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  • Writer's pictureEphemeral & Faithful

When Things Don't Get Better

"Do you have any writings on what to do when things don't get better?" I was recently asked this by a friend who was enduring some medical challenges, and I unfortunately did not have anything written at that time on the topic of things not getting better. I did share some Scripture with her, which will always be superior to any of my writing, but I decided I did want to have some of my thoughts written out to share some of my musings of what to do when things don't get better. I have questioned this same sentiment many times, especially when the pain just won't let up, and I came up with six things to do when we are sinking low, full of frustration and sorrow, and feel like we're drowning in life's troubling circumstances.

1. Cry and mourn the painful occurrence. Say what? Yes, you read correctly: cry. We are humans created with emotion, and it is unhealthy to keep pain bottled up inside (though keeping it inside is my preferred method of moving through pain; I suppose I need to take a dose of my own advice). Even the Bible states in Ecclesiastes 3:4 that there is, "A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance." If we were not created to cry, there would not be Scriptures written such as the wiping away of tears in Revelation, the Lord bottling our tears in Psalms, and God saving the crushed in spirit in Psalms. Even Jesus cried in Scripture. We are Imago Dei. The beautiful thing about the tears of a believer is that our tears are temporary, and we have a Father who is full of compassion towards those who love Him. His heart is moved when our heart is broken, and He weeps when His child weeps. John 11:33 is a loving example of this attribute, "When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled." He doesn't desire to see us in pain, thus He offers comfort and He promises a restored heart when this earth has passed on and the new heaven and earth are created where we dwell in eternity alongside our King.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (ESV)

2. Pray and submit to His will. When Jesus experienced the anguish of His upcoming crucifixion, He retreated to the garden of Gethsemane to pray to the Father. He begged the Father to take the cup of crucifixion from Him, but then He said crucial words, "not as I will, but as You will." It's important to acknowledge that Jesus didn't pray once, not twice, but three times. Three times He prayed, trusted, and submitted. Follow in Jesus' steps of taking the next step of prayer, trusting that He can remove the trial from your life, but also be fully willing to submit to His will, no matter how difficult the path through the valley may be, and continued to do these actions in both trial and triumph. Trust that God is with you just as He promises in Psalm 23:4a, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me." There is peace found in prayer and submission to the Creator who loves us.

"Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to His disciples, 'Sit here, while I go over there and pray.' And going a little farther He fell on his face and prayed, saying, 'My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.' Again, for the second time, He went away and prayed, 'My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, Your will be done.' So, leaving them again, He went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again." ~ Matthew 26:36, 39, 42, 44 (ESV)

3. Have contentment in the here and now. Yesterday is gone, though I dearly miss it. Tomorrow is not promised, though I dream of a better day. So I have to ask myself, what can I do with today to glorify the Lord and love others? Sometimes I covet my own life's past and future and despise the present, yet I am only given today and must find contentment and satisfaction in the moment I am living in and the day in front of me. Today truly is a gift, and it takes effort to realize that, especially in the midst of pain. James 4:14-15 offers excellent wisdom, “…yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.'" Paul found contentment in the sustaining strength of the Lord. The Lord's sustenance was enough for him as it carried Him in that moment. Therefore, we can also find contentment in the strength of the Lord and in seeking out His will for us and eagerly moving forward in that fulfillment of His will. Thy will be done.

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.” ~ Philippians 4:11-14 (ESV)

4. Keep joy and hope alive in your heart. In the quest for joy, where do you look to find it? Looking inward at self causes disgust and sorrow. Looking outward at circumstances leads to dissatisfaction and anxiety. Looking both inward and outward gives way to downward depression and restlessness. We find ourselves always grasping, yet never receiving. Instead of grasping, be still and know that He is God. Know that His promises stand true. The God who is the Prince of Peace is also the Father of joy. Fixing our face towards Christ births eternal joy that can carry us through this ephemeral life. We can keep joy and hope alive and well by knowing the Lord and His salvation as our sole joy and hope, and then solidifying this knowledge into our heart, mind, and soul. Things of this world, even relief of our burdens and trials, cannot satisfy or suffice a pained heart or produce lasting joy. However, hope in Christ is a steadiness we can cling to whether we're in the valley and on the mountaintop. Keep your eyes fixed on Christ and the hope that is rooted in Him, and the troubles of this world will fade as mere shadows in the brilliance of His glorious grace and lovingkindness that warmly envelops us as we traverse the earth.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” ~ Psalm 27:1 (ESV)

