Preparing for adulthood includes learning how to manage money, being responsible with technology, finding a right-fit career, considering what to look for in a future spouse, etc. But sometimes, what can be overlooked is planning for the trials of life.
Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:
It’s important to know what the Bible says about suffering, such as:
- Acceptance of the fallen state of the world leads to a realistic, healthy perspective. (Rom. 5:12-21; Eph. 6:12-13; 1 Pet. 4:12)
- Joy and fullness of life in Christ includes hardships and suffering. (Col. 1:24-29)
- Suffering is a prompt to pray. (James 5:13)
- There are great blessings in suffering. (1 Pet. 3:14)
- The Bible provides the strategies needed to endure suffering. (Ps. 40:11b)
- Suffering does not make God less than perfectly good. (Rom. 2:4)
- God is in control of suffering at the same time as feeling everything we feel. (Ps. 97:1; Mt. 25:42-45)
- He modeled how to do suffering. (Lk 23:46)
- Responding well to suffering brings God glory and takes Christians to glory. (1 Pet 4: 16; Rom. 8:17-18)
- You can achieve a special status in suffering, and can gain others’ attention for Christ through it. (Phil. 1:27-29)
- Going through trials lifts you out of earthly focus and back to an eternal view. (2 Tim. 1:8-12)
- Being well-prepared for suffering is not the same as being cynical, anxious, or dreading the future. (Prov. 31:25)
Having a personal relationship with Jesus is a game-changer when it comes to suffering.
- Seeing Him at work in tough times leads to a grateful spirit. (Ps. 34)
- Suffering is an opportunity to be comforted by the Divine Comforter. (2 Cor. 1:3-7)
- The Lord allows hard times to produce rewarding, personal character transformation. (Rom. 5:3-4)
- He uses physical woes to expose crucial spiritual needs. (Mt. 9:2)
- Suffering reveals the need for faith in God. (Is. 41:10)
- What Jesus did on the cross becomes more precious in the face of evil. (Heb. 2:9)
- He gives you precisely what you need to tolerate the suffering you’ve been given. (Heb 4:16)
- Hard times create a beneficial dependency on the Lord. (2 Cor. 11:16-12:10)
- Sharing in Christ’s suffering can make you more like Him. (Phil. 3:10-11)
- Suffering can bond you to Jesus Christ in a deep, sacred way. (Phil. 3:7-8)
Suffering is a time for community to rally around those who are hurting:
- Joining with others through suffering keeps you from feeling alone. (1 Pet. 5:9)
- There is no greater hero to look up to than someone who is suffering and clinging to Christ in faith. (James 5:10-11)
- Suffering is an opportunity to show and receive love and comfort from special people in your life. (2. Cor. 1:3-4)
- Your suffering can be united to Christ’s sufferings for your benefit and for the sake of the Body of Christ. (Col. 1:24)
- Prayers in times of suffering remind you how much you are loved, and Jesus is always found in prayer teams. (Mt. 18:20)
- Through hardship, relationships can become more authentic. (Ruth 2:11)
- Suffering often occurs in seasons. Sometimes you’re on the receiving end of support and sometimes you’re on the giving end. (1 Pet. 1:6; Eph. 4:2)
- Doing life in a Christian community gives you the opportunity to be held up by brothers and sisters in Christ when you struggle, to know deep satisfaction of pointing others to Christ when they suffer, and to grow in Christ together. (Jn. 13:35)
“We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed – always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” (2 Cor. 4:8-10)
If you struggle with falling asleep, or staying asleep, because you’re worried…anxious…upset…stressed…sad…lonely…overwhelmed…angry…or having any other strong emotion, there are promises in God’s Word about this.
- If you 1) keep wisdom in sight and 2) keep discretion in view, your sleep will be sweet (Prov. 3:21-24).
- If you 3) lay silent on your bed and ponder God, who He is, and what He does, you will sleep in peace (Psalm 4:4b-8).
- If you 4) submit to the Lord as the One to watch over and take care of your life, He will give you the gift of sleep (Ps. 127:2b; Mk. 4:27).
But when you’re upset, it’s difficult to focus on these truths. An acronym of R.E.S.T can help.
Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:
(R)emember. Long before bed, review the truth about Who’s got you. Don’t just look up Proverbs 3:24 about sweet sleep. Back up to verses 19 & 20 and stop doubt-filled thoughts from multiplying because you are recalling your God who founded the earth and established the heavens.
(E)xpress. Write in the evening. But don’t elaborate about your problems; you already know them well. Write about the One and to the One who has wisdom and understanding and gives peace.
