I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world~ John 16:33 NIV
One of the experiences common to man (and woman) is feeling stuck in a place where circumstances we desperately want or need to change simply won’t change. This typically happens in spite of our best efforts, deepest longings and fervent prayers.
There is little in this life more challenging than a bad situation that stubbornly refuses to change, and not just because no one sane likes to be stuck in a bad place. If bad situations are not dealt with, they eventually test our faith and cause us to doubt the goodness (and sometimes even the existence) of God.
The subsequent strategies are not magic bullets, following them may or may not make your situation change (sorry). However, in my experience we become what we do. Doing these things will help you put your mess in better perspective, empower you to handle the situation more effectively and enable you to grow in the midst of your trial.
Stop resenting the situation- Job 5:2, Job 36:13
Resentment is a futile response to circumstances that clouds our judgment, hinders our ability to problem solve and steals our gratitude for the good things we do have. Resentment is an emotional black hole that sucks up mental energy that would be better spent on problem solving. If resentment is allowed to fester and grow it will eventfully mutate into bitterness. Bitterness is a destructive and defiling force that will prevent us from doing anything good in this world (Ephesians 4:31, Hebrews 12:15). For those reasons (and at least a dozen others) it’s critical we deal with any resentment we may be harboring so we can move on to a healthier way of looking at and dealing with the present situation.
Learn what you need to learn from the mistakes that landed you in the situation but don’t live in the past- 2nd Corinthians 13:5
No one is a bigger advocate of frequent self-examination than I am. I believe with all my heart that there is a great deal of value in scrutinizing past mistakes and poor choices. Understanding and owning how we got to a particular place can prevent us from making similar mistakes in the future. However, an unhealthy fixation on the past (ruminating on it constantly) is a pointless distraction that will rob us of our ability to deal with the present productively.
Control the one thing you do have absolute control over- Proverbs 16:22, Titus 2:11-12, 2nd Peter 1:3-10
One of the most maddening things about a stuck situation is that oftentimes the person who is stuck has (or feels they have) very little power to change the details of the situation or move things in another direction. Our perception of the situation may or may not be accurate (see next point). That said, it is true that there are times when the only thing we have any control over in a given situation is ourselves. We cannot control the people or circumstances that come into our lives but we can control how we react and respond.
Get advice from others and take at least some of it – Proverbs 12:1, Proverbs 12:15, Proverbs 13:10, Proverbs 15:22
Those stuck in difficult situations tend to develop tunnel vision when it comes to their situation. As a result they tend to think there is absolutely nothing that can be done to change or even improve their situation. Typically other people (friends, Pastors, counselors, coaches) can see options and alternatives that the stuck person cannot. This is why it’s absolutely critical we seek the counsel of others. However, simply asking for advice will do nothing if we don’t take the advice we are given and make the appropriate and necessary changes.
Don’t give up- Galatians 6:9
Ultimately, staying sane in a stuck situation is all about keeping things in perspective. Perspective is about far more than simply finding a way out of a bad situation. It’s about making a commitment before God to come out of the situation a better person than you were before. It’s about keeping your heart open and free from bitterness, so you can learn and grow in the midst of the situation.
Keeping things in perspective will enable you to help someone who is going through something similar in the future (2nd Corinthians 1:3-5). Keeping things in perspective and refusing to give up (no matter how tough it gets) will empower you to come out of your difficult situation with a deeper faith, stronger character and more passionate love for God.
And that’s what life is all about anyway.