There was a national pole taken this week that says Americans are more depressed, worried and discouraged than any time they can remember in their life.
When a crisis, a tragedy or a setback occurs many don’t know how to get on with their lives and they don’t know what to do next.”
What do you do after you’ve received a major body blow to your life? What do you do when your life falls apart? How do you find the strength to get up and go on in a tragedy? We all will face tragedies in life, so it’s important to learn how to deal with them.
There was a man in the Bible who asked that question many years ago. His name was Jeremiah. Jeremiah went through one of the most horrendous periods of history in his nation Israel when an enemy nation came in and ravaged his entire nation. In fact took the entire nation captive slaves and took them out of their homeland. And during Jeremiah’s lifetime he watched enormous atrocities – inhumanities done to his people, to his family, to those that he loved. And he wrote it all down in two books of the Bible called the Book of Jeremiah and the Book of Lamentations.
Jeremiah wrote what he lived and he lived what he wrote. In the middle of a national tragedy He said, “We have suffered terror and pitfalls, ruin and destruction. Streams of tears flow from my eyes because of the destruction of my people.” Then he says, “I have cried until the tears no longer come. My heart is broken, my spirit poured out as I see what has happened to my people.”
I want to talk about how one keeps on going. How do you find the strength to go on after a personal tragedy, crisis, or setback?
In Jeremiah’s case God told him to do (4) four things. You’re going to need this material so I encourage you to print this and save it because at some point in your life when you face a personal crisis, a personal tragedy you’re going to need to know what to do when those road winds hit and your life seems to be falling apart. Again, let me suggest you pay close attention to these four things…
1. Focus your attention on God.
This is not just some trite instruction. This is the first thing you do. You focus your attention on God. You have to make time to be quiet. Get alone with God, be with Him and just listen to God. Lamentations 3:28-30 (Message) “When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions. Wait for hope to appear.”
Did you know that God wants to talk to you? God wants to talk to you more than you want to listen. I’ve met a lot of people who are “open-minded” but they don’t think at all that God would ever talk to them. The reason He doesn’t is they don’t want to listen. But the number one reason why we don’t hear God talk to us is we’re too busy. You know on Mother’s Day when you try to call your mom and they say, “All circuits are busy.” Does God ever get a busy signal from you? When was the last time you just sat down and were quiet for 10-15 minutes? You didn’t read anything. You just sat there in quietness. My guess is that many of you have never in your entire life asked the question, “God, is there anything You want to say to me right now?” And you just sat and listened.
I want to challenge you this week if you want to get the strength to go on what you need to do is set aside a time everyday, a quiet time – 10 minutes, maybe 15 where you go out in your back yard or you sit at a table in your favorite chair, get a cup of coffee, a cup of tea, a coke or something and you sit down and become very still and very quiet. One day a week is sufficient. I encourage you to form a habit of this practice. Later you may incorporate reading the Bible or praying but for now, sit still and just listen.
Next week we will take a look at the second thing God told Jeremiah to do.
Last week we said the first thing you must do to get up when you feel down is to focus your attention solely on God. Now that you have focused on Him you can move to the next step.
2. Ask God to remove your fears.
When we experience a tragedy or a set back we feel all kinds of emotions. We feel grief, we feel confusion, we feel doubt, we feel anger, and we feel frustration. All of these are emotions we have to deal with. But there’s one emotion that is more deadly, more damaging than all the others. That is fear.
It is usually not grief or anger that paralyzes us, but rather fear. If you’re going to get on with your life after a tragedy or set back you’re going to have to deal with the root of the fears and anxieties in your life. So Jeremiah prays this in Lamentations 3 “From the bottom of the pit [he’s really in despair][ever been there] I cried out to You, O Lord. And when I begged You to listen to my cry You heard me. And You answered me and told me not to be afraid.”
Ann Landers would often receive over 10,000 letters a day. Once when she was asked what’s the most common problem people write about, without hesitation she said “Fear”.
Everybody has hidden fears. We may fake it. We may pretend like we don’t have them. We may cover them up. We may medicate them. But the truth is everybody has fears.
The Bible tells us how to deal with our fears. I am presently thinking of at least three antidotes to fear. TRUTH – LOVE – FAITH
TRUTH – Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.” How is that an antidote to fear? Because most fears are based on ignorance or false information. They’re based not on the truth but on lies, misperception, misunderstandings, prejudices. That’s where most fears come from. As a human being you’re only born with two fears: as a baby it was the fear of falling and the fear of loud noses. That means every other fear in your life you learned.
You learned it from friends, from parents, from people on the playground, from people you work with, and the many experiences of life. Here’s the bad news: a lot of things you’ve learned in life aren’t true. Things you learned about yourself, the way you see yourself, things about God, things about the Bible, and things about life experiences.
