have to look so far – all the way to heaven – for joy, peace, comfort. Why this life “must” be so full of hardship, as we are told in Scripture that it will be (1 John 16:33). Then a few things happened:

  1. I remembered that it is sin that has our world so upside-down and inside-out, so full of strife; and that it is a gift from God that we do, in fact, have heaven to look forward to!
  2. As I began to read Scriptures involving suffering, I found an interesting takeaway: the majority of them come with an encouraging promise! A few examples:
    • “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10, NIV, emphasis mine).
    • “The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all” (Psalm 34:19, NIV, emphasis mine). (Note that you are made righteous when you receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior (Romans 3:22), so this promise is for all believers.)
    • “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (1 Cor. 4:17, NIV, emphasis mine).
    • “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sinAs a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1-2, NIV, emphasis mine).
    • “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” 1 John 16:33, NIV, emphasis mine).

There are more, but I encourage you to find them on your own.

  • God reminded me that heaven isn’t so far away, particularly since believers are indwelt with the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 1:21-22). I mean, for me that feels like a piece of heaven living right inside me!
  • I remembered that when I keep my gaze to heaven, a couple of things become clear:
    • Heaven doesn’t seem so far away; and
    • I am no longer focused on the suffering of this world.
  • I am reminded that if I choose to, I can see much good in the world, even good that comes from suffering. Is that always easy? Well, no. But it does get easier the more I intentionally practice it. So, my perspective, as usual, largely dictates my emotional state, and my perspective is up to me to adjust (and is one of the few things in life I can actually control).

I came away from this prayer time (and from writing this post!) encouraged and at peace. I hope you will, also!

If you are struggling to find hope in your current circumstances, please reach out to me, or to someone, for help. You can reach me at


How to Help a Hurting Human – The “Don’ts”

There is a LOT going on in the world right now. I know you know this, but I mention it because a byproduct of this truth is that people are struggling. Lots of them. Struggling HARD. I guarantee that at least some of them are in your sphere of influence, and there are some points that bear mentioning now and then when it comes to interacting with someone who is hurting.

So, I thought I’d share some dos and don’ts to help. You probably are aware of some or even all of these, but a refresher might be timely, particularly with the holidays approaching.

While I’m only scratching the surface, this post was a bit long, so I split it into two posts. This week, for brevity, I’ll share four “don’ts” with you, and three “dos” next week. So, without further ado, the “don’ts” (see how I did that?) …


Tell them it could be worse. 

  • It is doubtful that any of us has ever encountered an adult who doesn’t fully understand that “it could always be worse,” so don’t say that. Or any version of it. When people come to me with troubles, they often tell me early on some variation of “I know it could be worse,” or, “I know it’s not the worst thing in the world that can happen,” or, “I know others who have it worse than I do, but …” and frankly it bothers me that people have become so accustomed to other people’s callousness that they feel they need to minimize their own problems in order to appear rational.
    • While I suppose it’s healthy to acknowledge that whatever is bothering us is, in fact, not the worst problem any human has ever experienced, it is nonetheless the situation we are in at this moment, and it’s a legitimate problem for us or we wouldn’t be talking about it.
    • (Also, I wonder if sometimes people don’t say it as a preemptive strike, so they don’t have to endure hearing it from the other person).
  • Let’s face it: it’s an insult to the hurting person’s intelligence and it often comes across as, “yeah, yeah, yeah … cut to the chase, and get happy already because I’m uncomfortable with your discomfort.”


Say “At least…”

  • If at some point in the conversation with a hurting person you feel compelled to allow yourself to say anything starting with, “At least…” STOP YOURSELF. Bite your tongue as hard as you have to, but DON’T SAY IT. Examples:
    • “At least today’s better than yesterday.” This can come across as, “Wow! So, you’re good now! What a relief for me!”
    • “At least it’s only going to cost you $300 instead of $1000.” That $300 is big potatoes or they probably wouldn’t be bothered about it. There have been times in my life when $300 might as well have been $5,000. Allow for their perception of the issue.
    • “At least it’s fixable.” They probably are aware of this, but the waiting time for the fix may feel like an eternity. Maybe they’ll be in a lot of pain until then. Maybe the fix comes with its own scary challenges.
    • “At least you’re not alone.” Nope, they’re not – they have you, dear friend, so be good to them and don’t assume you know what their other relationships are like. They chose you to be vulnerable with. Don’t teach them they can’t be.
  • Almost anything coming after “at least” is going to minimize their issue, and here’s another truth: many, many people find it far more difficult to express their feelings than to ignore or minimize them. In other words, they are very likely needing someone who doesn’t need them to minimize their struggles for the other person’s comfort or attention span.


Trivialize, Even Accidentally.

  • Do not quote Romans 8:28 unless they are a brand-new believer and there is a genuine possibility they don’t actually already know this. Just don’t.
  • Do not tell them “This, too, shall pass.” Yuck.
  • Do not tell them “It will get better.” Yuck again.
  • All of the above convey that you don’t have the patience to listen to them, you don’t care or don’t want to be bothered with their problems, that they need to “suck it up and move on,” or that they’re not the sharpest crayon in the box. Just don’t do it.


Play Mr./Ms. Fix It.

