Life will sometimes throw some curveballs at us. That much is for sure. But what matters is how we bounce back up.
What do you do when your life feels like it suddenly got turned upside down? How do you react to life when it feels like everything you thought got thrown in the washer and put on the spin cycle? When hard times arise, which unfortunately, friends, I’m here to tell you that they will, we can equip ourselves to see light in the darkness, the beauty in the bewilderment, and we can feel blessed inside some of life’s most complicated messes.
When a mess happens in our life, which can be anything from losing a job to the breakdown of a marriage to health issues, it is so easy to start playing the blame game. It seems almost natural and knee-jerk to point the finger toward others, to try and make ourselves feel better by offloading our emotions onto another. It is also easy to get caught in the anger trap; to want to whine and dine in our own pity parties about what happened, why it happened, and if and how life will ever go back to normal again.
But all of these emotions, although completely understandable and necessary for a certain period of time, will eventually keep us trapped in our own misery. And I don’t know about you but I certainly do not want to hinder myself from living my best life and doing the work that I am meant to do while I still have air in my lungs.
However, it’s easy to say that we need to let go and move on from the messes in our life but it is so much harder to do. How do you move forward after your confidence has been shaken to the core after losing a job? How do you ever trust again when trust in a marriage was shattered? And how do you find the strength to see the good that is happening in the midst of an illness? It is not easy, but it is achievable! Here are 5 steps to finding the glimmer of hope in the seemingly hopeless:
This is the number-one way to start seeing the light at the end of any tunnel. Here’s why: because forgiving, whether it’s your past employer, your spouse or yourself, sets you (and others) free. There is freedom when we utter the words, “I forgive you.” There is an unseen exchange that happens when we let someone or ourselves off the hook. In my belief, when I forgive, I am releasing the hurt and all of the wrongs to God. I am setting myself free from the ties that are holding me back. But in doing so, I am also releasing any shackles that have been weighing down the one who might have been a part of creating the mess in the first place. We are setting them free from their own bondage, whether they are aware of their inner prison or not.
There is an important distinction that needs to be made when it comes to forgiveness. We can—and should—forgive, but that does not mean that we are reconciled. The dictionary defines forgive as, “to stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw or mistake.” But to reconcile means, “to restore friendly relations between.” When we forgive, we are releasing those harmful feelings that we are storing in our bodies, minds and spirits. But it might take a long time to reconcile—to repair—from whatever damage is done. And that is perfectly fine. Sometimes, reconciliation can take years, depending on the amount of hurt done. So be gentle with yourself when it comes to reconciling. But be quick to forgive.
2. Shine the Light
Feeling like we are living in a big ol’ mess that has become our life can feel overwhelming and downright hopeless. But just like when a train goes through a dark tunnel, at the end of that tunnel is light and there is beauty and new surroundings. I recently heard this beautiful quote that said there are always nuggets of gold in the darkness. So look for them. Seek them out. Open your eyes and your hearts to what might be taking place, what next season you might be preparing for, and what good could—and will—come from the demise of what was. Sometimes this can be painfully hard to do, so start small. Look for something teeny tiny at first. Maybe you finally had a good night’s sleep after many sleepless nights. Maybe the sun warmed your face while you were walking to your car. Or maybe it’s as simple as being grateful that you lived to see another sunrise. That’s not a small thing by any means but it is something that we often take for granted. So stop taking anything for granted, especially in the midst of seeing your life crumbling around you.
3. Pay it Forward
I talk about this a lot, but that’s because I find it imperative to practice as often as possible. Some of the easiest ways to get out of our own heads and to clean up the pity party is to be a blessing to someone else. So even if you don’t feel like it, even if your checking account might be running low on funds, unexpectedly pay kindness forward. And if you are really feeling down in the dumps, then up the ante on making someone’s day brighter. It doesn’t have to be a monetary giveaway, but it does need to be a gesture of some kind that is centered on the wellness of another.
4. Be Easy on Yourself
When life hands you lemons, it’s not always possible to immediately be able to make good old-fashioned lemonade. Some days feel a little sweeter compared to those other, more sour days. And that’s okay. Part of being able to feel blessed in the mess is allowing yourself grace to be where you are in the moment. Some days it will be easier to see the good that is all around you. Other days, you might feel like you are walking through the most dense coastal fog. Both types of days are normal and part of the process of being able to get on the other side of your trouble.
5. Keep a Journal
One of the best choices I have ever made was to keep a gratitude journal. Actually, it was so useful to me that I turned it into a book to hopefully be useful for all of you. Every day, I forced myself, even if I didn’t want to, to see something to be grateful for. I was and am still able to look back over hundreds of entries and see that beauty is always within my reach and that there is good circling around me every single day. More recently, I began keeping a miracle book. On days when my lack of faith falsely tells me that miracles only happened in the Bible, I can flip through the pages of my miracle book and recall all of the miracles that little ol’ me experiences on the regular.
I don’t wish hard times on anyone. My hope is that life is a smooth sail over gentle waters. But I know that life is not that way and that we all go through periods of hardship, times of trials and tribulations and seasons of sadness. So let’s practice finding forgiveness. Let’s look for the lighted path in the midst of our dark times. Let’s be kind and good to one another. May we treat ourselves with love and nurturing care. And let’s document all of the sweet moments that are still happening around us and to us, even in the midst of our sorrow.