Ever notice how just when you start to feel you have life figured out with a smooth, happy rhythm to your days, within a few weeks it shifts? Suddenly life feels stressful or awkward or like grinding the wheels to just get out the door on time? And then, have mercy, the feelings kick in. Fear, frustration, insecurity, hurt, OVER IT. (Over it IS totally a feeling! Just hasn’t been added to the charts yet…) And sometimes, often, in those moments it seems so true: this is impossible, and you really can’t handle it and it just shouldn’t be so hard.
Let’s say one day you woke up in a cage with a tiger. What would you do? Look around for an escape? Figure out how to kill it before you became his breakfast? Freeze and try to play dead? Text your husband how this must all be his fault, because how in the world could someone have gotten you into a cage with a tiger without waking him up??!
You know what you would most likely NOT try? Taming the tiger. Why? Because unless you have background in zoo or circus, you got no skills in tiger taming!
The tiger is not really the problem. Not knowing how to handle tigers is the problem.
Life is full of unexpected and inconvenient and horribly uncomfortable changes. Living in this broken world necessitates being able to adapt and manage and grow through them, or they will eat you alive. So what does it take to handle the hard realities we wake up to with often no warning? Here are three tools to begin with:
Believe truth, not feelings. Often we feel inadequate or overwhelmed by changes in our health, relationships or job. But God’s word says we are, in reality equipped, if in relationship with Him. That He gives us everything you need to handle life, and more than that, to do it in a way that honors Him. (2 Peter 1:3) He also tells us He is with us and will never leave us, even when we feel alone. (Mt. 28:20; Joshua 1:9) He tells us when it looks like all our trials are pointless, He is working a good purpose in the midst (Romans 8:28) and that it will not last forever (2 Cor 5:14) These are powerful truths found in scripture that keep us from hopelessness, discouragement and despair. But without constant reminders of truth, we are more likely to believe what our feelings are screaming at us. Which leads to the second tool-
Live in community, not independence. If you wake up in a cage with a tiger, it is a whole lot less scary if there are other friends there with you! We need people to support us and remind us of truth. Living an isolated life, with no real connections, will always create pride and fear when we find ourselves staring down a snarling tiger. If we act like we don’t need others, it’s hard to admit it when we suddenly do. It’s scary to face life without authentic relationships, and those can’t instantaneously develop in the middle of a hard time. We need to be in constant community so it is natural to reach out when we are stressed or afraid or struggling.
Focus on what Christ has done, not what you can’t do. Every single hard thing we face, is in fact, just a tiger cub compared to the biggest, scariest tiger that has already been defeated for us by Christ. Our sin that separated us from God the Father was conquered when Jesus took it onto himself, died in our place and then rose up defeating death itself. We were never going to be able to fix the biggest problem we face, so God came down to do it for us. Now, no matter what we face, we know it cannot ultimately take us down. Because Christ took the sting of death, we do not have to. Even on days when it feels like I am on the losing end of the wrestling match with life, I remember what Jesus has already accomplished and I know the end of the story. I may lose a battle, but the war is already won. (Heb. 12:1-3)