(S)ay yes. Accept that yes you may be awake for a while, but at least your body is at rest. If you worry about losing sleep, you’ll cost yourself even more sleep. Now it’s time to gradually put your mind and heart at rest – not by fretting, but by accepting your restlessness for the moment, and trusting the preparation you’ve done to get sleep.
(T)est yourself. Are you willing to sometimes go without sleep for your God? Consider 2 Corinthians 6:4-10. Disciples don’t always get good sleep. Ask the Lord to put on your heart His concerns and the troubles of others. Pray the night away if you must; your heavenly Father knows you need sleep (Mt. 6:32) and He will have it ready for you soon enough.
You’re going through something hard. Really hard.
And you know there’s probably a better way to go through it, but you’re just not sure how.
Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:
1.Remind yourself that you are called to suffer. Why should this make you feel any better? Because it’s a sign that you matter. You’re worth having a calling. Your mission as a Christian, should you choose to accept it, is to follow in the steps of Christ who suffered for you (1 Pet. 2:21). And that means sometimes you will feel pain.
2.Take more responsibility for your behavior. While Jesus was walking through His suffering season, He did not sin. He left His Holy Spirit with you to empower you to have self-control for times like this. (Gal. 5:22-23; Eph. 1:19; 1 Pet. 2:22)
- Are you over-indulging in pleasures to ease your discomfort?
- Are you turning to everyone else before seeking the Lord to receive comfort?
- Are you valuing your opinions over the will of God?
- Are you so consumed by your problems that you’ve become completely self-absorbed?
3.Get your heart examined right away. The divinity of Jesus took care of what was going on in His human heart, so that only truth would exit His mouth. What comes out of you will be a direct result of how much time you are attending to your heart. (Lk. 6:45; 1 Pet. 2:22)
- Do you accept the varying emotions you are feeling right now?
- Do you have a healthy, godly plan for managing your emotions?
- Do you prevent yourself from taking your stress out on others?
- Do you catch yourself when you are complaining about your hardship?
- Do you give the Lord enough of your time and focus for Him to speak to your concerns, guide your decisions, cleanse you of your sins, and strengthen your body, will, mind, and soul?
- Do you blame others for your plight, or do you make sense of it through the lens of believing God is good? (1 Pet. 1:23)
4.Kick moralism, philosophy, New Ageism, and all other religions out of your Christian faith. When you become concerned with retaliation, revenge, and justification, you are essentially placing yourself on the throne of God. Jesus trusted His Father’s grand plan and suffered greatly for you to live righteously, be healed, and to be a follower – not a usurper of His reign. Let Him care for you and heal you His way, the right way; and you will know great freedom, peace, and joy. (1 Cor. 1:20; 1 Pet. 2:23-25)
You’ve fought the battle many times. Your emotions rise up, take over, and diminish your ability to have clear, productive thinking. The solution is not to give up on being rational, nor is it to conclude that emotions aren’t worthwhile. The key to winning this battle is to identify and organize your emotions in such a way that your feelings and thoughts work together to line up with Truth.
Keeping Room Tips: The following are examples of times you can teach your emotions and thoughts to work well together.
* Maybe fear and anxiety consume and confuse huge amounts of your thought bank. When you begin to feel these emotions, let Jesus help you escort them out. Make a list of each fear, then cross it out and replace it with the truth of God’s Word. This kind of activity doesn’t mean you are dismissing your emotions or that you’ve become numb. It just means you are taking hold of God’s best for you. The Lord gives believers a spirit of power, love, and self-control and this is the time to use it to create productive thoughts and positive emotions. (2 Cor. 10:5; 2. Tim. 1:7)
*Rehearsing incidents of past hurt can make you feel like the past is reality in the present. When you catch yourself on this spin cycle, you may want to express your feelings in a journal in order to track what God is currently doing in your life to help you with forgiveness and healing. Not only does this exercise help you leave the past emotions in the journal, but by including in your writing what God is doing in your life, you can end this reflective time having new thoughts and feelings. (Phil. 3:13-14)
* Your feelings may be telling you that you don’t want to serve someone in a particular relationship because of the way you’ve been treated. Obey God’s command to forgive and pray for those who harm you. Next thing you know, because you are following His instructions to pray and forgive even when you don’t feel like it, your heart will be changing to look more like His. This will end up improving your circumstances, or at least your ability to respond to them. (Col. 3:13)
*Perhaps your emotions are so intense that they are derailing you from being able to fulfill the call He has on your life. To get rid of your emotional paralysis, you might try keeping a sketch-book or timeline as a powerful way of tracking some of the ways God has been at work moving you towards His grand purposes. Creative activities that take your mind off of your feelings and onto Him is an effective way of becoming unstuck. (Jn. 21:25)
*Are you convinced the Lord isn’t answering your prayers? This belief serves only to train your entire body to stay in a state of distress. You have all you need to mentally calm yourself down by thinking of Scriptural promises such as “Be still and know that I am God” and “I will call upon Him, and He will answer me; He will be with me in trouble.” Recite them over and over in your mind until you begin to think and feel more belief. (Ps. 46:10; 91:15)
*Like many, you may be feeling stressed out all the time because the world will not stop throwing numerous distractions and temptations your way. So, it’s up to you to dismiss the unnecessary, stop telling yourself how stressed out you are, and prioritize the consistent practice of focusing on God and His plans. Instead of consuming all your energy thinking about your stress level, determine to use your emotions to bring you close to the Lord. Keep the process active by making this an important routine in your life. The results will be: more focused thoughts on tasks and greater brain health, fewer debilitating emotions, and deeper connecting with the Holy Spirit through it all. Your mind, heart, and loved ones will thank you. (Ps. 119:28, Ps. 119:103; Ps. 130:5)
You’re so mad, hurt, or stressed that you can’t see straight. You can’t think logically. And you forget to focus on what you told yourself was important. You want to let the Lord help you, but at the time you can’t concentrate on Him more than a few seconds before you start replaying the situation in your mind again. It might seem useless to try, but there are critical things you can do to recover.
