Monday, September 19, 2016

“The UPside when you face the DOWNside of life…”

Some times life is unpredictable.  Some times it just plain stinks!  Things don’t always turn out the way we would have hoped, planned, or expected.  This year definitely did NOT turn out as I would have expected… that’s for sure.  It’s been a year of struggle for me. 

I know… I’ve had lots of those since being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.  But, this year has seemed like I have faced an onslaught of non-stop sickness.  If it wasn’t one thing, it was another….Kidney stones, upper respiratory infection, urinary tract infection, and on and on.  Currently I am getting over having pneumonia.  At a point, it wears you out and runs you down.  The frustration of wanting to have a healthy day… just ONE overwhelms you.  

I think I am there.

Lately, I have been facing the DOWNside of life… the struggle.  BUT…there is an Upside.  There is hope and I hold on to that tightly when the winds of hopelessness threaten to overtake me.

I know I’m not the only one overwhelmed lately.  I have several friends who are really struggling right now… health problems, heartache, brokenness, grief, and hopelessness. 

Some of them even have friends or family members who have been given a “death sentence” by their doctors.  I can’t even imagine.  I was really sick at a point with my autoimmune disease and felt near death, but I was never given an expiration date.

All I can say is that God is the one who numbers the days of our life not man.  I choose to focus on His report and hope of healing.

Psalm 139:15-16 says…

“You saw my bones being formed as I took shape in my mother’s body.  When I was put together there, you saw my body as it was formed.  All the days planned for me were written in your book before I was one day old.”  (NCV)

God knows the numbers of our day’s friends.  If you have committed your life to Him, you have the promise of

1.   His peace to see you through the struggles of the present with the hope of healing for the future.


2.   The Ultimate Healing:  no more pain or sickness and eternity with Him forever. 

Either way… God promises to be with us.  There is hope and healing.  We can have peace.  If we seek Him in the midst of our struggles, His peace will consume us.

Sometimes when we are facing the DOWNside of life, everything can begin to feel hopeless and we can start to feel helpless.

I’ve been there friend… struggling to keep my head up, stuck in a rut, feeling forgotten, overlooked, or neglected by God. 

John 13:7 says…
“Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.” (NLT)

Even though I may not “feel” Him at times, I know He is there.  I know He cares and I know He is at work behind the scenes of my life (working things out for my good).

BUT… when the circumstances of life become overwhelming and things don’t 
come together as quickly as I would like, I can become discouraged.

Discouragement that takes root in our hearts can lead us in a downward
spiral that can eventually cause us to doubt God and potentially sink
into a sea of hopelessness (depression) if we aren’t careful. 

What can we do to steer clear of this danger zone and focus on “The Upside when facing the DOWNside of life”…  Here are a few ideas that have helped me…

Run TO God no matter what happens…
Never give up on God.  He has never given up on YOU!  When bad things happen and we don’t understand why, it’s a natural tendency for us to blame God.  I want to challenge you to do something crazy next time you are caught off guard by life.  Run TO Him instead of away.  Pour your heart out to Him.  Ask for His help and rest in His peace. 

You will never regret a heart surrendered completely to Him during all of life’s storms.  His peace is overwhelming and His presence is a constant source of strength.

Guard your “Grouchy”
I don’t know about you, but when I don’t feel well sometimes I get a little “grouchy”.  My grouchy whether I like it or not affects my family.  “When mama ain’t happy nobody is happy!”  I try to prepare for the fact that I may be grouchy while I’m sick.  Consequently I try to be more sensitive to “how” I say things and “what” I say.  When I fail, which happens often, I try to compensate the grouchiness by saying “I love you” regularly to my family.  I want them to know and feel that this “grouchy” thing is only temporary.   Regardless of what comes out of my mouth unexpectedly I want them to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I really do love them… which I do!  Do what you must to guard your grouchy! 

Feed your spirit
Have you ever seen the “Snickers” commercials before?  I love them!  The latest one I have seen has a guy dressed up giving a photographer a lot of grief.  Finally someone walks over to him and says… “Miss Monroe, here have a Snickers.  You aren’t yourself when you’re hungry.”  Then the man takes a bite of the candy bar and immediately turns into a gorgeous, knockout model.  Tada!

This whole scenario makes me think of me on a bad day.  Sometimes when I don’t MAKE time for God when I am struggling, my grouchy side comes out just like that commercial.  I’m not really “ME” when I don’t spend time with God… and you aren’t really YOU when you don’t either.

