King David wrote in Psalm 23 about walking through “the shadow of death.” This is probably a metaphor for life’s trials in general, though it also applies to a person facing his own death or the death of a loved one.
In this life we face trials. We are constantly exposed to a range of strains and stresses. However, we can call on several strategies to lessen the load. Here are a few effective steps:
• Learn from trials and suffering. They can help us learn new skills. Jesus Christ learned by His difficult circumstances and experiences (Hebrews 5:8 Hebrews 5:8Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
American King James Version×), and so can we.
• Count your blessings. When we focus on pain, we often forget how good life has been to us. Paul said we should always be thankful (Philippians 4:6 Philippians 4:6Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
American King James Version×). He also explained that the result of giving thanks is a “peace which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
• Don’t be a prisoner of your suffering. Severe trials can cause emotional paralysis. We need to remain active because inactivity further devastates morale. Dr. Paul Brand, an expert on the subject of pain, said: “When I confront intense pain, I look for activities that will fully absorb me, either mentally or physically. I … have found that conscious distraction and the discipline of activity can be helpful tools in combating pain” (Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, The Gift Nobody Wants, 1993, p. 254).
• Find someone with whom you can share your load. Many people undergoing severe trials make the mistake of trying to handle them alone. Without question, those who reach out to others in times of need benefit from doing so. We need human contact. “Two are better than one … But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 9 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor.
10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falls; for he has not another to help him up.
American King James Version×).
• Break the trial into bite-sized bits . When your difficulty or workload is daunting, divide it into manageable chores.
• Take life one day at a time. People battling depression, emotional struggles and difficulties in general often share a self-defeating mind-set. Their emotions tell them their trial will never end. In such times we need an attitude that realizes that this trial, too, shall pass—as most difficulties indeed do. Adopt the psalmist’s perspective: “This is the day which the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalms 118:24 Psalms 118:24This is the day which the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
American King James Version×), in spite of our difficulties.
• Don’t be frustrated by trifling issues. Learn to put minor problems behind you and make decisions of lesser importance with a minimum of stress and worry.
• Eat a balanced, nourishing diet. Our bodies and minds are much less able to deal with stress and other difficulties if we do not provide them with the nutrients they need.
• Exercise regularly. Proper exercise relieves stress, provides a feeling of well-being and helps us sleep better—all of which are important for our contentment and mental stability.
• Provide yourself regular rest and relaxation. God commanded that we rest every week on the Sabbath day (Exodus 20:8-11 Exodus 20:8-11 8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days shall you labor, and do all your work:
10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD your God: in it you shall not do any work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger that is within your gates:
11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: why the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
American King James Version×). We also need relaxing time on a daily basis.
• Make a change. We cannot avoid some distressful situations, and others we should not avoid. To opt out of them would be wrong. But don’t be a glutton for punishment. If you can escape a trial without being irresponsible, take steps to do so (see Proverbs 22:3 Proverbs 22:3A prudent man foresees the evil, and hides himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.
American King James Version×).
• Develop your sense of humor. “A cheerful heart is good medicine (Proverbs 17:22 Proverbs 17:22A merry heart does good like a medicine: but a broken spirit dries the bones.
American King James Version×, NIV). Humor helps us rise above stresses. Viktor Frankl discovered, while imprisoned in Auschwitz, that humor is an innate weapon in the fight for survival. Laughter truly is effective medicine.
• Realize that ultimately all things are in God’s able hands. Jesus points us to God: “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit” (Luke 23:46 Luke 23:46And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into your hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.
American King James Version×). David urges us to “commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him” (Psalms 37:5 Psalms 37:5Commit your way to the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
American King James Version×). The Hebrew word translated “commit” means “to roll some object on.” A mental picture that can help make the meaning clear is the thought of flinging yourself upon God—as a child would fall helplessly into his physical father’s outstretched arms.