• Dr. Bill Walker

5 Ways To Stay Positive In a Difficult Situation

Difficult situations can stress us to our breaking point. Follow these 5 suggestions to keep a positive outlook while fighting your battle.


Navigating through a difficult situation can be like driving through a bad storm. You squint, grit your teeth and tense your entire body to make it through. It's easy to become short-tempered and stressed out as you drive.

In the New York Times best seller, Getting Back To Happy, authors Marc and Angel Chernoff share what they learned about staying positive as their family endured several traumatic events in a short period of time.

At first, they coped by turning to unhealthy behaviors – like dependency on alcohol and watching TV. Eventually, they realized these coping strategies were unhelpful and unhealthy.

They identify 5 coping strategies that helped them survive and stay positive during their difficult times.

Whether you are dealing with the loss of a loved one, financial setback, job loss or some other difficult situation these 5 strategies can help you keep a positive mindset as you work through, and more importantly, overcome your difficult situation.

1. Accept the Hard Reality of Your Situation

Denial does nothing to change your situation. Denial keeps you stuck in a frozen holding pattern of inaction. Denial blocks your motivation to move forward in a productive way.

I once heard of a woman who stayed in bed for 6 months after her husband died. As long as she stayed in bed she did not have to face her new reality. But what about the people who loved and depended on her? Her response is a powerful illustration of the negative power of refusing to accept your new reality.

In their book, the Chernoffs state that people can make themselves unhappy by refusing to accept what’s happening in the present moment. They write, “Don’t be one of them. Let go of your fantasies and know that letting go doesn’t mean you don’t care about someone or something anymore; it’s just realizing that the only thing you have control over is yourself.”

One way to accept your new reality is change the way you see your situation. This is called reframing. Chernoff says, “Sometimes, letting go is simply changing the labels you place on a situation. Try to see it with fresh eyes and an open mind.”

Example: A person loses their job and says, “My life is over.” The truth is they hated their job and have always wanted to become a pastry chef. Instead of seeing their job loss in a negative light (“my life is over”) they might say:

“Losing my job presents a chance to finally do what I’ve always wanted to do. I will find a job in a pastry shop , learn the trade and work my way up. Yes, I will have to make some financial sacrifices. But because I will be happy and fulfilled at what I am doing the hardship will be worth it”

2. Let Your Patience Rule

Patience is a virtue. The Bible says, “Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times.” (Romans 12:12)

Rebuilding your life is like building a great house. To build it right takes time. The process of letting go of the way your life used to be and rebuilding a new life will take a while. It is normal to become anxious and impatient at times as you rebuild.

Be very careful. Do not allow your anxiety and impatience to cause you to make rash decisions. Moving too quickly has caused many plans and people alike to fail.

Just because there seems to be little progress in your situation does not mean you are failing. The best progress often happens in small, linked together steps. Be patient. Don't let impatience rule your emotions.

As Chernoff writes, “No matter what happens, no matter how far you seem to be away from where you want to be, never stop believing that you will make it. The next step is always worth taking.”

Chernoff says your patience involves more than just waiting – it involves keeping a positive attitude and working hard to make progress.

Do your best to adopt an unrelenting belief that things will work out, that the long road has a purpose, that the things you desire may not happen today, but they will happen,” he counsels.

3. Respond To Your Situation Positively

The authors recommend making your response to your situation one that gives you positive control, especially mentally.

In place of envy, feel admiration; instead of worry, take action. In place of doubt, have faith,” says Chernoff. “Your response is always more powerful than your circumstance! A tiny part of your life is decided by completely uncontrollable circumstances, while the majority of your life is decided by your responses.”

I am reminded of the popular quote:

Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond to what happens to us.”

Change your attitude and it will be much easier to change your behavior. A negative attitude produces negative behavior. A positive attitude produces positive behavior.

4. Give Yourself Some Credit

Difficult times are the easiest times to see yourself in the most negative of lights. Difficult times are like having to lift a heavy weight. We strain, feel weak, and begin to doubt ourselves and abilities.

But the fact you are reading this and looking for help means you have not given up. You are a survivor and a fighter! You can do this no matter how heavy the burden feels.

The authors state,

Maybe things have changed your perspective, taught you lessons, and forced your spirit and soul to grow. So believe in yourself through hard times, and believe in your capacity to heal.

Even more, appreciate your progress. Give yourself credit for your resilience and how far you’ve come, because you’ve lived and learned. You’ve survived all of your bad days — and you’re still here, growing.

5. Engage In a Positive Ritual

A ritual is a repeated behavior that has meaning for you. It is normal and common to feel decreased physical and mental energy during difficult times. Large tasks can seem overwhelming.

To keep yourself from becoming bogged down in negativity, Chernoff suggests engaging in small, repeated, incremental actions that make you feel like you are taking positive action to move out of your place of negativity.

These small actions could include taking a walk at the same time each day, phoning a good friend a couple of times a week, or writing out affirmation statements daily.

Taking these actions prove that you are taking positive actions to deal with your situation, versus doing nothing. Doing nothing produces nothing. Doing something means you are taking steps, no matter how small, towards leaving your old situation and moving towards creating your new one.


Christianly Speaking

i. Being a Christian does NOT mean we will not suffer hardship on this earth

Jesus said: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Living in this world includes tribulation, but a relationship with Jesus Christ gives us a sense of “peace” and “good cheer.”

ii. Patience is a powerful weapon in our battle

I waited patiently for the Lord’s help; then he listened to me and heard my cry.” (Psalm 40:1)

A lack of patience leads to many bad things on our part – losing our faith in God being the most serious. God may have many reasons for his waiting to intervene in your situation.

iii. Staying positive in hard times will give you the strength you need to move forward

The opposite of being positive is being negative. Being negative leads to anxiety. God says,

Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” – Proverbs 12:25

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” – Luke 12:25

As we just read in John 16:33, our relationship with Jesus will lead us to a sense of “peace” and “good cheer.”

The Bottom Line

You must not give up! Keep your focus on God and His Word. Continue praying to Him for deliverance from your current difficult situation.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, 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

Before You Go

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[1] Getting Back to Happy: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Reality, and Turn Your Trials into Triumphs (authors: Marc & Angel Chernoff).

[2] Some ideas for this article were adapted from:


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