God designed us to function best when we live a balanced life—mentally, physically, socially, and spiritually. Distress can make us wobbly.
Walking in harmony with God amid affliction requires us to maintain our balance, to the extent we can under the circumstances.
Below is a checklist to help you assess your current equilibrium and identify areas of your life that may need adjustment.
Many items are Bible-based. Others are common sense. Not all are pertinent or practical in every situation.
Focus On God
- Check your alignment. Make sure your perception of God matches his self-revelation, as disclosed through nature and in the Bible.
- Broaden your expectations to include a range of outcomes. We always want God to ease our journey, but sometimes he equips us with better boots.
- Clear the deck. If you are at odds with God morally, confess your sinfulness to him. Be specific. Turn away from these improprieties and walk in harmony with him.
- Surrender yourself. Give God ownership of everything you have, do, and are. Follow him on his terms. Permit him to change you and the direction of your life as he sees fit.
- Pursue true contentment. At the onset of distress, ask God to manifest in you the components of his contentment that you need most—his love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control.
- Study the Bible. Make it your primary source of encouragement and edification. Memorize the verses you find meaningful. Meditating on God’s truth crowds out the lies in our hearts.
- Pray without whining. Commend God for his attributes. Thank him for the goodness he has already provided. Voice your concerns. Ask God what he wants to accomplish through your affliction and what you should do next to ensure that result. Detail your preferred outcome. Subordinate your preferences to his will. Ask God to glorify himself in and through you as you walk in harmony with him.
- Express faith in God. Tell God you trust him to help you endure your affliction, to produce goodness from it, and to resolve it as he deems best. Tell him you are willing to accept his appraisal of what constitutes best.
- Rely on the Holy Spirit. Due to our sinful nature, we cannot walk in harmony with God through our efforts alone. Ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen your stamina, intensify your noble desires, reinforce your self-discipline, and directly empower you as needed.
- Intercede for others. God already knows your needs and wants before you tell him, so you do not need to devote much prayer time to these subjects. Instead, ask God to bless the people you know. Pray that they will realize he is the source of their blessings, that they will draw near to him as a result, and that they will use his blessings for his intended purpose.
- Pay attention to God’s silence. He may be unresponsive to your prayers because he is waiting for the opportune time to move forward. Alternately, he may be waiting for you to align your will with his. Sometimes God is silent because we do not need new wisdom. He has already disclosed his insights in the Bible. Or we already know what to do from previous experience. Or we know other people who know what to do. Or the answers we seek are a simple matter of common sense.
- Ask “what” as well as “why.” God welcomes your inquiry about why he has allowed you to suffer, but also ask him what he wants you to learn through your affliction. This question represents a step forward.
- Give God your wants, needs, and fears. He has a standing offer to hold your burdens for you. He is happy to do it. There is no need for you to strain under their weight.
- Let God manage the uncontrollable. You cannot do anything about these things anyway, whereas God is sovereign and omnipotent.
- Do your duty. To the extent you can, suffer well. Be a good example for your family and friends. Ask God to help you fulfill the role he has assigned to you in this season of life, so you do not impede his effort to produce goodness through your affliction.
Address The Problem
- Accurately assess the nature and extent of your adversity. Never allow your imagination to magnify your distress.
- Mourn as necessary. God will grieve with you.
- Own up to your responsibilities. If part of your suffering is the consequence of a poor decision on your part, acknowledge what you could have done differently.
- Forgive those who may bear responsibility for your current situation. Dragging your anger and resentment into the future will slow your recovery.
- Define an effective outcome. Devise a realistic plan to achieve this result.
- Garner your resources. Access all available information and training. Enlist outside expertise as needed.
- Implement your plan. Start where you are. Use what you have. Do the best you can under the circumstances. Permit God to revise your plan as he sees fit.
Take Care Of Yourself
- Be fit. Exercise, eat right, and take time to relax. Get plenty of sleep.
- Socialize. Spend quality time with family and friends. Go to church. Attend public events.
- Stay mentally active. For example, pursue hobbies, read books, or play a musical instrument. Do things that are both positive and creative.
- Identify daily respites. Examples include the newspaper crossword puzzle, a morning walk, a quiet cup of coffee, or a favorite television show.
- Find a support group. Identify sympathetic confidants who have lived through your affliction and can share truth and wisdom. If necessary, your church can match you up with these folks.
- Handwrite letters to God. Detail everything you think and feel about him and your situation, good and bad, in a stream of consciousness. Hold nothing back; he can handle your honesty. Throw away your letters immediately after finishing them. Do not read them or share them with others.
- Keep a journal. Record the blessings God bestows on you and those within your orbit—e.g., Bible insights, answered prayers, secular learning, material provisions, encouragement from others, etc. Save your journal for future review.
- Attend to those around you. Ministering to others, especially those outside your immediate sphere of influence, will help keep your problems in perspective, require you to lean on God for stamina, and give you opportunities to share what you are learning.
- Avoid things that compound your problems. Curtail activities that make matters worse. Minimize and counterbalance negative influences as much as possible. Follow the right shepherd.
- Move forward. Use your time and energy to find a solution, or at least to improve your situation. Wallowing in misery suppresses hope, defers resolution, and prolongs the agony. Defeatism is self-fulfilling.
- Forgive yourself. If personal mistakes contributed to your suffering, forgive yourself. Unrelenting guilt is unhealthy for you and unhelpful for those close to you. If you cannot do this on your own, ask God to refresh your understanding of his forgiveness. Then adopt his perspective.
- Take life one day at a time. Or one minute at a time, if necessary. Do what you can today, and what you must for tomorrow, but let future anxieties wait.
- Find hope where you can. Although God is our ultimate source of hope, identify temporal reasons for optimism.
- Keep your eye on the prize. Focus on the benefits of an effective outcome or on the enjoyable experiences that will still be available after a bad one. Anticipate the goodness God intends to produce through your affliction.
- Do not panic. Think through your alternatives at each juncture. Avoid making rash decisions on bad days. Execute strategies crafted on good days.
- Never give up. Keep pursuing a positive outcome as long as the possibility exists, regardless of how remote it might appear.
- Be patient. Give God time to work. He may be pursuing several goals at once that involve more than just you. Consequently, his timetable may differ from yours.
- Be thankful. God says we are always in the presence of something good for which we can be grateful. Identify the good things around you—no matter how trivial—and thank God for them. In dire circumstances, the only things worthy of thanks may be his presence, his forgiveness, and the promise of heaven. Nonetheless, we are always in the proximity of goodness.
- Take the long view. Life on earth is just the first dot in an infinite line. After this, it is all bliss—for reborn believers, anyway. Live for the line, not the dot.