June 7, 2020 | By Jay Ashbaucher
I have been healthy most of my life and now I am having to learn how to deal with adversity, especially with a health issue that continues to go on and on. There are other types of prolonged adversity. It may be a relationship that never gets better and you hurt most of the time. Maybe you hate going to work and you can’t overcome the feeling. Maybe a loved one died, and the grief feels like it will never end. It may be guilt over something you’ve done and you can’t get rid of self-condemning thoughts.
Like me, following are feelings and thoughts you may be having. There are times when nothing seems to get you out of your oppressive and depressive spirit and you can’t find peace and rest. Nothing you do seems to help. Your mind becomes susceptible to many negative feelings and thoughts. You imagine the worst. Fearful thoughts, worries, and anxieties set in, maybe even panic and feelings of aloneness or hopelessness. There is discouragement, loss of faith, doubts about God’s love and care. Negative thoughts and questions come to mind: Is all the stuff I’ve believed about God and my faith true? God is punishing me for past sins in my life. Why doesn’t he answer my prayers? Allowing these kinds of feelings and thoughts is dangerous; they may even get you thinking that ending your life is the answer to your pain. The devil would like that. He seeks to destroy life. He is very likely the one afflicting you with condemnation and lies.
When we are experiencing a pronged adversity that never seems to end, our faith in God can seem weaker than it does when we are feeling good. When we don’t feel good, it seems God is distant and we have a hard time connecting with him in a way that helps us get through our problem. We feel miserable rather than close to God. He doesn’t seem to be helping. In times like that, what am I to do? I cannot allow myself to stay in a slump, but it is hard not to because the situation is always with me and I constantly feel the weight of it. The truth is that I may waver, but God doesn’t. I can’t base my life on the feelings and thoughts I’m experiencing. I must find ways to eliminate those devastating feelings and thoughts. I must turn to God and his word. His word encourages me to pray, “I am exceedingly afflicted; revive me, O Lord, according to your word” (Psalm 119:107). “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad” (Proverbs 12:25). That is what I need—a good word from the Lord to encourage me and change me. Here are some things I have been learning about how to manage my prolonged adversity. Perhaps some of these things might help you.
First, being a long-time Christian, I know I should seek the Lord for help rather than go away from him. Even if I feel like it will not do any good, I must keep believing that he has the answer I need and he will help me. I must keep up with my regular Bible reading and meditations. I must keep in contact with him. There are prayers in the Bible that express the way I feel and it is helpful to read those, honestly express my pain to God, and cry out to him for help. (Psalm 22:1-5; 42:9-11; 44:23-26; 69:1-3; 88:1-18)
Second, I realize that the thoughts and feelings I am experiencing are not from God. Jesus had a prolonged bout with the devil who was trying to get him not to trust God and to take his life into his own hands (Luke 4:1-13). The Bible says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Therefore, I take all those negative feelings and thoughts and I tell the devil I am not accepting them, I am submitting to the Lord, my healer, and to his words. I strongly tell Satan, in Jesus name, to leave me.
Third, I take the word of God and use it to help me change what’s going on in my mind and emotions. There is one particular scripture I have used, and this is what I did. I got alone with God, asked him to speak his truth into me, and read the entire passage slowly and aloud. When I came to certain phrases that had meaning for me, I stopped and prayed aloud, sometimes thanking and praising God for what he has done for me, or for encouraging me and placing a spark of hope in me. Whatever God spoke to me in reading those scriptures, I responded to him according to how I felt in my heart. Sometimes, I may need to repent of something, or ask God to help me grow by practicing something he wants me to do. I found this exercise strengthens my faith, gives me hope, and revives my spirit. The scripture I use is Romans Chapter 8. You can use this one, or find one that helps you, perhaps Psalm 40, 41, 42, or 88, etc.
Fourth, I stop thinking only of myself. I think of others who are going through tough times and I pray for them. I think about a need I could meet in someone’s life and maybe write a note, send a text, call to see how they were doing, or plan something to do to serve them and help meet a need. I enter their names and what I pray for them in a notebook. This helps me not to lose sight of them and gives me a place to go when I may not feel like praying. To pray for them, and other things God brings to mind, is especially helpful during the night when I can’t sleep. I cannot overstress how much it helps lift one’s spirit to think of others and do something to help them, even if it is only to pray. I also let others help me with their prayers by being humble, sharing my struggles, and asking them to pray for me.
Fifth, I ask God to show me what I can physically do to treat my symptoms and adverse circumstances. I get ideas from things I read, from friends and family who have struggled with similar problems, from doctors, and especially from hearing God’s voice. I try various things I hear about so as to discover what helps to ease my circumstances. Unhealthy addictive habits like alcohol or drugs may help one feel better, but escaping into those kinds of things does not cure the problems. Find things that will help you physically get better, things like exercise, home remedies, proper diet, talking with family who care about you, and so forth. We all differ and must find what works for us.
Because our adversity does not seem to end, whenever we feel the need for strength, we must keep repeating helps like those shared in this article. I have found great comfort by believing that God is with me, and is for me, and is helping me. Did you know that God the Holy Spirit, and Jesus, God the Son, is praying and interceding to the Father on your behalf and mine (Romans 8:26, 34). We must do what we can to help ourselves, but it is not you alone that is working to help you. We need to know that God is also helping us. Ephesians 6:10 says that we are to be strong in the Lord (that is our part), but it also says we overcome in the strength of his might (that is his part). My healing does not depend only on my faith and hope in God, but also on his initiative to work in me. I’ve learned to be humble and say, “Lord, my faith is weak; I can’t do this, I need you to help me.” We must not give in to temptation, to despair and quit. He is molding us into the kind of person he wants us to be. God is faithful and loves us and he may at any time intervene and amaze us by sending his calmness and peace into our soul, or by providing a “miraculous” thing to help relieve our suffering. I have found that if you trust him, and even if you find it hard to trust, he may just surprise you with help from above that you did not expect.