Has there ever been a time in your life when you weren’t even sure if you wanted tomorrow to come? You could barely handle today as it is!
Maybe you felt defeated by every thought of the future in light of your present suffering. Everything in you wanted to escape the present, to fast forward to a day when your current troubles were no more, when you regain that bounce in your step because the load had been lightened.
I’ve been there. In fact, I'm still making my way through to the other end of the tunnel.
After being thrown the curveball of a chronic illness (read more of my story here), I felt like the walls were closing in. My plans were majorly disrupted. In a season where I thought I’d be pursuing the desires God had put on my heart, I was at a standstill.
My focus became one single thing – to get better. But the timing for my healing was out of my control. There wasn’t much I could do to influence the outcome.
There wasn’t much I could do. That’s what it felt like. At least, compared to the things I was capable of doing before I was punched in the gut by illness. In my helplessness, I was being tossed around like clothes in a dryer, the intensity of heat being turned up each time I thought I was making progress.
It was a turbulent cycle. Just when I thought I’d turned the corner; I would get another surprise punch in the gut. Why God, why me?! I wailed, cried, begged and pleaded for answers but was met with silence. In that silence, I learned to let go and sit in His presence rather than striving for answers. It was in this season that I realised the power of being versus doing.
Thinking about the future, about what would come next, was too brain-shattering for me. What I could do, was be present in the moment. I could manage hour by hour, day by day.
“Therefore, don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34
To get myself through each day, there were 10 habits (both spiritual and practical) I formed which sustained my spirits enough to be ready to face each tomorrow:
1. Reminding myself of the promises of God
The Word of God literally became my “daily bread”. I couldn’t live without it! Even if it was just a verse or two of Scripture, I needed that daily reminder of God’s promises for my healing. A reminder that my situation, like life here on earth, was only temporary.
One book I found myself reading every night was Healing Promises by Joseph Prince. It’s a collation of all the Bible verses on healing, with an encouraging message attached to each. It lifted my spirits every time!
2. Declaring God’s promises
Not only did I read God’s Word, I also spoke it. God’s promises were constantly at the tip of my tongue as a faith declaration. I would declare things like:
I am more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus (Romans 8:37)
The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in me and is bringing life to my mortal body (Romans 8:11)
God will sustain me; God will restore me (Psalm 41:3)
By the stripes of Jesus Christ, I am healed (Isaiah 53:5)
In Ephesians 6, Paul describes God’s Word as the sword of the Spirit, a powerful weapon that helps us overcome in spiritual battles. You can bet I swung that sword back and forth as much as I could!
3. Watching light-hearted and comedic television/movies
I needed a good laugh, something to take my mind off my present reality for a few moments. I found this relief in my favourite television sitcoms and movies with light-hearted storylines. This meant an endless amount of Hallmark movies! Christmas in July, anyone?
4. Reading books written by companions in suffering
Sometimes, all you need is a gentle reminder that you’re not alone. That God has an army of soldiers across this earth who are also suffering, each in their own way. For me, this reminder came in the form of reading their stories and gleaning from their experienced wisdom.
Two books in particular from which I’ve drawn much insight and perspective are It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way by Lysa Terkeurst and Suffer Strong by Katherine and Jay Wolf. Both books were gifted to me and I’m so grateful I had these by my bedside!
5. Listening to audiobooks
For the days when I didn’t have the strength or ability to focus but longed to enter someone else’s world for a bit, audiobooks were the perfect solution. I don’t know how I didn’t get into them earlier! Ah, to be a kid again and have bed time stories read to you each night. Well, with audiobooks you can have the same experience!
They were also a less risky way for me to enjoy a book whilst having my regular Epsom salt baths to ease the joint pain. Win, win!
6. Playing worship music in the background
Worship music was playing non-stop in the background of my life during this valley season. It was a way I would usher in God’s peace and presence, especially in the moments of my most intense pain. Worship music was my lullaby (I’m seeing a theme of flashbacks to childhood!)
7. Being kind to myself
One very valuable piece of advice I’ve been given as a (semi) Type-A personality, is to be kind to myself. To show myself grace and compassion. I wholeheartedly embraced this advice when couch-ridden due to fatigue, limited mobility and severe pain. If I laid on the couch for an entire day (or two or three), I didn’t allow myself to feel any guilt.
I accepted that this was my season of forced rest and that it would look very different to past seasons.
On the days that I could, writing down what I was physically experiencing as well as what was going through my mind was a useful practice to process it all. Some of those journal entries actually ended up being the inspiration for my favourite blog posts!
9. Writing in my gratitude journal
Before going to sleep each night, I’d write down three things I was grateful for that day (I still do). It didn’t matter how bad my day had been, I made the daily decision to be grateful and still give thanks to God. Thanking God for what I did have rather than focusing on what I didn’t have, helped me to recognise His goodness all the more.
10. Taking Communion daily
After hearing testimonies and reading The Power of Communion by Beni Johnson, I made the personal commitment to take Communion every day. It was a practical yet spiritual way to claim and thank God for the healing that I believed was already mine. It was also a way to remember Christ’s suffering on my behalf and that He had already won the victory for me.
Though I’m yet to see complete healing in my body, God has brought me so far, especially over the last few weeks. He’s been beside me in every moment, from the couch to the hospital bed, showing me how to live each day.
I’m not going to lie, it’s been hard. The most challenging season I’ve ever walked through. Yet I know that something beautiful with come from it, for God’s glory.
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18
Have you found yourself in a valley season? If so, leave a comment and let me know what helped get you through it!
For more about my experience finding hope in the middle of suffering, have a read of my Hope in Suffering blog post.