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When times are hard, it can feel as though you’re fighting your life every step of the way. Whether it’s navigating personal issues like a relationship ending, losing your job, or fighting a disease—or a more global issue like the unexpected rise of fear, anger, and bigotry in your community—you feel like nothing you do can create a sense of peace or calm. Your world loses its safe places and becomes a myriad of complexities that seem to require more energy to navigate than they are worth.
It’s during times like these that you can’t help but wonder if there is something outside yourself that you can rely on—something you can turn to in order to find that peaceful, comforting sanctuary. This journey usually requires the uneasy task of abandoning reliance on your own ability to figure it all out and cultivating a dependence on something that cannot be fully explained or made to fit into life’s neat little boxes.
It’s a journey of developing your faith—a pillar of civilization for thousands of years, and something that can provide a sense of purpose for you today, or any difficult day. Next time you find yourself in a tough spot, here are five ways to cultivate your faith and not lose hope.
Each person has a different way of dealing with hard things in life. Some turn toward other people, relying on their support systems to hold them up and get them through the hard times. Others are more apt to retreat into themselves, becoming hermits within their own souls, stubborn with the thought that they can navigate the hard times alone. If you fall into the latter, it’s time to stop denying yourself the beauty that comes with sharing vulnerability with other people.
While it’s not easy, staying connected to those you love who can support you, people who are in your faith community, or those who have insight into the journey can allow you to experience the healing powers of community. While this doesn’t mean you have to open up your heart and spill your deepest hurts and fears (although this can be helpful in the right settings), it does mean you need to show up and be present with others. That act alone can lead to feelings of connection to something outside yourself, which is critical during the hard times.
In an instant gratification world, it can be frustrating when things don’t change immediately. Chances are, the hard things in your life aren’t going to change overnight. Your heart is still going to ache from time to time, your fear is going to get the better of you in times of weakness, and there will be days that you won’t have the energy to get out of bed. Rest assured, these are not signs to give up.
There is beauty to be found in the journey—in the slow, arduous journey. A flower seed is not designed to bloom in a day; a butterfly does not spread its wings in a cocoon. Take your cues from nature and take the opportunity to slow down during tough times, and take one day at a time. Something greater might be happening that you might not understand. Trust that the timing of things has a purpose.
In tough times, it can feel like your efforts to change your circumstances are futile. It might feel easier to throw your hands up in the air in defeat and walk away from practices that have sustained you in the past. But these are exactly times to press more deeply into them.
You may not have the heart or the understanding behind it, but there is power in continuing to practice those things that help you feel more connected to yourself—and something greater than yourself. Whatever your spiritual practices are, continue them. Here are some common practices to maintain through hard times:
When you’re faced with a challenging time, your mind can work itself sick trying to make sense of it all. You’re bombarded with thoughts of why, why not, and what’s next. Why is my child battling cancer? Why didn’t I have that conversation with my mom before she died? What does it mean when my community no longer accepts differences?
This isn’t the time to restructure your belief system. There might be a time to reshape your faith, but in the midst of trial, trust your intuition and what you already know to be true. Stand firm in the beliefs and values that have served you well over the years. Spend time with those who will fill you with hope and remind you of that truth.
And finally, understand that there are reasons you are experiencing tough times, and that one day, those reasons will be revealed to you.
There is no joy in faith if you don’t share it. One of the most uplifting practices you can do during tough times is to serve others. There is a time to take care of yourself and a time to care for others. Don’t miss the opportunity for either. Times of hardship may be the best times to show up for others in need. You know what it means to not have it all together, and you can better meet them where they are.
Human suffering is universal and connects you with others in a meaningful way. Serving others during your own hardship can help your mind, body, and soul recognize that there is a world beyond your own hurt and that there might be something greater at work than you understand. Because of where you are and your hardships, you have a unique opportunity to help create a world of healing for others.