Seeking answers about negativity

QI'm in a really bad place in my life right now. Will I ever be happy again?

aYes. But while you’re in the bad place it usually won’t feel like it. Despair is often a part of our spiritual lives. That’s why I think faith and trust in the Lord is so important. We can hang on to the belief that happiness will return, even while we don’t feel like it will. There is a passage in Heaven and Hell which describes even angels in heaven getting sad sometimes! But it says they hold on to the hope that they will return to a happier state (see Heaven and Hell 160). Ultimately, our lives will always go through cycles of ups and downs. “Cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22). Because it comes down to trusting that the Lord will lead us back into the light and heat of His love and happiness, no matter what is happening right now. Everyone is created for heaven not for hell (Heaven and Hell 329), so the gravity of spiritual reality is constantly pulling us out of bad places into happiness. I find that very reassuring.

QHow can I help those I love overcome the negativity in their own lives?

aOne of the directives that I find very helpful in this situation is the Lord’s words in Matthew 25. When someone is “sick” or “in prison” spiritually, the Lord simply says to “visit them,” not to cure or rescue them. In the Stephen Ministry program there is a phrase: “Be a care partner, not a cure partner.” The Lord brings the cure. The Lord is the Savior. Our job is to be with people and love them during their hard times. We can model positivity. We can let them know they are loved. But trying to “fix” other people (even with the best intentions) will often backfire. Visit them. Love them. Be a care partner.

QWhat is the balance between over complaining and honestly working through a tough time in my life?

aI think that line is different for everyone. Some people need to deal with things in a private way, some in a more public way. We have to find the balance between the harm of bottling up emotions, and the harm of spreading the misery. We have to find the balance between asking for help, and taking personal responsibility. I think the guideline of asking whether something we say is kind, true, and useful before we say it is a good way to go. Although in really hard times maybe the emphasis is most on how useful it is. I like this passage in Secrets of Heaven: “People may be helped by being able to express their feelings, which usually does them good” (2693).

QHow can people with a situation that's chronically difficult, such as constant physical pain or a child with a severe disability, deal with these issues in a positive way?

aMany of the best, most exciting, and most inspiring stories in the Word are about people carrying on through difficult things. Noah in the ark, Hagar in the wilderness, Moses facing Pharaoh, the Israelites in the wilderness, Jesus facing the cross, the Woman being persecuted by the Dragon. These are stories about humanity. “With God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37). I think these stories are so frequent in the Word and so important because the Lord’s message to us is that He can bring goodness out of any situation (see Secrets of Heaven 6303, 6489). When we look for that goodness, when we learn to expect it, when we make looking for it a good habit, it can bring us hope and comfort, no matter what is going on around us. Our circumstances don’t have to dictate how we feel on the inside. Now, we won’t always be able to be in that state of hope. And we shouldn’t expect that we will always maintain positivity. We will still face hard times and despair. But the Lord can give us the spiritual strength to carry on when we turn to Him, look for His goodness, and trust that He is in charge. “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Solomon Keal is an assistant pastor at Bryn Athyn Church in Pennsylvania, as well as an accomplished pianist. For more information, visit www.brynathynchurch.org or solomonkeal.com.

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