Have you ever been confused about what to do or paralyzed with indecision because it seemed that you had limited, poor, or no options at all? At some point in our lives, most of us discover what it’s like to be stuck between rocks and hard places; the ordinary but complicated challenges that remind us how little control we actually have.
I’ve found myself in this position at significant crossroads in life, in matters related to health, work, and particularly, it seems, within the context of relationships (parenting, family, and/or friendship). A few examples immediately come to mind—
- When we were faced with having to live abroad two additional years or walk away from what had seemed like a dream job for my husband
- The time I suspected (without proof) that one of my children was playing with “fire” and I needed to build a bridge to their heart, not trigger them to lie or completely shut down
- When I had to navigate emotionally-charged waters among family members who didn’t always agree during my father’s heartbreaking last year of life
Thankfully, through the Holy Spirit’s transformative work, experience can become an incredible teacher. And, isn’t it so true that what we’ve learned from life’s greatest challenges can often equip us to serve and minister to others? This is why living in community is so important — we need each other when life gets hard.
Here’s what else I’ve learned: Before you find yourself struggling, it also helps to prepare with what you can do when you have no idea what to do. True, you can’t exactly prevent life sometimes going off the rails, but I’ve found a few practices that have helped free me from the pinch and pressure of those rocks and hard places:
1. Pray. I know you know this – we all knowknowKNOW this! – so why is prayer too often our last resort rather than our first response? When we don’t pray, fear can creep in, worry becomes our master, and we end up thinking or talking about our problems instead of actually praying. My wise friend Margaret Ann said something years ago that stuck with me: “If you can fret, you can pray!” This has prompted me to pray when I’m tempted to worry or only talk about the things I’m wrestling with.
When we pray, our circumstances may not change, but God hears, responds, and might even change us. It’s powerful and sobering to consider that sometimes painful or difficult circumstances is a means God can use to get our attention. Thankfully, we can always trust that when He is at work, it is always for our good and His glory. I wonder how much our lives would change if prayer was always our first response?
2. Seek counsel from proven and trusted resources. Scripture and your church’s leadership (not just your pastor) are good places to start. Who are the people who tell you what you need to hear versus what you want to hear? Who will point you to Truth, encourage you from a biblical perspective, and remind you of the goodness of the Gospel? Who has walked in similar shoes? Pursue “older and wiser” godly women whose vast life experience will be a treasure in friendship.
However, encouraging you to seek counsel comes with a strong caution: be careful and discerning about the voices who are speaking into your life and circumstances. We’re living in a post-Christian culture that is increasingly challenging the truth of God’s word. Scripture is reliable but people are not (even when their intentions are good), and popularity isn’t equal to trustworthiness. Always remember that just because a Christian influencer, author, or speaker says something, doesn’t mean it’s true.
3. Seek to understand before needing to be understood. This has become one of my guiding life principles, and I’ve found it especially important in marriage, parenting, and friendship. It even has application in work and ministry — truly whenever other people are involved. It’s a life philosophy that aligns with Philippians 2:3-4:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
When I get this in the right order, it makes all the difference in the world. When I get it out of order? When I demand to be understood, when I think about my own interests first, relationships are fractured, walls are constructed, and it’s much harder to recover.
What a grace that when we really don’t know what to do, there are simple but wise steps we can take to move in the right direction. I don’t know what’s going on in your world today, but chances are good that you are struggling with how to respond to a difficult situation right now. God sees you, friend. He’s an ever-present help in our times of trouble, the giver of perfect encouragement precisely when we need it the most.
Robin Dance says
It always feels like a God wink to me when He reinforces an idea or truth about Himself. Thank you so much for sharing <3.
I love this. Concise, practical and simple. And why is prayer my response when everything becomes a mess? And I agree about who you listen to. Great tools.
Robin Dance says
I think a lot of us “finally” pray when things escalate to a breaking point. “Praying ahead” isn’t a bad way to live :).
Robin, you really “hit the nail on the head” with this post. I so needed to hear these words! Thank you!
Robin Dance says
God is so good to prompt us, isn’t He? Thank you for reading and taking time to comment.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Robin how true what you said. How much our lives would change if we brought it all to God in prayer and asked him to speak to us through the Holy Spirit to know what to do. I guilty of asking others to pray for me for certain things that I need help with instead of going to God first in prayer. I know I should have done that. Then asked others to pray for me as well. As when things don’t go as I hoped. I feel offal or not myself because of something that happened or I said or done something I shouldn’t have. Then one day God spoke to me. I was online looking up some images for a friend of mine. This one Poped up me. I knew it was God speaking to me. It said Prayer is the best medicine and God is the best Doctor. I knew immediately as I read that God was speaking to me. To say Dawn Prayer about your health to me instead of asking other to pray for you. Remember I am the best Doctor. So I knew God wanted me to pray about my health to him before I ask others to pray for me. As then I was taking seizures because my Hormones went up the left each month as women. That would throw me into seizures each month. I would ask other to pray for all this to stop. As they were not nice. God through that image online spoke to me loud and clear when looking up something for my friend. To make me see I needed to go to God first and not others. Trust God in it all and put God first in everything. It was a big wake up call. As I had to learn to put God first. Then my friends if I wanted ask them to pray as well. As I needed to have hysterectomy to stop my periods as women making me go into seizures each month by making my hormones go up the left to cause that. So God then also when I started to go to God in prayer first then my friends. Before my operation God had me find this saying on line. I held onto it. Believed it for my operation five years ago past in October. It said Don’t Worry About Tomorrow God Is Already There. I knew then not to worry about my operation and went with not being scared or frightened. I knew God was already there and would be with through the whole operation and my recovery. God was there. I have alot to thank God for. As I don’t take seizures any more. God showed me. In everything to trust him. Go him first in prayer not get any one else to pray first. I do that with everything. Even though God didn’t heal me himself. He used my operation for me to get my healing and for to put him first. So now if not well I say to people before I do any I going to trust Doctor God and pray to him first. As I call God. Go to him in prayer for anything now. Trust him and his word and stand on his promises. Keeping you all incourage in my prayers. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little xx
Robin Dance says
Go to God first (in prayer) and remember He is already in our tomorrows. That’s good stuff, Dawn. (And I’m thankful for all the ways he’s healed and taught you!)
Ariel Krienke says
Great message. What a blessing. Yes our encouragement always needs to come from scripture. Thank you. The Christian fellowship group at work chastises me for speaking the truth in love. They say that I need to be quiet and just be there for others. I must speak the truth in love.
Robin Dance says
Leading with love is always our best response but not always the easy one. So true…
Beth Williams says
“I wonder how much of our lives would change if prayer was our first response?” Yes and Amen. So often we hear people say “I’ve tried everything else I guess I should pray now”. Why wait till the end? Why try to handle difficult situations or relationships on our own? In Psalm 55:22 We are told to “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” God is gently telling to come to Him first. Let Him handle the situation. Yes to praying about everything first.
Robin Dance says
Beth, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can be a slow, hard-headed human :). When I live surrendered to Him, everything is better… :).
Dawn Davies says
I had a job decision to make recently, whether to stay or go.
With prayer, I felt waves of peace, but I didn’t feel as calm when I sought counsel. There were many different opinions.
I hope that means that I made the right decision even though time will tell.
Robin Dance says
Dawn, your comment makes me think of how God is always working in our waiting, and how our circumstances, ultimately, be used for our good and God’s glory. I pray you see Him at work in the midst…!