When you build your life on those faulty assumptions and misbeliefs, the more misbelief you have in your life the more fear you’re going to have in life. You have all these things that cause the fears. [FEAR – False Evidence Appearing Real] That’s what Fear is. We’re afraid of things that we don’t need to be afraid of because much of our lives have been built on lies, misperception, misunderstandings, and prejudices.
You can’t just get of fear by saying, “I’m not going to be afraid anymore.” You have to replace the fear with truth in your life. The more you fill your life with truth – God’s truth – the more truth you have in your mind the less room there is for fear. You put in the truth and the truth will set you free.
You learned all your fears – that’s the bad news. The good news is you can unlearn them.
LOVE – The second way you get rid of fear is by filling your life with love. The Bible says, “There is no fear in love but perfect love casts out all fear.” It pushes it out. So the more of God’s love you have in your life and the more you give it away, the more you’re going to be confident and the less you’re going to be afraid. If you have a lot of fears in your life it tells me one thing: you don’t know God very well.
You see God is love, and love is always stronger than fear. What motivates a parent to run out into a street in oncoming traffic (a very fearful thing) when a child’s out there? It’s the love for that child. Love is always greater than fear. And if you fill your life with God’s love you’re going to have less fear. So build more love into your life.
FAITH – The third thing that reduces fear in your life is Faith. Let me tell you how this works. Faith doesn’t eliminate the feelings of fear. It gives you the courage to do what you need to do in spite of how you feel. That’s what faith does. Faith does not say it’ll take away all your fears and then you will feel really at peace about things. A lot of times faith is “I’ll give you the courage, the power, the energy, the stamina to go ahead and do the very thing you fear the most.” To do the thing you don’t want to do because you’re scared to death to do it.
A mom was trying to encourage her daughter to jump to her in the pool. “Jump honey, said the mother.” “No mommy, I’m afraid.” Then her mom said, “Do it afraid, it’s ok.”
Where do you get Faith and Love and Truth? What is the source of those three antidotes to fear?
A relationship to God is a must for one to live a life filled with truth, love and faith. The more you get to know God the more you’re going to have His truth, His love, His faith in your life. What I’m saying is this: all those fears you’ve got in your life, the antidote is not a formula. The antidote is a person. His name is Jesus Christ. The better you get to know Him, the less fear you’re going to have. “I prayed to the Lord and He answered me, freeing me from all my fears.” The antidote to your fears is not a formula it’s a person. It’s Jesus Christ.
It is not an accident that you are reading this. He wanted you to hear me say: “Don’t be afraid. Don’t worry. Don’t fret. Don’t get anxious. Don’t forget that He can help you up wherever you are, and out of whatever you are into. You don’t have to be afraid. You don’t have to live with fear.” Call out to Him now.
In this series about getting up when you feel so down, we have stated that you must first focus you attention on God and then ask Him to remove your fear. The third important step to finding strength to go on is…
3. Believing that God will restore you.
Expect Him to. Trust Him to. Believe God can help you recover from whatever you are going through or what you’ve recently gone through. You have to trust God to bring good even out of bad. Jeremiah did this. After losing everything, this is what he prayed “Restore us O Lord and bring us back to You again. Give us back the joys we once had.”
Did you know that God specializes in new beginnings? He helps people start over after tragedies and crisis and bad things. It’s called getting a new life, a fresh start, a new look, a new lease on life, and a new direction. But in order to get this you have to be willing to trust God. You have to believe, you have to expect, you have to anticipate that God will help you and that He can restore the joy in your life.
I want to make this real practical so I want to give you three things you should never do in a tragedy and two things you should always do.
Three things to not do when a tragedy hits:
1. Don’t suppress your grief. We talked about that in detail last week. Spill it out. Let God hear it. Tell Him how you feel. Tell Him the good, the bad, and the ugly. Don’t stuff it down. When you stuff grief and you stuff those emotions, you’re only hurting yourself. Don’t repress your grief.
2. Don’t resign from life. “I’ll never be happy again! I’m going to pull myself into a shell. I’m going to build a wall around me. I’m going to become like a porcupine with prickly needles. I’m never letting another man get close to me… I’m never letting another woman touch my heart. I’m not going to let anybody get close. I’m going to build a walk and keep them all away.” That’s a big mistake. You may as well go ahead a die right now. Don’t resign from life and just exist instead of live.
3. Don’t retreat into resentment. Resentment doesn’t work. It only hurts you. It doesn’t hurt the other party – that is the people you’re resenting. It doesn’t hurt God. It only hurts you. In fact, it only makes the problem worse. It makes the pain prolonged.
All of us have been hurt by people in our past. But that person can’t hurt you any more unless you choose to allow them to do so by rehearsing it over and over in your mind. That’s dumb. Don’t do that.
