When you're barely hanging on, hold onto the right thing

Barely hanging on? That's how many singles describe themselves.

We all go through crisis periods in life, those times when things pile up and there seems no way out. You work for a solution, pray for one--even beg God--but nothing changes.

What do you do?

I've known those times myself. I thought it was the end, and yet, here I am today, safe and sound. Looking back, I can see patterns in how I made it through. I couldn't see them right then, but I've had decades to reflect on those turning points.

Sometimes I made dumb, painful decisions. Other times I handled the situation better. I've had years to study the differences. I learned some important lessons.

Now I'm going to share those lessons with you.

Barely hanging on: Perception or reality?

One of the problems with being single is your thinking gets twisted. Too often you view things through your emotions instead of reason. That's normal, but usually it's not healthy.

When bad things happen to good people, like you and me, our first reaction is shock. I can't count the times I've asked, "Why me?" I'm sure you've done the same thing. 

I don't know where it comes from, but each of us has a little built-in sense of entitlement. Somehow we honestly believe we should be able to skate through life without anything unpleasant happening to us.

And we get outraged when it does.

We've all had "bad days." Some of us have had bad years, when one thing went wrong after another. A few singles might argue they've had a bad life, that nothing went right--ever. That's probably stretching it.

We see bad things happening to other people and while it may upset us, tragedy never really hits home until it happens to you personally. I felt bad for friends and relatives who got cancer, but when I got it myself at age 25, my first thought was, "Why me?"  Well, why not, Jack? You're not invincible, as much as you may want to be.

I've said before on this site that we singles naturally tend to be kind of selfish. It goes with being single. Call it self-centered, if you like that better. When you feel you're barely hanging on, your self-focus gets even more magnified. You may exaggerate the situation and lose perspective.

Yes, sometimes the situation really is critical: unemployment, serious illness, death of a loved one or pet, divorce or breakup of a treasured relationship.

I've gone through all of those. I wondered recently, how did I do it?

Barely hanging on: Miserable, then better

Each time, the crisis seemed to reach a turning point, a peak, if you will. My pain and emotional suffering got so bad I thought I was going to break.

But I didn't.

Then after that turning point, things started to get better, sometimes so slowly I could hardly notice it, but the stress began to lessen. I wasn't afraid of snapping any more. I started to gain some traction on the problem and eventually things worked themselves out.

Here are some observations:

You are much stronger than you think. Sometimes we singles have had someone to take care of us, like a parent or significant other, and the full responsibility was not on our own shoulders. But when you're forced to sink or swim, you find you are tougher than you knew. You can take a "punch." You're able to get back up. You're not as fragile as you feared.

You thought it was life or death but it wasn't. The times when a relationship with a woman ended, I felt as if I could die. I didn't die, of course. But I did feel that way. A broken heart is no fun, but it's rarely fatal. And it's the same with any major loss. Time is a great healer. The farther away you get from the bad event, the stronger you become.

You were too scared to solve the problem. When things get really bad, we tend to panic. It's as if we're running around in circles shouting, "This is terrible! I don't know what to do! I don't know what to do!" So you do nothing. Doing nothing rarely solves a problem. Calming yourself down takes effort. When you're scared, even the effort of controlling your emotions seems too daunting.

You can create a crisis when there is none. Some people have a tendency to overreact. We all do that at times, but some singles make a habit of it. You know people like that. After you've weathered the first couple crises in your life, you should be learning from each one. You got through that; you can get through the next one. After I had had cancer at age 25, it didn't seem so threatening when I got cancer again at 59. Part of maturity is gaining confidence in yourself. Just like scary new challenges at work, scary challenges in life should be less intimidating as you gain experience.

Suicide is NEVER an option. Believe me that things DO get better. There ARE reasons to live. There is hope, even if you feel there isn't. Visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call toll-free in the U.S.: 1-800-273-8255.

Barely hanging on: Who's got you?

Looking back, I now understand that during those times I felt I was barely hanging on, someone was hanging on to me:  God.

Imagine you're on the edge of a cliff, holding on for dear life to a root sticking out of the ground. The dirt around the root is starting to crumble. You can feel it tearing away. Then you look up above you, and leaning over the cliff is a 10-foot tall, 400-pound giant! His massive hand has your arm in a grip like steel. 

Even if the root breaks or you lose your grip, he's not going to let go.

There is a real giant hanging on you. That giant is God. No crisis, no threat can break his hold on you. Listen to what Jesus Christ said about that grip:

"My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand." (John 10:29, NIV)

If you're a believer, God has a hold of you through every emergency, every disaster, every bit of trouble you ever find yourself in. 

So if you remember nothing else from this message, know that when you're barely hanging on, God has you in his grip and he'll never let you go.

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

"If you feel you are in a crisis, whether or not you are thinking about killing yourself, please call the Lifeline. People have called us for help with substance abuse, economic worries, relationship and family problems, sexual orientation, illness, getting over abuse, depression, mental and physical illness, and even loneliness."


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