Problems. Problems Everywhere.

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance, and my God.

PSALM 42:11

Several years ago, one of my best friends got stuck in Terceira, Portugal. She was still in the air when their plane went through a storm; a passenger had a heart attack, and after an emergency landing, the plane stopped working altogether. Talk about a crisis.

They were stuck!

I remember the panicked messages she sent and trying to stay available for her to support, all the while dealing with issues that were up close and in my face. I secretly thought, “I would do anything to get stuck in Portugal right now.” It sounded like the perfect escape from my current reality. A getaway, really.

Kind of how a lot of us feel right now.

With the present headlines of Russia and Ukraine, our world is yet again experiencing trouble. We barely got done dealing with vaccines, masks, and social distancing, and are already dealing with something else. Not to mention the increased amount of fear, anxiety, and social unrest!

We’re all dealing with something, whether it’s related to world-issues and politics, or family and relationship issues, or our own up close, personal battles.

There are problems. Problems everywhere.

It’s a crazy time we live in, and it’s easy to get discouraged. It’s tempting to give in. But in this post, I want to share with you how to not give up or give in, and how to increase your hope instead of wishing for a getaway.

Everyone Is Dealing with Something

Just like my friend got stuck in the actual country, we need to be careful to not get stuck in our own “Portugal”-present-problems. It’s undeniable that we will face hardships throughout this life, but we’re not left alone.

Along with God, we have each other. It’s vital to learn how to support one another. How to be loving, empathic, gentle, kind, etc. But so often you compare, judge, get jealous, and get offended instead. You think thoughts like I did: I would do anything to get stuck in Portugal.

While you’re wishing to get out of your problems and to be in someone else’s shoes, someone wants to be in yours. Even though they don’t know what you’re going through, they’re looking at you and to you as if your “Portugal-problem” is the perfect escape from their reality. And vice versa, there are people who you look at and wish the same.

But with God, it’s possible to cultivate that kind of love and empathy for each other. Without Him, we’re left to compare, judge, and take offense, because it’s how the world runs. The world will keep on doing what it knows best, but we have hope and a greater calling.  

Hope is Available to Everyone

It wasn’t long before my friend rescheduled her flight and even got comfy at the airport. She didn’t see the new plane yet, but her rescheduled ticket gave her (and the rest of us) hope that it was on its way.

Getting “stuck” turned into “waiting.”
Strangers from the plane became companions at the airport.
Being in the unknown turned into adventure.
Faith and hope increased.

That’s how the Holy Spirit is for us. He is our guarantee, our confirmation, our “rescheduled” ticket, for the fullness of what God will do while we’re on this earth. He is our pledge of greater things to come (2 Corinthians 1:22).

When you go through storms and get stuck in problems, report to the desk for a ticket change. Take action and turn to God and His promises. It will increase your faith, the assurance of things hoped for (Hebrews 11:1).

If mistakes can turn into lessons, then problems can turn into hope.

5 Ways to Increase Your Hope

When getting stuck in Portugal sounds better than your current problems, be it a personal battle or flashing headlines on the news about your country, here are 5 ways to increase your hope:

Practice gratitude

This doesn’t minimize the seriousness of your problems. Nor is it a way to distract you. On the contrary, it helps you affirm what is good in your life and in the world. Despite the corruptness and brokenness, God still created it and called it good (Genesis 1). It prevents you from falling into the pity party (which, from my experience, is not a pleasant party).

Practicing gratitude truly benefits you physically, psychologically, and socially.

It stimulates your body to reduce stress, strengthens your immune system, and makes you ‘feel lighter.’ It promotes positive emotions, mental stability, motivation, and creativity to move forward. And it helps you look outside of yourself and acknowledge others and God. As Robert Emmons said in this article, I think true gratitude involves a humble dependence on others: We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.

At first, it will seem like you’re occasionally feeling more grateful. But the more you practice gratitude, the more you will actualize being a grateful person.

Pray or meditate  

In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus showed us how to pray. It comes down to seeking His kingdom first, that His will may done on earth as it is in heaven. But what does prayer or meditation look like?

Rev. David Yarborough wrote the following in the Brunswick News: Seeking God’s face is about a relationship with God, while seeking His hand is about seeing results in prayer. There is nothing like a consistent prayer life that will move your faith from the realm of a religion into a true relationship with Christ.

Prayer is a conversation with God, a way to communicate with Him. In my day to day, I have internal conversations with God. I ask Him for direction and guidance about present problems, and I also talk to Him about the good things. But there are days where I feel His Spirit beckoning me to step away from my tasks and focus my entire being on Him; to pray for specific people, problems, or ideas in my heart. There are many “methods” but it comes down to talking to God.

And meditation is like pondering about what He said or did, be it from His word, Holy Spirit, or your life. It’s not sitting Criss Cross and humming to yourself. In its simplest definition, meditation is to think deeply or carefully about [something] and to plan mentally; consider. I’ve found that the most effective and transformative meditation is when it’s about God’s Word. Because if I still feel directionless after prayer, meditation on God’s word reveals His will, which increases my hope!

Take “input-inventory”

Understand that your information consumption shapes the way you view the world. From the shows you watch, books you read, and the podcasts and music you listen to, to daily news, social media posts, and TikTok reels, it all affects us. Kara Cutruzzula wrote on Forge: “Think of it like social distancing for your brain. Just as in your physical space, you can be mindful of what you’re doing online in a way you never have before.”

There are seasons where you have the mental and emotional capacity to watch various tv shows, scroll endlessly on social media, or pay attention to the news. But there are other times where you need to put it all on the shelf and “fast” from the things that could easily weigh you down, decrease your hope, and distract you from what’s important.

By taking inventory of your inputs, you filter out what’s helpful to you now versus what’s not. You help yourself by setting parameters and boundaries to stay healthy (mind, body, and spirit).

Read the Bible

This may seem redundant and similar to my previous point, but hear me out: the Bible is the inspired Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16)! It contains His wisdom, goodness, intentions, His plan, His heart, and His will for us in every aspect of life. Even though this falls into our input category, it needed its own point to emphasize the power and transformation it offers.

Personally, I’ve studied it for years now and still come across new perspectives, revelations, and direction for my life. Even when I first started reading it, trying to make sense of its jargon and ambiguities. I couldn’t quite understand what I read, but I saw the effect it had on my behavior and attitudes, my approach to situations and relationships, and especially my problems.

Reach out to others

Finally, when you’re dealing with problems in life, reaching out to someone else can seem like the worst idea. In our individualized and independent society, we come up with excuses about why we shouldn’t reach out (ex. not wanting to be a burden, not wanting to open up, or not wanting to be viewed a certain way, and so on).

Maya Novak from Thrive Global wrote an amazing article about the importance of reaching out. She shared, There’s nothing like a sense of belonging during difficult times. When you go through tough times, you can feel like you are bearing all the weight alone. You feel nobody can understand what you’re going through. But you are not alone!

Like I mentioned earlier, everyone is dealing with something. If you find it difficult to reach out to find support from another, reach out on their behalf. Genuinely check in on them and see how they’re doing. Reaching out to help and support others is a way to increase hope, too!

Ultimately, when the world is crazy and your family can’t seem to get along, there are ways to increase your hope. Everyone is dealing with something, but hope is available to everyone! Check out the next post for an expanded version of increasing hope.

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