Getting Through Hard Times
Somebody close to me recently told me about a weekly online (due to pandemic restrictions) Bible study they attend where the leader had sent out an unusual message one week. Because of new restrictions, they weren’t going to do their normal weekly study. Instead they were going to meet to play games because nobody was in the mood for something heavy and serious like the Bible that week.
While playing games in a Christian group can definitely be a nice way to mix things up and get to know each other in a different way – the reason for the change of plans the leader gave was a bit odd. It was like they’d missed the point.
Sure we’ve all felt the negative effects on our emotional wellbeing of being stuck inside, unable to see friends and family or feel that thrill we get when we’re surrounded by the hustle and bustle of other people. But during these hard times we need to be focusing on our spiritual life more not less. And when I say ‘need’ I don’t mean it as in it’s our obligation to do it – God’s not that legalistic. I mean ‘need’ as in it’s our lifeboat when the ship is sinking.
So here are 5 Spirituality Goals to get you through hard times. Whatever you’re going through – I hope they prove to be the spiritual survival skills you need!
#1 Spirituality Goals: Collect Lists of Bible Verses
What did Jesus do when things seemed to be spiraling out of control? In the desert, being attacked by the Devil with confusion and doubt, Jesus quoted Bible verses to stay strong in the truth.
We can too.
It was by misquoting and twisting God’s words that Adam and Eve were deceived by the Serpent in the garden; allowing chaos to ruin their peace.
The Word of God has power.
By clinging onto God’s undistorted words, even when the going gets tough, we can stay true to the truth and restore peace to our minds.
Why not write your favourite verses on flashcards? Or in a fresh notebook or journal?
I sometimes organise the verses by the situation I would need the verses for, like: ‘doubt’, ‘stress’, ‘praise’ etc. Once you’ve written them out neatly, in your best handwriting, it becomes easier to remember them and draw the verses to mind.
There may even come a time, once you’ve thumbed through them enough, where you don’t need your flashcards or notebooks near you to pick out the right verse for the occasion you’re facing.
Make these verses your ready weapon against any kind of spiritual tumult you might experience in your day-to-day.
For a resource to collect Bible verses to remind yourself of your Biblical identity – check out this post.
#2 Spirituality Goals: Rethink your Prayer Life
How do you usually pray? Does every sentence usually begin with ‘I’? Or do you give God a list of requests – a letter to Santa kind of prayer? That’s not how God intended us to pray. Use the Lord’s prayer as a model and start to get disciplined in your prayer life. (For a more detailed exploration of how to do this, go to this post.)
Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name.
Start off your prayers by praising God and putting your focus on Him.
We all have one of those friends who, when you meet up with them for coffee, goes straight into talking all about themselves and seems to forget that you might have things going on too. It’s kind of self-absorbed to do that with your friends and it’s no different with God.
Don’t just dive into talking about yourself and your problems. Give some acknowledgement to how great God is and show a little gratitude first. It’s a good practice to help get your mind and heart in the right place to approach God.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Express your desire for God’s will to come first. As important as any prayer request you might have for Him may seem to you – God knows best. You should want His will to override anything you ask Him for. Who knows? You may be asking for something that you think would make everything better but that He sees would have terrible consequences. Or perhaps He knows that your request comes out of a bad motivation which He doesn’t want to encourage.
Align yourself with His will. It’s the best way to bring about the best outcome.
Give us this day our daily bread
Ask for what you need today. Don’t start worrying about things too far down the line. That only leads you to imagining things that may never happen and are all in God’s hands anyway. Jesus said: “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34).
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors
Got anything you’re feeling guilty about? Now’s the moment to let it all out and say that you’re sorry. You’ll feel better for it.
Got any grudges you’re still holding onto? It might just be time to forgive. Afterall, God forgave you your sins when He Himself never did anything wrong. What’s stopping you from forgiving others when you are anything but blameless?
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
Are you trying to rely on your own strength to get through the challenges ahead? There’s no way you can do it on your own without falling into trouble, and besides … why would you want to? Praying for help can keep your heart from getting either too proudly self-reliant or too despairing when faced with seemingly impossible challenges.
#3 Spirituality Goals: Read a Classic Christian Book
Sometimes we can get so caught up in reading the latest New York Times Bestseller that we forget about those Christian classics that have passed the test of time. There are so many to choose from when it comes to dusting off those golden oldies from the shelf. Here are some to consider:
The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan.
One of the most printed and read books in the English language, The Pilgrim’s Progress, was written whilst its author was in prison for refusing to stay quiet and stop preaching. It used to be one of those books that every British home had a copy of alongside the Bible.
It powerfully conveys the Christian life by tracking the challenges and struggles that the main character ‘Christian’ faces on his journey from the ‘City of Destruction’ to the ‘Celestial City’. In doing so, he hopes to learn how he can free himself from the burden of his sin. A kind of roadmap of what lies ahead when you try to follow Jesus, it’s a wonderful spiritual resource for any Christian. (Check out this post for more on The Pilgrim’s Progress.)
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom.
This book is beautiful. The author recounts her family’s efforts to hide Jews during Nazi occupation of Holland. Though it covers some pretty dark moments – even life in a concentration camp after their operations get caught – there is a brightness, a lightness and a sense of joy which fills every page. It reminds us that even in the midst of the most difficult times, we can go on in faith and hope when God is our refuge.
Anything by C.S. Lewis.
Best known for his Narnia books (including the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe), C.S. Lewis wrote a number of other classic Christian books.
If you’re at the beginning of your Christian journey, then Mere Christianity might be a good one to start. It goes over the principles of Christianity in a clear and easy to understand way.
If you have questions about Heaven and the life to come, then his shorter work The Great Divorce might be the read for you.
One of my favourite books by him however, is A Grief Observed. Dealing with similar themes to his more theological book The Problem of Pain, here C.S. Lewis offers a more personal picture of the struggles of dealing with suffering – not as an abstract philosophical problem – but as we really experience it, grapple with it and try to make sense of it. The book is based on his own scribblings after he lost his wife to cancer. It’s raw and it’s real and lays out bear the thoughts he worked through as he processed grief using a Christian framework.
#4 Spirituality Goals: Volunteer and Serve
Jesus was not averse to rolling up his sleeves and getting his hands dirty in service of those around Him. A beautiful act of love and humility is recorded in John 13 when Jesus washes His disciples’ feet. After finishing the act, He then reminds us that we must follow suit:
If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.John 13:14-15.
Why not look into opportunities to serve in your local area? From soup kitchens, to tutoring, to offering your skills to your local church – there are sure to be plenty to choose from.
If pandemic restrictions complicate your ability to serve locally, there are also lots of opportunities to volunteer online. Here are just a few sites that are asking for online volunteers:
#5 Spirituality Goals: Prioritise your Friendships or Family Relationships
Even if a Skype or Zoom call is as close to your friends as you can manage during pandemic restrictions, it’s still so worth having a catch up.
The Bible teaches that it’s good for us to support each other through the problems we face. In Galatians we are commanded to: ‘bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ’ (Galatians 6:2).
Who knew that a big cup of coffee and a deep chat could be one way to live out the Christian life and get a spiritual uplift?
Have you set yourself any spirituality goals during the pandemic? Or to get through a different kind of hard time?
I’d love to hear if you have any additional tips, in the comments!