FAIRBANKS — “When life won’t play along … And right keeps going wrong … And I can’t seem to find my way … I know where I am found … So I won’t let it drag me down … I’m not about to give up … Because I heard you say …There’s gonna be brighter days …”
Those are some of the lyrics to the song “Move” by the band Mercy Me.
Life is hard. I know I am not telling you something you didn’t already know. So what do you do during those difficult times? Are you hoping for brighter days while bracing for the worst? Ideally, this is when we would use all of our healthy coping skills like exercising, eating right and resting. But most of us do the opposite.
One healthy coping skill that you may not have tried is changing the way you interpret a situation. In counseling, we call it reframing. I don’t know about you, but the holidays, starting with Halloween and going all the way through New Year’s Day, seem to multiply my stress level. There are always more school events, costumes to make, and sporting events to watch, decorating for each holiday, parties to attend or host, meals to prepare, families to visit and cards to send.
In my home you have to throw in seven birthdays for various family members in the mix as well. Now add a sick child, an issue with your car or an unexpected bill and life becomes overwhelming. How can we reframe this?
Most of us seek a connection to Jesus when life is hard. I work very hard to make Jesus a part of my everyday life, and I still notice that I seem to pray a little more in times of struggle. What if we embrace the idea that our troubles bring us closer to God? Can simply acknowledging that connection provide us with peace?
I know it does for me. It is during those times of prayer that I realize I am not alone, that someone wiser than me is in charge. When I can do that, something amazing happens. My body goes from tight to relaxed. I even notice my anger decrease. Could it be that in these times of discomfort that we can find peace through God’s compassion?
I also find that during these times of trouble, I have a greater understanding of other people too. It is hard to understand why people react the way they do until we experience similar situations. It is at this time when I sometimes get an “aha” moment. That is when I see the parallel between my behavior and a behavior by someone else who I have labeled as annoying or frustrating.
Here is a good exercise to do when you become frustrated, annoyed or just plain angry with someone. Say, “Just like me, this person” before each of the following phrases:
“Is seeking happiness in his/her life; trying to avoid suffering in his/her life; has known sadness, loneliness and despair; is seeking to fill his/her needs; and is doing the best they can as they learn about life.”
The more I am able to see those connections to others, the more I am able to show love, grace and can be a non-judgmental presence. Reframing our daily troubles into the belief that during these times we can experience God’s comfort and this prepares us to comfort others.
Insight is sponsored by the Tanana Valley Christian Conference.
Paige Metzgar is executive director of Samaritan Counseling Center.