When You're Hurting, This Will Help

My dear readers, I'm writing to inform you that I'm currently not having a mountaintop experience. In fact, in several ways I'm having a lie-on-the-basement-floor-of-life experience, and then realizing that my basement has a leak. And a mold problem. And a horrifying monster. Details are irrelevant, and my humor and faith are still intact, but it's sufficient to say that I'm currently in the weeds. (I realize I'm now mixing metaphors given that my leaky, moldy, monster-inhabited basement suddenly also has a weed problem -- deeply-rooted and dark weeds, nonetheless -- but you're smart and I trust you can make sense of things.)

I hope you're not in a similar life situation. At the same time, perhaps some of you are. Some of you might be deep in the trenches, and some of you might be crawling out of the trenches, and some of you might eventually be headed into them. Troubles in life are equal-opportunity, it appears.
Given this, I'm sharing several supportive thoughts that are helping me. I hope they help you, too.

1) Know that there's no shame in being human. This gets me every time. When I'm in a rough patch, I still feel like I should be able to instantly dust myself off and function well, rather than, say, cry through an entire church service, need extra sleep, and require time to process and heal. A friend recently shared, "You don't need to apologize for being human and having emotions," and yet that's exactly how I had started our conversation: "I'm sorry I'm a mess right now."

Being human means that we'll have messes and sometimes be messes. During those times, it's okay to ask for help, whether help comes in the form of a listening ear from a trusted friend, support from a counselor, or medical intervention to restore balance. It's brave and wise to seek help. Seeking help is a step toward healing. And while you're at it, it's also okay to cut yourself some slack and not be on top of your game.

There's no shame in being human. We all are. 

2) Finish sentences with "right now." In the midst of hard phases, those days or weeks when you wake and experience 30 seconds of grogginess before the crushing weight of problems collides with your consciousness, it's hard to remember that you won't always feel this broken. It's hard to remember that it's not permanent.

That's why we actively need to remind ourselves that our trials are temporary. This isn't glossing over heavy issues. This isn't making light of real problems. Rather, it's speaking life and perspective into those problems. It's acknowledging that the situation is bleak "right now," but then declaring that "right now" is not the final result. I'm taking great comfort from this profoundly encouraging video by Kristina Kuzmic:

"So here's a tip: add right now to whatever is frustrating you about parenting or life in general so that you're not putting a permanence on it. You're realizing that whatever is difficult right now doesn't have to be difficult forever. So, for example, 'I'm not getting enough sleep right now. My toddler is throwing daily tantrums right now. My teenager acts like he hates me right now. This divorce is so excruciatingly painful right now.'

This is right now. This is not forever. You are not stuck. A bad year or two or five doesn't equal a bad life. It equals a bad year or two or five. Hard parenting days won't last forever. Hard life days aren't permanent either.

It's not permanent. It's right now."

- Kristina Kuzmic

3) Name your blessings. When life looks bleak, it's easy to focus on what's wrong, creating a hall of mirrors that echos the tough predicaments and bounces pain again and again, creating an infinity loop of our troubles. This isn't good. One remedy is to pinpoint what's going right -- or, even more precisely, to identify one specific thing that has gone well today.

It doesn't need to be huge, but it's good to think about all the things that are, quite bluntly, not terrible. Today I'm thankful that I don't have a head cold. Today I'm grateful that the tech guy came into my classroom to fix the broken computer before my class session finished. Today when I took a walk, the one house far up the hill was burning its wood stove, and I breathed one of my favorite smells. Today I feel encouraged that the sun is shining. After multiple tries the past few days, today I finally spoke with a person -- not a machine -- at a doctor's office, and I'm one step closer to making that appointment.

These are all good things. Not everything is bad right now. Naming my blessings concretely reminds me that while many things are hard, many things are also working just as I'd like them to be working. This changed perspective changes so much. 

4) Look out for others, even in the midst of your turmoil. In the midst of our own pain, it's surprisingly healing to find a way to brighten someone else's day. Granted, sometimes we don't even have one extra millimeter of emotional bandwidth and we must attend to our own wounds, curl up in our beds, or protect our time and hearts. But it's also therapeutic to step out and help someone else who's careworn.

In the midst of my troubles, I don't want to forget that people around me are going through stuff, too. I have a friend facing a troubling health issue, and one whose store just shut down, and one who recently lost her father, and multiple folks who are in the thick of challenges with their kids ranging from behavioral problems, to severe food allergies, to learning disabilities, to bad choices, to stress and anxiety.

When I take my thoughts off my own hurts, I'm able to see their hurts. Then, even in my limited capacity, I'm able to offer something small -- if only a kind word, a whispered prayer, or a brief encouraging text. This habit, just like the "name my blessings" strategy above, takes my thoughts off of my own predicaments, even if momentarily. Please note that this isn't a callous exercise of self-flagellating to "suck-it-up-buttercup" or to suggest that because other people might have it worse than you, then your hurts don't matter. They do matter.

Rather, it's an exercise in compassion, and I notice that when I extend compassion and encouragement, it tends to bring me joy and hopefulness too. That helps.

5) Believe that comfort will come, and it'll expand your ability to offer comfort. The other day when I was really low, I simply had no strength to stand so I didn't even try. I wouldn't deem it an outright collapse, but it certainly was a crumple. I hit the floor and cried until tears no longer flowed, until I was empty and rung out. From that low place, both figuratively and physically, I felt God speak directly to me with this thought: "When you survive this, you're going to have a greater capacity to minister to people who are going through something similar."

These wounds? They'll eventually heal into scars. And those scars? Well, I'll be able to point to them, show others, and say, "I once wondered if a wound this deep would ever heal, but look at how it's healed. I'm not hurting or broken anymore. If this healing happened to me, it can happen to you, too."

One of the promises I treasure from the Bible appears in 2 Corinthians 1:4 and states, "God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us."

It's beautiful to think on this. These hurts we experience? They're not for nothing. Not only will we be consoled, but when we encounter someone else who's troubled, we'll have the capacity to extend the comfort we've already received.

6) Stand on a firm foundation. The more life I live, the more I know -- not merely cognitively, but experientially -- that when I hit rock bottom, Jesus is there. And landing on Jesus is the firmest foundation I could possibly land on. Even though we might feel like we're walking through the valley of the shadow of death, God Almighty is with us. Right now, I'm reflecting daily on the qualities of God -- how he is a healer, a deliverer, and a counselor. How he is the Prince of Peace. How he's an ever-present help in times of trouble.

I need God to show up in my heart and circumstances now, and ever faithful, he's showing up. When everything around me is shaky, Jesus remains a firm foundation.

Friends, I hope your days currently are filled with more joys than troubles and that everything I've written seems distant for you. If that's the case, I'm delighted. But if you, like me, are struggling, consider this post as a sincere hug. (If only I could somehow get you chocolate, too!)

As many times as needed, repeat these statements to yourself until they become as real and vivid as your pain and circumstances: "I am human, and that's okay. These troubles are right now, not permanent. Even in the midst of pain, many things are still going well. I will be comforted, and I'll eventually use that comfort to help others. None of this will be wasted. And, without a shadow of a doubt, God is walking with me -- daresay, carrying me -- every step."

Rest assured, I'm going to be okay. You are too.


I rarely end posts this way, but if today's blog encouraged you, I invite you to share it widely. If you have a friend who's hurting, would you pass it along to them? And if you'd like to connect with me, please reach out to me at my Robin Kramer Writes Facebook page.  ♥

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