5. Worship the Lord. Worshipping through tears and anger and frustration is immensely difficult!!! But it always redirects me to fix my eyes on Christ. He calmed the waves and winds, and as the Creator of my soul and my very being, I am convinced that He can most certainly calm my heart and mind! He is the Prince of Peace, and He overcame the world. What a wonderful thing our Prince of Peace and King of kings has done in overcoming the broken world that groans in pain! John 16:33, one of my favorite verses, reassures us,“I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.'" In the end when all is said and done, all of our sooty coal of earthly trials will be turned to glittering diamonds of heavenly treasure if we trust in Him and allow His will to be done, remaining faithful in our relationship with Him and obey His commands throughout our life. The year of 2022 has been a living hell for me, so I decided to join my church's choir in order to purposefully focus on worshipping the Lord. Singing in the choir, though physically challenging, has been so delightful for my heart and soul. It's been a refreshing shift from a heart full of sorrow and deep pain to a heart full of worship. Sorrow and pain still coexists in my heart with my worship, but now worship dominates my heart instead of sorrow and pain. Worship is not done is just song, though song is one of my favorite forms, but in rejoicing, prayer, and waiting on the Lord. Romans 12:12 instructs, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Worship is done through tears and through laughter, and worship can be a healing balm to a bleeding heart. God's gift of redemption through salvation, His many incredible promises, and His steadfast love will forever triumph over resolution of any earthly trial we are enduring. The Lord God's majesty and holy attributes makes Him worthy of all praise and worship at all times.

"Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God." ~ Psalm 42:11 (ESV)

6. Recognize that God is in control, and release your control. We cannot control anything in this world except our heart and soul’s response to life and relationship to the Lord. Outside of that, God is in control, and as His children, we have to trust that He knows what’s best as He weaves an entire world’s occurrence into a beautiful tapestry for His glory. Be okay with whatever outcome there is, because He is truly good. I do not know why I have so many health issues and have lost so much physical ability in life. I do not know why two of my dearest friends in life lost their life to cancer and cystic fibrosis, and I continue to lose friends to cystic fibrosis. I do not know why my family lost our beloved Rocky Mountain home, which was my childhood home of 13 years, in Colorado when the 2008 economic crash occurred. I do not know why I had to move from my home state of Colorado to North Carolina and why it had to hurt my heart so deeply. Many very good things have occurred in NC, such as a wonderful job, dear friends, a few lifesaving doctors, and being near my extended family, but I still remember the sharp pain of moving and how it took two to three years for a scar to form and acceptance to finally take root. Nevertheless, I have to trust and be okay in that through all these trials, Christ is refining me to be more like Him, and refinement is done through fire, which hurts! 1 Peter 1:6-7 elaborates more on the value of refinement,"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." God is good, and knowing that He loves me enough to burn away the impurities of my character to mold me to be more like Him permits for endurance and acceptance on my end. As we respond to our less than desirable circumstance, will we allow bitterness and anger to take root in our hearts or will we allow the fruits of the Spirit to grow on freshly refined soil? I prefer the latter, as it glorifies the Lord and can encourages others and point them to Christ as they observe my response to the trial in my life. I for one am thankful that God is in control, because if I were in control, I imagine a horrible mess would be made!

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” ~ Romans 8:18, 28 (ESV)

I ask “why” too much. I don’t understand many challenges that occur in life and the brokenness of the people’s lives around me. I was mulling over these things the other evening after receiving some difficult news, and I finally pieced together the thought that if we always had the answers to our “why” questions, were given understanding to all of our confusion, and had the ability to grant peace in the midst of any chaos, then what would be the purpose of trusting Christ and having faith? In difficult and painful trials, we crave solutions to problems, demand answers to questions, and seek peaceful escape from chaos. I know I do. Yet, we are called to walk by faith, not by sight. Many times, we are not granted sight to walk through life. We are blinded by difficult circumstances and crumble to our knees in pain. Things don't always get better. Sometimes things go from bad to worse. We don’t receive an answer when we beg “why.” We don’t have understanding when we're stunned by unjust and challenging situations. We can’t find an ounce of peace in chaotic crisis. Relief is impossible to find in immense pain. Nevertheless, our God is faithful to guide us through His will even though we cannot see and we stumble and we cry. Whether we can see clearly or we are blinded, we simply must trust and obey Jesus with every step in life. He sees fulfillment to His will for His glory when we cannot see any reason for our trial. He guides us, loves us, and never forsakes us. When all is said and done and the world is overcome by the Lord, we can stand back with our tears wiped from our eyes by our Creator, observe how our lives were apart of His glorious tapestry, and remember how His grace was sufficient for the moment. Until then, be encouraged, press forward, and never lose sight of the Lord and His goodness!

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (ESV)

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Dec 04, 2022

Thank you for your wisdom and reflections on this very human dilemma.

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