What to Do When Your World Falls Apart…by Rick Warren
“For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.” (Lamentations 3:31-32 NIV)
Maybe you got the dreaded phone call that said, “Sorry, the test came back and it’s cancer,” or your spouse walked out on you, or someone you loved just died. Maybe you lost your job, or the falling stock market has left you on shaky financial ground. Things in your life were going so smoothly, and then the next minute it’s as if a storm hit your life, and now all your plans have been destroyed. What do you do?
The book of Lamentations was written by the prophet Jeremiah after he witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and the people of Israel being taken into slavery by the Babylonians. Jeremiah is brutally honest as he states his complaints to God. He basically tells God, “I don’t like anything that’s going on in my life right now. I don’t like what I see happening in the economy. I don’t like what I see happening to our national security. I don’t like seeing people starving and out of work. I don’t like seeing the immorality, injustice and crime. And I really don’t like our people being taken away into slavery.”
God shows us how to deal with our feelings when our world crumbles. Let’s look at the six specific things God tells us to do when our lives fall apart. These will be helpful when the wheels come off, and you’ll need to know what to do when you go through those rough times.
“I am a man who has seen affliction, by the rod of his wrath. He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light; he has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long. He has made my skin grow old and broken my bones. He has surrounded me with bitterness and hardship. He has made me dwell in darkness like the dead. He has walled me in so I cannot escape; he has weighed me down with chains. Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer. He has barred my way with blocks of stone; he has made my paths crooked.” (Lamentations 3:1-10 NIV)
Jeremiah didn’t mince words. He told God exactly how he felt, and you know what? God is okay with that. He wants you to unload all your frustrations on Him. Don’t unload them on your spouse, your kids, your boss or some online blog. Take it all to God, because he can handle your anger, complaints and frustrations. God is your Heavenly Father and will still love you, just as a parent loves his or her child even when that child throws a fit.
You can’t see why God allows what he allows in your life, and God doesn’t owe you an explanation, because he’s God and you aren’t. But someday, and it might not be until you get to heaven, you’ll be able to look back and see the big plan. Until that day comes, keep taking your concerns to God.
“The thought of my pain and my homelessness is bitter poison. I think of it constantly, and my spirit is depressed. Yet hope returns when I remember this one thing: The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue, fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise. The Lord is all I have, so in him I put my hope.” (Lamentations 3:19-26 TEV)
When your world is falling apart, it’s so easy to focus on the pain, the problems, the pressure and the difficulties. It’s the natural response. But the biblical response is to turn your focus to God’s love. Even though you’re mad at God, you need to remind yourself how much he loves you. Focus on his unconditional love. Remember that you can’t make God stop loving you. You can complain, yell at him and scream at him, but he will still love you forever.
You can see this biblical approach in Jeremiah’s life in Lamentations 3:19-26. Jeremiah starts out focused on his pain: “The thought of my pain and my homelessness is bitter poison. I think of it constantly, and my spirit is depressed.” Jeremiah was consumed by the devastation around him; it consumed his thoughts and made him bitter and depressed.
If you want to change your life, you have to change your thoughts. So that’s what Jeremiah does. We see the mental switch in the next verse: “Yet hope returns when I remember this one thing: The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue, fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise. The Lord is all I have, so in him I put my hope.”
You don’t know God is all you need until God is all you’ve got. But that’s all you need, because God will take care of you. We make dumb mistakes when we start doubting God’s love. We need to change our thinking. We need to remember, “The Lord is merciful and will not reject us forever. He may bring us sorrow, but his love for us is sure and strong. He takes no pleasure in causing us grief and pain” (Lamentations 3:31-33 TEV).
God loves you. He is God — the eternal, all-knowing, infallible God who created you to love you and will never leave you. So when you feel like you’ve lost everything, stop focusing on what’s lost and start focusing on what’s left: God and his love for you.
“When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions. Wait for hope to appear.” (Lamentations 3:28-29 MSG)
The concept of waiting on God is a spiritual habit. It is the single greatest antidote to anxiety and tension. It’s a spiritual discipline that you must learn to do or you will be under stress your entire life.
This is what it means to wait on God: you sit down and shut up. Jesus encouraged us to “go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen” (Matthew 6:6). He repeatedly spent time alone with his Father (cf. Mark 1:35; 6:46). Find a place to be quiet and sit still in silence. Don’t read anything. Don’t pray. Just take some deep breaths, sit before God and say, “God, I’m just going to wait on you.” It’s amazing what a calming ability this has on your heart and mind. “Those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. … They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31 NLT).
God wants to talk to you. If you aren’t hearing him, it’s because you aren’t making time in your schedule to listen to him. You’re too busy listening to your iPod, playing with your iPad, watching television, playing video games or talking on your cell phone. You might be overworking.
Invite his Spirit to speak to your spirit. Open your mind to his voice. Listen as thoughts come to you from God’s word and world. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you discern his words and impulses. Yield yourself to his presence and direction. Tell God you’re waiting to hear from him and then listen. Be quiet.
Focus your thoughts on Him: “Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:1-2). Envision God on his throne (Isaiah 6:1-8; Revelation 4). Spend a moment praising him for his greatness and thanking him for his goodness to you. That’s the power of a quiet time. But wait in patience, because God’s timing is perfect.
“Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:40 NIV)
There are a lot of things in life that can’t be changed. For example, you can’t change your past or the genes you inherited. With things like that, peace of mind will only come when you accept them.
But you do change the things you can change when your world falls apart. The only thing you can change is you. You can change your attitude and skills. You can change your character and values. And you can change the way you use your time and what’s important to you.
Jeremiah says, “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord” (Lamentations 3:40 NIV). Do a relational inventory, a spiritual inventory, and a moral inventory.
When you start doing these evaluations, you’ll realize you’ve stored up a lot of emotions, like guilt, anger, frustration, grief and remorse. You’ll need to deal with these emotions in order to have personal recovery in your life. Don’t ignore them and don’t give up on making a change in your life. God is for you, and he will help you with your deepest hurts and regrets. Give them to God and listen for what he tells you to do.
“My enemies threw me in to a pit and dropped stones on me. The water flowed above my head, and I cried out, ‘This is the end!’ But I called on your name, Lord, from deep within the well, and you heard me! You listened to my pleading; you heard my weeping! Yes, you came at my despairing cry and told me, ‘Do not fear!’” (Lamentations 3:53-57 NLT)
The most damaging emotion is fear. Fear is the emotion that keeps you stuck in the past. Fear paralyzes you. Fear is the number one problem most people face — fear that they’re not going to make it, fear of the future, or fear of what other people think.
If you are battling fear in your life today, God says the same thing to you that he said to Jeremiah: “Do not fear!” God is in control and will get you through whatever you’re facing. He will get you out of the pit in his perfect timing. So ask God to relieve your fears.
If you are afraid that your life has fallen apart and your best days are behind you, you’re wrong. God can always turn things around. He sent his son, Jesus Christ, to “seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10 NIV). No matter what you’re going through, no matter how bad your circumstances appear, pray this prayer of Jeremiah: “Restore me, O Lord, and bring me back to you again! Give me back the joy I once had!” (Lamentations 5:21 NLT).