Actually settling into rest and stillness during difficulties is easier said than done. Nothing in me wants to wallow in the muck, so it’s tempting to ignore my feelings and move on. But I see now that there is a large amount of time and space between resting and moving on.
Embracing the stillness helped me surrender my life to God. As much as I thought I’d surrendered to the Lord in the past, cancer was a whole other ball game. My resentment turned to appreciation. God was walking with me through the pain and no matter what happened, I had hope for an eternity with Him where there would be no more tears or mourning. I found joy in recognizing the blessings around me in spite of my circumstances.
I thought pausing to rest equaled wallowing and having a pity party, but that isn’t the case. Here are some practical things I now do instead of rushing on to the next thing when I know my heart, head, and spirit need stillness:
Be still. Don’t make a quick decision. Don’t rush or jump ahead. Commit to sitting with the pain, which can be extremely uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s in that uncomfortable spot that we grow the most.
2. Be Present
The first thing I want to do when pain comes is skip ahead to the next season. I don’t want to deal with it or focus on it. But I’ve found that if I live in the moment, ordinary moments sustain me: a kid’s birthday, a hair appointment, doing laundry, making dinner. When you walk slowly and intentionally and concentrate on these everyday gifts, you will feel God’s presence.
3. Write It Down
Writing things down always helps me process what is happening and what I’m feeling.
4. Talk It Out
Talking to a spouse, close friend, or counselor can be life-giving. But most of all, talk with God. Share your feelings, questions, and doubts.
I wish I could have snapped my fingers and removed the physical pain. I bet Jesus wished He could have done the same. Knowing what was to come, I bet He wished His Father would have mustered up another plan for Him, one that might not be so difficult or full of excruciating pain (see Matt. 26:39).
Here’s the truth, though, friends: we will continue to walk through hard things. It’s what we do with life’s challenges that determines our growth. When we are in step with the Spirit, we’ll know when it’s time to pick up our mats or when it’s time to sit down and grieve. We will have great days and hard days. We will have mountains and valleys. But learning when to run and when to rest will determine whether we have joy in all seasons.
And for those wondering how long is too long to rest, I think it’s a personal decision between you and God. You know if you’re sitting in your negativity longer than you need to, and you know in the back of your mind if you’re shoving the pain aside.
Pray for the wisdom to navigate both the highs and the lows of each season.
Adapted from Chapter 6 of Take Back Your Joy: Fighting for Purpose When Life Is More than You Can Handle by Nicole Jacobsmeyer. Learn more about finding joy through difficult seasons at nicolejacobsmeyer.com.