Have you ever felt like you are at the end of your tether? When you feel like you are hanging on by a thread? Keeping things together with a paperclip?
We all go through days or weeks, sometimes months feeling like we are literally putting one foot in front of another, just to get through another day. Sometimes all we can do is take one day at a time and hope to make it to the end of each week or each month.
We hit a season of “drought” in our life – when there is seemingly no abundant rain, no new growth and our lives just seem dry and dusty. In these times we can lose hope and we can begin to question what we are doing or why we are doing it.
So, what can we do, to better survive navigating through these desert times? Here are my top 5 tips.
1. Trust that you will have enough for each day
Whether you have a faith or not, most will have heard of “the Lord’s prayer” – the prayer that Jesus prayed when he was asked how to pray. It’s the one that starts with “Our Father, who art in heaven” and goes on to say “give us this day our daily bread” – in other words give us enough, to get through each day, give us the strength to put one foot in front of the other, give us whatever we need to make it through the next 24 hours.
I was recently reminded of a story In the Old Testament, about a widow who was trying her best to keep herself and her son alive during a massive drought that had hit Israel and Lebanon at the time. She was down to her last handful of maize flour and last spoonful of oil from which to make bread enough to feed them both. Days earlier Elijah, who had been just as worried about where his next meal would come from as he travelled, had been told that a widow would take him in and feed him daily from flour and oil that would not run out until the drought broke. So, when he bumped into the widow in the market place and was told that she had nothing more to give him or anyone else, he must’ve felt awful asking her to feed him from what was going to be the widow’s last meal. But ask he did, and after sharing the hope of the promised miracle, the widow agreed. After pouring out the last of her maize flour and the last of her oil, and making the last piece of bread, she gave that piece to Elijah. She had nothing left. Until she tested the promise and was able to make another small loaf for herself and her son. Despite the drought that continued, there was always enough for each day.
It was a great reminder to me, that if I ever I need help to get through a difficult day, or a difficult season, I too can rely on the hope of the promise – that I will have enough to get me through each and every day until the drought is over.
2. Find the positives and be grateful for those
Rather than focus on the circumstances that have put your life into a season of “drought” try to find the positives. Sometimes challenging events trigger you to reflect on your own life and how you live it. Sometimes you have no choice but to spend more time with your thoughts.
So, try to direct your thoughts to what is good and what you do have – even if you have to get right back to basics. You are alive, you have a roof over your head, food on the table and family and friends around you. Step outside and stop to notice the feeling of the wind on your face, the warmth of the sun on your back or the patter of rain on your skin. Listen to the birds, or the hum of the world around you. Look down where you sit or stand and see the detail in the little things. Look up to the skies and see the clouds and the stars. Find one thing to be thankful for daily and in that way cultivate the attitude of gratitude in your life.
3. Let go of the things that weigh you down
Whenever I am trudging through a dessert season, I often discover that I am carrying some baggage with me. I suddenly realise the weight of it and how much it is holding me back. Letting go of the yuk you discover you are carrying is the next major key.
Sometimes that is something you can shed easily, sometimes it will involve some work on your part (the giving or receiving of forgiveness) and sometimes you will need professional counselling to help you through the letting go. But once the burden is released, you will be far better able to navigate your path ahead.
4. Check your perspective and adjust your direction
We have all heard the saying “it’s two steps forward and one step back” and we often associate the step back as a negative thing just because it is a backwards step. But what if instead, we saw it as a perspective step? One that we should take every now and again to step back and see the bigger picture, to check that our forward steps are going in the right direction? What about using the backwards step to pivot and adjust our direction?
A dry time in our life, can be just that – a “step back” to adjust our perspective, to reflect and then take our next forward step with more meaning and purpose.
5. Don’t forget to hope and dream
For me, drought times have often come at times when I have been overworked or doing something that I don’t really love doing. Other times they come when something unexpected has knocked the wind out of my sails or when I get discouraged waiting for a breakthrough in something.
Regardless of how the dry season arrives in my life, I find that it stops my creativity. It seems to pair me back to basic next step thinking. I forget to dream or imagine.
I think many of us have, in the endless scroll and busyness of our daily life, simply forgotten what it is to dream, let alone to dream big. I know my logical brain often shuts down that type of thinking as a waste of time and energy. But that is a lie.
If you can let yourself start to imagine what things might be like once the drought breaks, it will make you lift your eyes from the dust beneath your feet to the new horizon. If you can let yourself dream, your energy will begin to be restored and your spirit will start to lift. It will bring you hope for the future.
Having that hope will be the single most important thing for you to hold onto. Similar to optimism, having hope for the future has been shown to have a positive influence on your behaviour in the present and can even influence how you see yourself.
Studies have shown that people who are hopeful have better at problem-solving and have more flexible thinking to be able to work out how to respond to new and unknown situations. So, if you want to overcome the dryness that comes merely surviving each day to the next, then start to dream and imagine!
So, there you have it – my “desert survival” tips!
What are the things you have found have helped you through those times of drought in your life?