There are good days…..and there are hard days. I was thinking recently, on a hard day, what it looks like for me to go through a day such as this. What makes a day difficult is irrelevant, because it does not matter the specifics in as much as the emotions can be the same for many, whether the cause be physical, financial, relational, etc. A hard day is a hard day. Period.
I have learned a pattern that promotes any ability I aspire to toward my perseverance. This came to my attention just recently as I actually took a step back from my “reality” and looked at the big picture of what I was going through and how I instinctivly responded to it. This routine of mine comes from my time spent studying the Scriptures and what I have learned from all the wonderful people portrayed in it’s beautiful pages. Romans 15:4 has taught me, ” For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” And hope, I have found, is a powerful thing.
I am careful to say that my days can still be challenging as I apply this practice ,but I am greatly benefitted by implementing what I have learned because ” hope” makes a difference. It makes a difference in me between continuing on, rather than giving up.
Although the emotions at play are reverberating in my heart during a discouraging day, I am mindful that the real battle is taking place in my mind. That is where it begins and ends. My heart may feel bad, but it is only because my mind has first dwelt upon a fear, problem, crisis, doubt or need. In my experience, I don’t always have control on what thought pops into my mind but I do have control the very next second. If I choose to dwell or linger upon that thought, then it won’t be long before that thought becomes a feeling.
I liken this process to a line of dominoes standing upright, one right after another. The first domino to fall is not my choice. I call it my “trigger” that happens and it has the ability to make all the rest of the line to follow in falling over. Everyone has a “trigger” I believe in their life that makes it easy to get carried away with worry and dread, or jealousy and envy , or anger and bitterness, etc. When the first domino falls, it is my opportunity to act swiftly because the longer I delay in countering the reaction of the trigger, the faster additional dominos will fall and when this happens, it means my emotions will get away from me and be all the harder to reign back in to submission.
This is the first part of my pattern that helps me, when I recognize a domino has fallen ( or a thought has popped into my mind and is headed dererminedly straight to my heart to wreck havoc), I choose to turn immediately to Jesus to help me stop the progression of the rapidly whirring pieces falling in all kinds of directions. I have seen Him respond mightily to His own temptations (Matthew 4:1-11) and His strategy to overcome and not fall victim to His emotions was decisive and affective. Why should I strive to respond any differently ? If it works for Him and He is the Author and Perfecter of my faith (Hebrews 12:1-3), then it will work for me!
My “turning” to Jesus takes many forms. I turn to Him as I go to the Bible and start reading or if that is not possible, I start reciting Scripture to myself that I have learned throughout the years. Hebrews 4:12 teaches me that the Word of God is living and active and powerful! This truth, coupled with the example of Jesus using Scripture to refute the Devil’s temptations , reveal that this is the first line of my defense as I “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
Next in my pattern is to remember all that He has already done for me, from salvation to the present moment. I turn to Him as I direct my mind to focus on His infinite acts of grace to me thus far. 1 Samuel 7:12 reminds me to consider how “thus far” the Lord has helped me. It is easy for my flesh to focus on what more I need Jesus to do on my behalf, but to fight and overcome my heart failing and the dominos falling, I need to look back as I strive to move forward through my hard day. One of my best tools for doing this is my gratitude journal, where I list out all that I have to be grateful for. I keep the list going for one year and then I begin a new one. I write in it everyday to offer thanksgiving to Him who died for me. When I am in the midst of a difficult day, it helps both to add to the journal and to also read it to see all the items and events already listed.
Another way I turn to Jesus is by listening to worship music. This helps force my mind to stop listening to the negative self-talk and anxieties that naturally flow through my mind and instead, I am swept up in the grandness of my God. Left to myself, I am easily distracted by how big the waves are in my storm instead of how big my Lord is as He meets me there. I have my go-to Pandora stations and YouTube videos ready to help me rise above the wind and the waves as I seek to worship the Almighty.
And last, but certainly not least, I turn to Jesus as I pray. This is done during the previous steps in my pattern as well. Throughout this entire process, I am reminding myself who God is and what He says. That is key to my overcoming the trajectory of my day and commandeering the control from what is doubtful or impossible to what is hopeful and glorious! I don’t have to know how my difficulty can be resolved. I just need to remember Who has hold of me through it. That is how I push through.