Keeping Room Tips:
Start speaking His language. Think of simple yet powerful words you can repeat in your mind (like mercy, love, faith, grace, hope, strength, etc.) until you feel the tension loosen in your body. Or you could check out the list of His words in Isaiah 11:2. This practical application of Philippians 4:8 will help you stop wailing and start productively expressing yourself.
Shift your thoughts from the current impetus to a bigger picture. You can pick one small thing or start a list; just think about what He has done and is doing for you until you recognize that His work is grander than the current matter. Organize your mind with a Titus 1:1-3 eternal perspective to be able to stop throwing a fit and start crawling over to Him.
Give Him a chance to treat your condition. Open up your Bible or Bible app and expect to receive a personal message. As indicated in Acts 6:4, Scripture is a ministry at work for you. This Word of God that Psalm 119 so beautifully reveres will help you stand up with Him again.
Activate your plan. Don’t return to your circumstances without a way to endure them. For example, if He speaks to you through Proverbs 17:9, then your plan is to be a promoter of love by choosing to no longer be offended. Really believing in the goodness of God’s Jeremiah 29:11 plans for you will help you walk back into the fire.
Don’t rely on will power. Don’t tell yourself you will handle things better from now on. Instead, abandon your will power to receive His power. Utterly relying upon Philippians 4:13 strength in the midst of intense feelings will balance your emotions, leading you to maturity and victory.
Do you feel scatter-brained? Are you so distracted and over-stimulated that you become jittery just thinking about a day without your to-do list or your electronic devices? Are you multi-tasking so much that your brain has forgotten how to concentrate on one thing at a time? Are you ever able to finish a prayer without losing yourself in a train of thought? Don’t fret or diagnose yourself as having ADHD. Instead, tell your brain that the ability to focus is there, but you need to do some retraining. (Rom. 12:2)
Keeping Room Tips:
First, you need to think about your thinking.
*There are no USB ports on the surface of your body. You don’t always have to be living as if you are waiting to receive external data. Turn inward. Start praying for God to position your heart upon what you most need to contemplate. Nothing lives closer to your brain than the Holy Spirit – by faith choose Him to be your Brain Teacher. (Gal 2:20)
*The Maker designed your brain to be malleable so that you could use your free will to think excellent and praiseworthy thoughts. You can literally grow in your brain more ability to focus – by thinking about focusing. Using God’s Word as your guide, you decide which focused thoughts you want to be part of your daily life. When you catch yourself thinking about something negative or jumping around to multiple and disjointed thoughts, remind your brain that you are teaching it how to be organized and healthy. (Phil. 4:8, Heb. 4:12b)
*The prophets demonstrate for you the best focus you can have. Simeon had a single focus on seeing Christ, and Anna’s primary focus was worshiping night and day. Look to them as your role models for where to place your first focus. (Luke 2:25-26, 37)
Second, you want to practice doing something new with your thinking.
*Re-learn how to concentrate on one task or one topic for a set amount of time. Use a timer or timed activity. For example, if you need to do some problem-solving or make a decision, give yourself the length of your shower to prayerfully think only about that one problem or that one decision.
*If your brain is struggling to empty itself of excess thoughts, make a list of thoughts you can return to when your focused time is up.
*Use a visual aid to help you focus on one thing at a time. For example, hold a picture of someone you’re praying for and keep looking at the photo until you’re done praying.
Third, keep thinking about focusing, keep practicing, and stay tuned for Part 2 of this series on Focus.