Challenges in life are going to happen. Jesus said, in John 16:33, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” Did you see that? He said, “You will have suffering in this world.” God knows that we will experience challenges. Yet, His word promises in the same passage that in middle of our challenges, we can have peace and courage because Jesus has taken care of all of it.
Some challenges are easy to handle and some feel like they are too much to bear. So if we know they are going to happen, how can we be prepared to face them effectively? Here are three steps to help you be successful when you face challenges of any kind.
Step One: Understand your emotions.
Boom, you are hit in the face with a challenge. Emotions emerge.
My wife and I recently received a note from our son’s teacher letting us know that he is struggling in school and needs some extra help. Immediately after reading this note we started having strong feelings. She was angry because she had been emailing the teachers for months now asking for extra help and support because he had been struggling with his homework. I was frustrated and irritated because I had been working with him at home on these things with little to no improvement.
The first step when a challenge hits, is understanding our feelings and emotions. We must recognize our tendencies and acknowledge that we have certain feelings that tend to arise at the onset any challenge. If we don’t evaluate how we feel, we end up reacting out of our emotions. Our emotions become dictators of our actions rather than indicators of a potential reaction. Slow down and take the time to evaluate your emotions before you react.
Step Two: Talk to yourself.
Talking to yourself is not crazy, it’s part of the process. We all do it, we all have this inner dialogue with ourselves, it’s part of processing what we are facing. The key here is to be honest with ourselves and be on guard.
After my wife and I read the note and recognized our emotions, I began to have an inner dialogue with myself. Asking myself questions like, “Did we communicate clearly?” “Is there something going on with my son that I don’t know about?” “Why am I so frustrated right now: where is this coming from?” This self-talk helped me not explode in the middle of this small challenge. Talking myself through the emotions I was initially feeling also helped me identify thoughts that were speculative and not true. I remember thinking “This teacher is out to get my son.” And as I processed internally, I began to shut down this thinking because why would she want to “get” just my son? I was able to shut down lies.
Acknowledging your emotions helps you have honesty in your self-talk, and you can see beyond what is right in front of you. Being on guard in this is knowing that one of the greatest weapons Satan has is lies. Scripture says “When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies.”(John 8:44) The greatest way to trip you up is the get you to believe lies, especially in the midst of a challenging situation. When you are believing lies, you start filling in gaps that are not present and are simply unfounded. We often do this and it causes even more emotions to come forward that shouldn’t really be present. We jump to conclusions that are unfounded and are simply not true. As you process the challenge, being honest and on guard helps you remain calm and mindful of all elements in your situation. This will help you move to the final step.
Step Three: Moving in a direction.
Fight or flight, sink or swim, whatever you call it we all move into one directon or another in the middle of a challenge. We all must make a decision.
In the example with my son, working through this process, we were able to express our frustration with our teacher without destroying our relationship with her. We were able to speak about how many times we contacted her about his schoolwork, but at the same time come up with a game-plan moving forward that will ultimately help him out in the long term. We also got to hear her heart for wanting to see him succeed, she was far being “out to get him.” We addressed our emotions, poked holes in the lies we were believing and moved in the direction of what’s best for our son.
Challenges bring forward uncertainty and uncertainty demands a conclusion. All challenges are not simple but we have to move in a direction and make a decision. The hard part is that when we are in the middle of a challenge, we tend to throw out reason and lean into our emotions. If you can understand your emotions and have healthy self-talk you can reach this step with a clear mind and heart. You may reach this step and still not fully understand the challenge you are facing but you are processing with healthy habits.
Here is an easy way to remember these steps.
What am I feeling -> What am I Thinking -> Where am I Going?