Life has a way of getting difficult sometimes, no matter how well things were going previously. In those times, it is easy to become discouraged, even to the point of questioning things we were absolutely certain about during better times. Our courage wavers, our morale drops, and somewhere along the way, we start to lose faith.
What can we do to keep these low moments from landing us, and our family on rock bottom? What can we do to shorten the time we spend enduring long, hard days?
We can prepare. By spiritually preparing for hardship, we draw strength when we need it to withstand challenging circumstances in personal or family life. We enable ourselves to withstand times when we are tempted to brush off our beliefs. How do we prepare for these times? Put simply, we know what we believe and we act on that knowledge.
Know good principles
Without studying out the values and ethics that you intend to adhere to, it's hard to stick with them when times get tough. If you haven't found a church already, consider changing that. Perhaps more importantly, boost your knowledge of good principles by reading uplifting and informative books including, but not necessarily limited to, sacred texts.
I spent nearly every night of my teenage years reading the sacred texts of my religion. My bedroom walls had pictures of deity and inspiring quotes. That time of strength prepared me to withstand the stress of college and pull myself out of unhealthy relationships. I'm grateful for the nights I spent gathering spiritual strength so that I could grow from the experience instead of crumbling under the weight.
Keep your commitments
Maintaining good things in hard times is the whole point of making commitments. When we promise to do something, we have made that something a part of our life for the long haul. Remember that your loyalty is highly prized and that in better times, you will be grateful you stuck with it.
My younger brother recently lost his fiancée to cancer. Despite the challenge of supporting her as her health deteriorated, he stuck with her. I was inspired by his steadfast love. As he puts it, continuing to love her was the only right thing to do, because that's what he had promised to do. As he continues to rebuild his life, I'm certain that he draws strength from knowing he never gave up or ran away.
Remember: daily decisions have lasting consequences
If you to eat donuts and ice cream every day, you're going to get fat. Similarly, if you live by your principles and adhere to your commitments every day, you will be less likely to fall short when challenges arise.
There was a time in my husband's life when he seriously questioned the existence of a loving God. Despite the doubts that rolled through his mind, he continued to live the patterns he always had by attending church and associating with people who were happy and fulfilled in their religious experiences. Over time, he discovered that those patterns and habits had prepared him to let his faith grow again. Now he is an irreplaceable asset to our congregation, not only because he is hardworking and committed, but also because he understands that faith doesn't always come quickly or easily.
Act on what you believe
Acting on our values has a double benefit. Like a plant growing, action makes our beliefs more deeply rooted into who we are. Action also sends out new growth, giving us ways to enjoy the warmth of principled living and giving others a sheltered place to go. Even when we are in situations that wear us down spiritually, we can rely on the strength we have acquired through action to get us through.
I have come to believe that there is power in keeping your mouth shut. It isn't always appealing to shrug off meanness and thoughtlessness, but it is still best to turn the other cheek. I've tried to live by that, so when I recently received some very harsh criticism, I was able to withstand the blow relatively unscathed.
If we are not prepared, moments of hardship or confusion can shake our faith. However, we can be ready to face the future bravely. By keeping firm hold on our values and living them daily, we can help where we are needed, and to have exactly the kind of homes we most hope for. These homes, and the people who live in them, will in turn have the greatest capacity to help the world at large change for good.