This coming February, I’ll have been walking the difficult road called “Mother of a Special Needs Child” for ten years. I wish I could say that I’ve walked, even danced, joyfully with God the entire way. More often, I would get angry or sulk. And there’s the one time I punched a wall. When I’m honest, I will admit that I still throw tantrums when things don’t go my way. I’ve nowhere near mastered graceful acceptance of hard things, but I have learned a lot about what not to do when life gets hard. Knowing these may help you avoid at least a few potholes on your difficult road.

1. Don’t punch walls.
Maybe this is obvious to everyone else. But when it’s 3am and you haven’t slept in weeks and the baby won’t stop crying no matter what you do and your back aches from carrying her as you pace the floor, obvious doesn’t matter. But hitting a 100-year-old wooden door frame with your fist does matter, especially to your fist. I would have done better to tackle thickly upholstered furniture.

2. Do not withdraw.
I know how tempting it is to hide in your house, under your blankets, or in the shower. We want to pretend that this is not happening to us, or that we’re anywhere but here. But at some point you get hungry or the hot water runs cold or the refrigerator is empty. You have to come out. Plus, we aren’t meant to live our lives alone, no matter how difficult it gets. I am learning to ask myself why I am hiding, what I’ve made more important than fulfilling my responsibilities and interacting with my friends and family… and with God. Then, I have to force myself to get up and go out there. Sometimes my attitude still stinks, but usually going through the motions blows the dust off and I’m able to rise to the occasion.

3. Do not refuse help.
I tend to think that I can or should do everything on my own. I find myself thinking that weakness is worse than failing, so it’s better to limp along alone than to accept anyone’s help. This is another manifestation of pride. It denies the truth taught in 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, that we are part of a larger body and “But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

God had commanded us to bear one another’s burdens. Sending people to help is one way he pours out grace on us in difficulty. I believe that God won’t give us more than we can handle… alone. Sometimes, in order to teach us that we are indeed one small part of a larger unified whole, He puts us in a position where we have no choice but to accept help. We are not independent. Sometimes being helpless is what it takes to learn that.

4. Don’t lash out at others.
I’m ashamed to say that I’m guilty of doing this far too many times. Sometimes I do it when I am miserable, hurting, overwhelmed, and I resent those who are enjoying a good time in their lives. I attack them so they will hurt the same way I do. Sometimes I’m looking for a scapegoat since I can’t blast the one who is truly to blame for the situation. Sometimes my pride is badly bruised from having to accept help (see #3) and lashes out when the helper doesn’t do things my way. It’s ugly, isn’t it? This is a terrible thing to do to someone else, and sadly, the victims are often those closest to us. Don’t do it. Duct-tape your mouth shut if you must. If you hurt your friends and family too many times, they will pull away. Not even family members will continue to willingly placing themselves in the line of fire.

5. Don’t stop praying.
God doesn’t always feel close, but he promised that he will never leave or forsake us. There have been many days when all I could pray was, “God, please help. I can’t do this alone.” And sometimes all I could do was cry. You don’t have to be witty or wordy or wise. God hears. God is there. And if you look, you will find him in little things, a note of encouragement from a friend, a particularly encouraging song on the radio, a kind stranger.

What are some mistakes you’ve made during a difficult time in your life?

Click here for five more tips on how not to handle the tough stuff.

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