Time with God changes things… our perspective, our hearts, our minds, our direction, our attitude, and the like.  When we choose to tackle the day WITHOUT God… things don’t flow as well and many times everyone in our little world suffers as a result.

Just like we take time each day to feed our bodies, we need to make it a priority to feed our spirits.  Our spirits need the strength of God’s word inside of us to prepare us for what is ahead.  Our spirits need communion with Him.  As we read God’s word daily and spend time in His presence talking to Him as well as listening, our spirits get stronger.   The stronger we are on the inside, the MORE prepared we are for what may surprise us unexpectedly.

Whether you read a verse, a paragraph, or a chapter, get God’s word inside of you.  Read it in a real-life Bible, underline and highlight verses that stand out to you.  Listen to it on your phone or online.   Get a Bible App. to remind you, etc…

Talk to God daily (just like you would your best friend)… before you get out of bed, in the shower, driving in the car, on your walks, waiting in the pick up line for your kids, picking weeds in your garden, etc…  The point is… Do what it takes to keep your heart centered on God.

Call on the recruits (Prayer support & help)
Sometimes when we are struggling all we can do is throw up 911 prayers to God and hope the answer comes quickly.  In these moments, we need to call in the recruits.  Discouragement may be setting in and we need help!  Ask your friends and family members closest to you to lift you up in prayer.  If you feel uncomfortable giving any details, just tell them you are struggling and you need them to intercede for you.  In most cases, they will be glad you asked and quickly dedicated to the cause. 

Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help when it comes to everyday tasks.  At times it can be overwhelming to even do the little things when life hits you hard.  Others can help beyond prayer too and it’s just as spiritual.  Your job is to ASK for help… when you need it.  God’s job is to PROVIDE the people you need to help you.

When our pride keeps us from asking for help, we steal the blessings from others who love to serve.  Don’t be stingy… reach out and give others the opportunity to “do life” with you.  Many would be happy to help if only they were aware of the need.

Keep moving forward

Focus on the good…
No matter how bad things are, find something good in the midst of it all to focus on… “At least…  I have a job, car that works, healthy kids, a roof over my head, a supportive church family, etc…”  There is always someone out there worse off than us.  Be thankful for what you CAN do.

Change your perspective…
It’s really hard to move forward when our heads are constantly focused downward.   It’s hard to see the good, when we are SO focused on the bad all the time. 

This whole thought makes me think of the old storybook series called “Winnie the Pooh”.  In the story, Pooh has a friend named Eeyore (a donkey), who always appears depressed, gloomy, and negative no matter what is going on in the story.  Pooh attempts to do whatever he can to change his perspective, but Eeyore will NOT be moved from his disposition.

Some times we are like that old donkey!  We will NOT be moved!  We whine, sulk, and sink our heads in defeat at the deck of cards life has dealt us.  We are SO focused on how bad our life is that we rarely see the good happening all around us… and there IS good happening!

Years ago I started something totally new that has helped me change my perspective.  It keeps me moving forward even on the toughest of days.  It may sound silly, but I made a “Thank You Jar”

Well, it’s more of an old mason jar I frilled up with my crafty expertise.  I placed it in a basket with index cards and a pen beside it so I am ready at a moment’s notice to record my findings.

As a family, we write down each GOOD thing that happens to us over the course of a year that we are thankful for and we put it in our jar.  I think we have done it for three years now. 

On New Years Day, we make it a point to pull out all of our papers from the jar we collected over the year and read them.  It is SO powerful to hear how God has provided above and beyond all of our needs.  When we think back over the tough times we faced throughout the year we are overwhelmed.  God was there all along!  He walked with us, provided, and saw us through.  It was all recorded in testimonies on our papers whether we recognized it at the time or not.  Needless to say… tears are plentiful each time we do this.

I don’t know what you are facing today friend, but I know God is faithful.   You may feel like life has knocked you down so hard that you don’t know if you can ever get up.  Believe me you can… with God’s help.  Run TO Him today.  Tell Him how you feel, He cares for you.  Don’t do life alone.  Invite some friends to help you carry the burden.  There is an UPside to this DOWNside you are facing.  Hold onto Jesus and He will see you through. 

I’m praying today that your heart will be filled with HOPE and that regardless of your circumstances you will see GOOD all around you.  I pray your life will overflow with so many blessings (big and small) that you have to grab a jar to collect them all.  May the rest of this year be full of God’s peace and presence as you pursue Him boldly no matter what life throws your way! 

Living to leave a legacy,