3 Simple Things That Help in Hard Times
If you’ve been here for the last couple of weeks, you’ll know that I’ve been feeling like a seed, buried in the ground, trying to scratch out some words of faith and hope under all the mud and mess. This week I spent a retreat day at Woodbrooke, a beautiful, old mansion with extensive grounds that was donated to the Quakers by George Cadbury, of chocolate fame.
While I was there, I read and thought and prayed and felt reminded of some things it’s good to do when you’re in the middle of the chaos and turmoil, waiting and hoping that something good will grow out of it all.
Feel your feelings
Feelings can be so complex, can’t they? Some days it seems like I’m feeling every last one of them, all at the same time! So taking a day out to check in with myself and process some of those feelings was a good idea.
Our emotions need attention and space and permission to be felt, especially the uncomfortable ones. We so easily feel guilty for how we feel, or like we’re being too negative or lacking in faith. It can also be pretty terrifying to admit how we really feel sometimes.
In the Bible, though, there are many examples of people giving full vent to their emotions. Remember the story where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead? Before the miracle, Jesus wept. He took time to process his own emotions and honour the grief of Lazarus’s sisters. It was healthy and appropriate for Jesus to do this, and it’s healthy and appropriate for us as well.
I went to Woodbrooke with a couple of friends and the day fell into a good rhythm of spending time apart and meeting up to talk. We need that rhythm of being alone and coming together throughout our lives. But when we’re dealing with big emotions, it’s tempting to miss out the ‘coming together’ part. Perhaps we don’t want to inflict our misery on other people; or maybe we feel vulnerable and worry about being hurt or misunderstood.
That’s why I think Brene Brown’s advice, about sharing our stories with people who have earned the right to hear them, is really helpful. Staying connected isn’t about telling everyone everything. It’s about showing up and daring to be ourselves in those relationships where we’ve established trust. When we’re honest, we give other people permission to do the same. It’s very healing to been seen and known and accepted just as we are. And it’s very healing to offer those gifts to others, too.
As I sat reading in the grounds of the retreat centre, I noticed a wooden swing suspended from the branch of an old tree. Come and play… I felt God whisper. I went over and pushed the swing back so I could sit on it. I jumped on and swung forward, giggling in delight at the sensation of flying through the air. It wasn’t a lesson; it didn’t teach me anything or give me a major breakthrough. It was just fun!
When times are tough, we desperately need to find things that will spark joy. It doesn’t have to be anything grand: a few minutes on a swing, a walk in the park, a cup of tea with a friend, a soak in the bath, a good book, a funny film. Small things that bring joy give us moments of light relief and lead us to gratitude. They are like stars in the night sky, reminding us that there is beauty to be found, even here in the dark.
Some questions for reflection…
- How easy is it for you to admit your own feelings? How can you be kind to yourself and honour your own emotions?
- Who has earned the right to hear your story? When was the last time you told them how you really are? How can you begin building trust in newer relationships?
- What small thing can you do to spark joy today?
This is part of a series on finding hope in the dark