Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Ramon Presson's recent book, When Will My Life Not Suck? Authentic Hope for the Disillusioned, (New Growth Press, 2011).

When you’re stuck in the middle of painful circumstances and don’t know how long you’ll have to deal with them, it’s easy to wonder whether or not your life is ever going to get better. Maybe you’re grieving a divorce or the death of a loved one, and the pain just isn’t going away. Perhaps you’re struggling with a chronic health problem. Maybe you’ve been searching for a job for a long time, yet are still unemployed.

No matter what you’re going through, you may think that you can find a better life if only you could escape your difficult circumstances. But the way to find a better life isn’t changing your circumstances (which often you can’t change, anyway). Instead, you can find a better life by learning how to look at your circumstances from God’s perspective. Here’s how:

Reach out to friends. Meet with some friends to either talk about your struggles or to take a break from your problems by having fun together for a while. Ask your friends for the specific kind of help you need right now: honest feedback, encouragement, comfort, support, prayer, or help with a task.

Look for what’s valuable inside the mess. While it’s true that life in this fallen, sinful world is often messy, it’s also true that something of value always exists for you to find within difficult circumstances. Ask God to help you recognize what’s useful and redemptive in your life right now.

Trust that God knows what He’s doing. Choose to have faith in God’s promises that He loves you and will do what’s best for you. Understand that any difficult circumstances that God allows into your life can accomplish good purposes for you if you trust God to use them to transform you into a stronger person. Decide to rise above your disappointment or grief by learning and growing from it. Pray for the wisdom to know what lessons God wants you to learn from your pain and how He wants you to respond to it. Keep in mind that, while you may be focused on external change (trying to change your circumstances), God is primarily concerned with internal change (working to change your soul). Realize that when it seems like God isn’t doing anything during your struggles, He may actually be at work beyond your awareness, preparing you spiritually for an upcoming experience or assignment.

Move from asking “Why?” to asking “What now?”. Don’t get stuck dwelling on asking God why difficult circumstances came into your life; He may choose not to reveal the reason to you. What matters most from God’s perspective is what you’re going to do to now to respond to what has happened in your life. It’s healthy to take the time you need to grieve the losses that you’ve suffered. But after you grieve, be willing to pursue the healing process that God wants to lead you on, step by step. Trust God to show you how to integrate your past pain into a new way living in the present and future so you can recover.

Learn how to be content in any circumstances. Just like the apostle Paul, you can learn how to be content no matter what kind of circumstances you go through. Don’t deny or suppress your pain, but decide to trust God’s promise that He acts with good purposes all the time. Look for the lessons you can learn from painful circumstances, and notice the blessings that you can be grateful for even in the midst of them. Ask God to help you recognize the new possibilities that come out of your pain.

Pray for peace. Realize that the worry, guilt, and shame associated with your pain are all useless unless they motivate you to do something that draws you closer to God. So if you’re struggling with any of those hard feelings, confess your struggles to God and ask Him to help you overcome emotional blocks to healing and experience true and lasting peace, which only comes from God.

Let go of excuses that hinder your healing. Don’t let negative past experiences define the kind of person you are right now. Resist labeling yourself negatively or letting other people’s negative labels for you affect the way you view yourself. Instead, ask God to help you see yourself as He sees you: as someone who is deeply and unconditionally loved. Overcome excuses that are standing in the way of your growth. Realize that nothing – from negative criticism to a shortage of time or energy – can block your recovery process without your permission. Be determined to heal, because you can count on God to give you the strength you need throughout the healing process.

Adjust your thinking. God has given you the power to control your thoughts, so choose to stop focusing on negative thoughts and start focusing on positive thoughts. Follow the Bible’s advice to think about what’s true, noble, beautiful, and praiseworthy.

Dream big dreams. Look toward your future with hope, since God has good plans for you to keep stretching your soul through new experiences and growing into a stronger person in the process. Keep in mind that everyone ends up somewhere in life, even by default. So decide to live purposefully so you can end up where God wants you to be. Even if that place is in the midst of painful circumstances, you can still find fulfillment and joy when you’re aware of God’s presence with you there.

Adapted from When Will My Life Not Suck? Authentic Hope for the Disillusioned, copyright 2011 by Raymon Presson. Published by New Growth Press, Greensboro, NC, http://stores.newgrowthpress.com/StoreFront.bok.
Ramon Presson, M.S.,a clinically certified marriage and family therapist for more than 20 years, is the founder of LifeChange Counseling and the Marriage Center of Franklin, TN and also served as a pastor with a special focus in ministry to single and single-again adults for 20 years. He is the author of 11 books, including Beyond the Shadows: Discover Hope for Overcoming Depression, Intentional Choices: Discovering Contentment in Stressful Times, and Love Talks for Couples with Dr. Gary Chapman. He is also an award-winning poet and a newspaper columnist. Presson lives with his wife and two sons in Thompson Station, TN.

Whitney Hopler is a full-time freelance writer and editor. You can visit her website at: http://whitneyhopler.naiwe.com/.