People keep saying life is getting back to normal, and yet that isn’t the experience for many of us. We’re still processing all that has happened, and grieving what should have been. Many of us are hard-pressed to find the silver lining out of these past couple of years and aren’t ready to shake it off quite yet.
I was talking with a friend about this, and she expressed frustration over not being able to just move on and jump back into regular life. As much as she wanted to feel joyful and excited, she found herself waiting for the next bad thing to happen.
“It has been one thing after another for my family, and I don’t expect it to stop anymore,” she said.
Our conversation made me think about how our expectations often feed our feelings. If we’re expecting life to go one way and then it doesn’t, we feel ripped off, disappointed, angry, helpless, confused and so much more.
So what’s the solution? Approach life assuming everything will go wrong and nothing good will ever happen again? Of course not.
There is always a silver lining
We tend to assume if we have faith and are generally a good person, having a nice life will follow. But this just isn’t true, and the sooner we can move beyond that unconscious expectation, the quicker we can find ways to move out of the funk.
Tough pill to swallow, I know.
Joy is more a choice than a feeling, and outside of clinical depression or serious mental health issues, which may require professional help, there are actions we can take when we feel glum and ho hum.
Here are 3 ways to discover the positive silver lining without being fake
When life isn’t going according to plan, the aphorism “every cloud has a silver lining” doesn’t really go down well. Who feels like finding the good things are going sideways?
There’s a quote I often think of in these times, “Crying is all right in its way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do” (C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair).
When I’m in a funk I say aloud, “This isn’t fair!” And then I say, “You’re right. It’s not fair, and God never said this life would be. So what are you going to do now?”
Here’s my three-step approach.
Ask, what do I have to be grateful for?
When I’m in a negative state, being a disgruntled victim feels sooooooo good. I tend to settle in and throw myself a pity party. However, this is neither healthy or God-honouring, and I’m learning to move out of this posture by asking the simple question, “What do I have to be grateful for?”
Your first instinct might be to respond “Nothing!” If this happens, dig a little deeper. There’s always something.
It might be small like, I’m glad it’s not pouring rain today! It might be big like, thank you Lord for giving me breath. Most of the time, it will be somewhere in between.
Cultivating a grateful heart is a practice, something you may not be good at right away. But with repetition, you’ll find it easier and easier to exercise your gratitude muscle. You’re not pretending everything’s great, but you’re choosing to focus on what is.
Get enough sleep and eat right
I hate that I’m so basic that not getting enough sleep or having a poor diet makes it easier for me to be stuck, negative and grumpy.
The Sleep Foundation says without enough sleep, our brains can’t function properly. And the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada says one of the best ways you can protect your health is by eating a healthy,balanced diet.
As much as I wish I could successfully run off of hustle and caffeine, it is completely unsustainable, not to mention unhealthy.
When you’re feeling in a funk, go back to the basics. Check in with yourself. Are you getting enough sleep? Are you making healthy eating choices? If the answer is “no” (and for me it usually is) then make adjustments.
Talk to someone
We’re fiercely independent in Western culture, and while there is merit to that life approach, when we’re going through hard times or feeling low, “toughing it out” or “muscling through it” can be a pretty lonely experience.
In these times, giving voice to your feelings either by journaling, praying, or speaking with someone you trust (or all three) can help you move out of the negativity cycle and towards something more constructive.
Pretending everything’s fine won’t help, but being honest about your current feelings and resolving to do something about it will.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”James 1:2-4
When the unexpected happens and you’re caught off guard, find things to be grateful for, make healthy choices for your body and give voice to your situation. In order to find the genuine silver linings we need to get comfortable with not always feeling positive or happy. It’s OK! But with God’s help, let’s resolve to move towards joy regardless of our circumstances. It may not be what we want, but it’s what we need.