  • Do not feel like you need to fix the problem. This one has been around so long and is so obvious that I will not belabor it. As a refresher, just remember that usually your friend just needs to feel heard. Most often, they will make it abundantly clear if they want your advice. Maybe you have to wait until the end of their “rant” for them to ask, “What do you think/What would you do?” but that’s okay. It often helps us sort out our own issues when we simply process them aloud.
  • If you’re in doubt about whether they want your help or just a listening ear, ask them. If you’re uncomfortable with this, just know that many people value this type of clarification and most likely the other person will feel like you’re actually interested in the conversation. You add value to them by asking what they need from you rather than assuming what they need (you’re terrific and all, but not everyone wants or needs to be “rescued” or “fixed,” and your perspective on how you’d handle the problem may or may not actually be a good fit for them).

I look forward to your other recommendations in the comments!

Be sure to check out next week’s Monday Moment at the Well for part two, the “dos,” where I’ll share a juicy nugget I have figured out when dealing with a hurting person who I need to spend less time with.

I Was Drowning

Before Christ saved me, I was drowning. Flailing, sputtering, sinking, choking and utterly helpless to save myself.

Then he came. He put his arm around me, but as so many people who are drowning do, I resisted my rescuer.

Why is it that drowning people so often do this? They (we) tend to struggle against those who would protect us and lead us to safety, even though they are perhaps the only thing between us and certain death. It’s about fear. It’s about losing control.

In order for him to save me, I had to surrender to him. I had to stop fighting. I had to give him total control. I had to let go and be still and let him rescue me, pull me to safety, completely dependent on him.

Lord, I thank you for being my rescuer. I pray that every time I find myself in over my head, I will surrender to you, giving you control and trusting you completely. And God? I’m sorry for all the times I make you work so hard, and for the times I resist you. Amen.


Monday Moment: How to Stop Obsessing!

Have you ever obsessed over an unpleasant situation in your life until it just about drove you insane?  Tell the truth!  Well, when we zoom in on our problems and continuously revisit them, we keep our focus on the problem, not allowing room for a solution to pop into our heads.  And it’s like picking at a sore.  It never heals, and it gets inflamed.

I’m a work in progress, but below are a few things I do to get my head out of that cycle of replaying painful conversations, or carrying on internal dialogue, or over-analyzing an unpleasant issue I must deal with.

Zooming Out

This is excellent for perspective and objectivity.  Here’s how it works for me:

I picture myself doing whatever I’m doing (sitting at the table typing on my laptop, for example) as though I were a different person standing in the room watching me.  And then I zoom out.  Maybe I picture myself as though I were standing on the roof of our home looking down into the room I’m sitting in.  Then I maybe picture my neighborhood in my head like I was looking at Google Earth.  Then perhaps I zoom out so it’s the whole city I see, and so on.  Eventually, if I haven’t gained perspective about my situation, or achieved some emotional distance from it, I can zoom all the way out so that I’m picturing the whole universe and I, and my problems, are so completely lost from view that I can really feel how small they are in the bigger picture.

This isn’t a transcendental out-of-body experience, and I don’t open my mind up to just whatever is out there.  It’s a focused and intentional visualization.  And I can often effectively remind myself through this exercise just how finite my problems are and gain perspective and objectivity, so that I can approach the issue later, less emotionally and more realistically.

Healthy, Happy Hobby-ing

Another thing I do is craft.  I make and sell greeting cards, and sometimes when I find myself obsessing over a problem I will hole up in my studio with some jazz and a candle burning, or essential oils in the diffuser, and design and create pretty things that require me to engage a different part of my brain and focus on the current project.  It’s best to go for a hobby that requires your full attention and being artistic or creative really does wonders for balance in the old noggin’.  I do not recommend reading unless it’s an intensely engaging book; it’s too easy to zone out and let the mind wander right back to the situation you’re trying to leave behind for a while.

I specify “healthy, happy hobby” because throwing darts at the picture of the person who is at the center of a conflict you’re obsessing over isn’t healthy and isn’t happy (though it may be gratifying); also, baking 4 pans of brownies may not be a great plan in case you are inclined to sit in the floor and eat them all in a fit of emotional bingeing!


Yep.  I went there.  Though it’s not my favorite option, because it’s easy to zone out and get back on the crazy train heading right back to the den of turmoil you’re trying to vacate for a while (especially jogging, walking, riding the stationary bike, etc.).  That said, certain physical exercises, such as yoga, require concentration. When I’m on my yoga mat in a tricky posture, if I let my mind wander I’m likely to hurt myself, possibly seriously.  It’s the same with lifting weights.  I imagine martial arts and tai chi are similar, though I don’t practice them and can’t say for sure.


Serving others takes my mind off my problems, and afterward I invariably see my problems – even the really big ones – in their proper perspective.  Look for organizations that can help you find a place to serve in the community, or go directly to a soup kitchen, or something similar.  You may well fall for this this labor of love, and if you serve regularly, you’re less likely to lose perspective in your own life.

Do Not, Under Any Circumstances…

Lose yourself in television, binge eat, turn to alcohol, or indulge in any of your addictive behaviors.  Afterward you won’t have better perspective, and you’ll have to dig out from under guilt and self-loathing and start over in an even worse frame of mind.  Also, don’t run around and retell the story to everyone with a pulse.  Talking it over with multiple people is even more harmful than internal dialogue, because now you’re involving other people in your business, and probably someone else’s.  A counselor or a trusted friend or two – who will give you honest feedback or be a confidential sounding board – should be plenty.

Final Thoughts

You may be wondering why I’m not recommending prayer and meditation.  That’s because, depending on your level of discipline on a given day, that may well end in frustration as you spiral right back to the obsessive thinking.

The point is to create distance from the issue and break the obsessive thinking, not to run from problems or pretend they aren’t there and don’t need addressing.  This gives us the ability to rest our minds and approach the situation/person from a calmer, more balanced place.

Hope this helps!