What do you do when you don’t know what to do?
Recently, I’ve been around folks who are so devastated by life. Who are so down and depressed and anxious. Who are so stressed out, overburdened…whose adrenals are in overdrive. They just don’t know what to do.
What do you do when you don’t know what to do?
1) First, walk away from well-intentioned heretics. Yeah, I used the trigger word. But I DID call them “well-intentioned,” so… Here’s how you know: they’ll quote verses and principles from the Bible that don’t exist, aren’t helpful, and don’t point to the “true Truth” of your Faith.
– “God will never give you more than you can handle.” Yeah…no! Let’s call shenanigans on this one right now. It’s a twisting of 1 Cor. 10:13, dealing with temptation to sin. Get it straight- life will give you all sorts of things. You WILL find yourself overwhelmed. WHEN you find that it’s more than you can handle, you realize that Jesus is more than enough for what you’re going through.
– “Everything happens for a reason.” No. Nada. Nopers! Everything CAN BE redeemed by our King for his glory and our (ultimate) good. But there’s not a spiritual reason behind every single thing that happens. This is exaggerated sovereignty and makes God into a monster. (“Sorry your baby died. Everything happens for a reason. God knows what he’s doing. Heaven must have needed another angel.” People don’t become angels in heaven, by the way.) Not everything that happens has a spiritual reason. The car engine blowing up? Satan may not have done that to you. God may not have done that to you. Sometimes, you’re just absent-minded and forget to add oil to your leaky engine. Or you buy cars that have really poor reliability ratings. Take some responsibility, yo! Or maybe it’s just life in a fallen world. Things happen.
– “God’s gonna turn it all into good for you. Remember Romans 8:28! You’ll get a better job.” Ummm…swing and a miss! Verses have context. The immediate context of Romans 8:28 is 8:29. The good God’s gonna do? Conform you “into the image of his Son.”
Yeah…there’s a bunch more. Like Phil. 4:13- “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” (Also not a “change your circumstances” verse. At.All!) But don’t listen to the well-intentioned heretics. Smile and walk, lest your faith be shipwrecked when their spiritual prescriptions fail- and they will.
2) Decide if your faith really is real. Or just an esoteric philosophy, a people to identify with and a place to go occasionally. Seriously. Sit down and decide: Do I really believe in a God who sent his Son to die for my sins? Who rose on the 3rd day? Who genuinely loves me and has the power to get me through this? Listen- I’m not putting anyone down. But a trial, a hard time, a stressed out season…should make your faith become more real than ever before. It’s supposed to! That’s part of God redeeming it. And if it doesn’t, then it’s not real faith.
“Count it all joy…when you meet trials of VARIOUS kinds (whatever you’re going through), for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
If any of you lacks wisdom (for how to handle the trial), let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But LET HIM ASK IN FAITH, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”- James 1
3) Trust that God can and will redeem it. And refuse to become bitter, blaming God. It is a peculiarity of our fallen nature that we are quick to blame God when things go wrong, yet slow to connect all our blessings to him for all that’s gone right and well with us. We pat ourselves on the back for the blessings…we earned them! And then blame him for the trials. Faith reverses that. People of faith lean in to Jesus for the hard times and find that he’s more than enough. And we praise him for the blessings in the good times, finding joy in the “good and perfect gifts” of our Creator.
4) Read Scripture. Pray. Seek God. Have friends pray for and with you. Check out the Psalms. You’re not the first to go through REALLY hard times. Check out John’s Gospel: Jesus said he wasn’t taking his disciples out of the world. And that they’d have trials in this world. But that he’d be with them. Check out 1 Peter. The fiery trial? “Don’t act all surprised.” It’s part of our very short lives on this earth. And it’s NOT the end of our story. Not by a long-shot. Lots of people say, “Yeah, I’m praying.” Seriously? Pray! Read. Ask God for help. Surround yourself with believers who actually live this thing out. Who’ve been there before.
5) Know that when (not if) you come out of this trial, having trusted God and been comforted by him, you will now be equipped for ministry. Seriously. 2 Cor. 1- “…the God of all comfort…comforts us in all our troubles SO THAT we can comfort others with the comfort we ourselves have received from him.” There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. And a redeeming purpose for those who seek God, trust him and are comforted by him in it.
6) Don’t let this thing trick you into becoming focused on yourself. A self-centered life is small and pitiful. And you were made for more. Look up to Jesus for help and strength. His Spirit is in you and will strengthen you. Look out for those who might need some help and encouragement. Don’t be surprised when part of your healing is helping others around you in small (and possibly big) ways.
7) Sometimes you need meds. It shouldn’t be your first move. It’s OK to feel your feels. To live in both the good and the bad of life. And experience it all. Trusting God through it all. But…sometimes chemicals shift. The brain isn’t working quite right. Meds are helpful sometimes. It’s not a failure of your faith to treat clinical depression with meds. Suicidal thoughts? Get professional help. Those folks are there for a reason. PLEASE! Before you do something that will ruin the lives of so many for so many years.
8) Change your routine. Create and carve out space to breathe. Whatever that means to you. Hike. Walk outside on the deck. Call an old friend. Write poetry or journal. Create space. Breathe. Introduce strategic dissonance into the routine of your life. Remember that the only expectations you live under are those of a God who loves you with the very life of his Son. And having that knowledge sets you free from the expectations of judgmental others who are full of ungrace. You.Don’t.Live.For.Them. You’re free. Live it to his glory.
9) Choose what you feed your head. Man…this his HUGE! Paul talks about anxiety. And says, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”- Phil. 4:8. Literally, dwell on, reckon about, reason concerning…THESE things.
Stop watching movies that bring you down. Listening to sad songs. Reading about horrific things happening to people. You don’t have to put your head in the sand. Yeah…you know it’s happening. Always has. Always will. But choose to feed your head on the things that are lovely and commendable and worthy of praise. Because you become what you think about most.
I know…long post. I honestly hope it helps. And the most important thing is this: Start with Jesus. He is your hope even when this world holds no hope for you. He is your purpose, even when all your plans have fallen to the ground. He is your security when everyone and everything around you fails. Start with Jesus. He’s worthy. And he’s worth it. Love you, my friends. Peace.