Thursday, 22 September 2011

Encouragement in ...difficult times

I didn't expect to reach a time of despair doubt.  I'm not allowed to feel despairing: Paul didn't, so I mustn't. He was just 'perplexed'.  Still, the dictionary gives 'a feeling of uncertainty about the truth, reality, or nature of something.Distrust. A state of affairs such as to occasion uncertainty.'
That's where I am. With a chronically sick husband, unable to work at the moment, we wonder if he will ever be well. He doubts it. And with the doubt comes uncertainty, and depression.
I'm too physically and emotionally drained to even start searching for wonderful blogs for some encouragement. Which is just as well, since they pop into my mail box without my even looking.
When we married, we became as one. When he hurts, I hurt. When he is down, I struggle. So when I read some wonderful advice from Holley Gerth on 3 simple ways to help someone in my life, my attention was caught. She says:

As a life coach and counselor I'm often asked, "How do I help this person in my life?" There's a simple strategy you can use when someone shares with you--whether it's a coworker having a bad day, a relative facing a sudden crisis, or someone at church who's confiding a struggle. Think of these three steps as your trump card. They let you always play an ACE that helps those in your life win.   
A - Affirm the emotion God gave us a part of our brains called the amygdala that takes care of our flight or fight response. It lets us take action quickly (like when a bear is running after us). While we don't face many physical dangers in our lives, emotional stress causes this system to kick in as well. When you're dealing with a stressed out person you're talking to their amygdala. This is not about rational thought. Express a message that says, "Hey, I recognize your emotion and validate it." That calms the flight/fight response and lets the decision-making part of our brains (the prefrontal cortex) kick in and start doing its job. {Example: "Wow, you sound really frustrated. What happened?"} 
C - Call out the best in the person In our most stressful moments, we all have a tendency to feel overwhelmed by guilt and a feeling that we're not living up to our own or others' expectations. Or we simply forget who we are in the heat of the moment and act in ways uncharacteristic of us. What we often need most is someone who can see through to our hearts and remind us of who we really are--the best of us--at the worst of times. That can help us refocus on what matters most and move forward in positive ways.  {Example: "I've seen you deal with situations like this before. Your strength and love for others always shines through in the end. I know it will this time too." 
E - Encourage the next step Here's a secret: life coaches and counselors don't have the solutions. In all of my training, what's been emphasized most is not magic-bullet cure-all approaches. Instead it's being a partner on that person's journey with God to finding their own answers. Usually, they've already got what they need--it's just a matter of providing a safe space for it to come out. Resist the urge to give advice or tell others what to do. It's one of the greatest gifts you can offer (and much harder than it seems).
{Example: "I care about you and I wish you weren't going through this. Now that we've talked about it for a few minutes, what do you think you'll do next"?}
At this point, the person may respond with another emotion. For example, she might say, "I don't know. I'm just really hurt." If so, start back with A and go through the process again. We often try to make helping others more complicated than it really needs to be. Practice this approach and then make it your own. You are often the best gift you can offer someone who is hurting and you truly do make a difference.
Still, it doesn't work for me in this situation. But right underneath this mail was another, from Bonnie at Faith Barista: Autumn's song: what we fear and how God heals. All about change, a time to let go: of problems, people, places and even dreams that we were never meant to carry. Scary scary stuff.

Bonnie gives me hope. I can't quite believe it, that there is light at the other end of the tunnel - I suffer doubt.  I suffer uncertainty about the truth and uncertainty about our future. Yet she gives me hope to cling on to a God who is good, who wants my best, who loves me. I 'just' have to surrender 'my' best to him and wait - and hope - that I recognize HIS best when it comes in the spring.

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