Here are two things you should do whenever you face a tragedy or setback:
1. Accept what cannot be changed. There are a lot of things in your life you can’t control. In fact, most of the things in your life you can’t control. The only way to overcome them is through acceptance.
Acceptance is the key to peace. Acceptance is the key to serenity.
Acceptance is the key to getting on with your life. Some of you have already lost a loved one. They’re not coming back! No matter how much you wish for it, wish it were different, it’s not going to change. The past is past. It’s over. Some of you have been holding on to a partner who left you and they’ve already gone out and remarried. They’re not coming back. You’ve got to let it go. Acceptance is the key to peace.
That’s also, by the way, faith. Faith is not pretending that things aren’t the way they really are.
Faith is accepting the facts of life, accepting reality but not being discouraged by it. That’s real faith. Accepting reality but not being discouraged by it. I believe God’s still with me and He’s going to help me out.
2. Focus on what’s left not what’s lost. Make a list of the things you can be thankful for. “I’m still alive. God still loves me.” There are lots of things. You can make a long list. Gratitude destroys depression. It is impossible to be grateful and depressed at the same time. You can’t do it. When you’re depressed you start making a list of things you can thank God for. You will find those dark clouds rolling away as you build the attitude of gratitude in your life.
When Jonah was in the pit of despair himself said, “When I lost all hope I once again turned my thoughts to the Lord.” (Jonah 2:7) You need to do that.
I want to warn you. This takes time. You don’t get over a tragedy, crisis and setbacks overnight. It takes time to heal. I don’t know what you’ve been through in life, all the pain. But God does. I don’t know what you’re experiencing right now. But God does. He can help you if you will trust Him.
In this series about getting up when you feel so down, we have stated that you must first focus you attention solely on God, ask Him to remove your fear, and believe that He can and will restore you. The last step to finding strength to go on is… Remember what never changes.
As I sat down to finish the last article in this series I was reminded of a passage of scripture found in Jeremiah chapter 8 where the Lord through Jeremiah was to ask his people a few rhetorical questions. The first question is found in verse 4…
When people fall down, don’t they get up again?
Of course the answer is YES! So if you are down, let me encourage you to get up and move forward. Our last thought.
4. Remember what never changes.
Life is constantly changing. It changes all the time. And of course, a crisis, a tragedy or a setback changes things faster. One minute there’s someone there that you love and the next minute they’re not there any more. That is an instant change.
But there are some things in your life that never do change. You need to anchor yourself to those certainties or you’ll never have stability in life. You have to nail yourself to these certainties.
Anchor, fasten, bolt yourself to these few unchangeable realities or you’re just going to be blown around by the circumstances of life.
Jeremiah did this. No matter what happens there are three things that never change. He reminded himself of these three things. It’s the fourth key to getting up and going on when you feel so down. What do you need to remember?
1. You need to remember that God is still in charge.
He still has the final say in spite of what you are going through. As humans we have a free will and we do sometimes make bad choices where people get hurt. He doesn’t control their choices either. He lets them have that free choice like you and me. But He is in charge of how it all works out. And we need to trust Him in that.
The reason why our lives are filled with fear is as I said earlier most of our life is beyond our control. We had no control over who our birth parents were, when we were born, where we were born, and what natural gifts we were given.
We don’t know how we’re going to die or when. We don’t control the economy, we don’t control the weather, we don’t control the past, and we can’t control the future. The one thing we can control is our attitude and our response and that’s a big issue. But we cannot control the things that are going to be thrown at us in life. We can only control how we choose to respond to them – in faith, in trust, in love or some other way.
The truth is I can’t handle everything that’s going to come into my life. But I don’t have to. God will. The secret of crisis control is Christ control. I let Him handle it. And although I remind myself, I can’t handle it. It’s out of my control. It’s not out of God’s. I must choose to trust Him.
So I remember no matter what happens God is in charge. Jeremiah says, “We are sick at our very hearts and we can hardly see through our tears but You, O Lord, are King forever. And You will rule to the end of time.” God is in control.
2. You need to remember that God loves you and He’s never going to stop loving you.
Other people may stop loving me but God never will. Jeremiah says this, “I’ll never forget this trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. I remember it all. The feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one other thing I remember and remembering it I keep a grip on, and that is God’s love for me is eternal and it will never run out.
3. You need to remember that God is all you need.
We’re probably never going to know that God is all we need, until God is all we’ve got. There will be times in our life when it seems that all we’ve got is God. But If we’ve got God we’ve got everything else we need, because He’s got all the resources and personal at His disposal to provide for us our legitimate needs.
Jeremiah says “Deep in my heart I say, The Lord is all I need. I can still depend on Him.” You don’t have to know all the answers if you know God does. So if you find yourself from time to time feeling down, focus you attention solely on God, ask Him to remove your fear, believe that He can and will restore you and call to remembrance the right things.