Lisa Appelo

Self-Care in Grief and Difficulty

Self-care often gets conflicting responses in Christian circles. On one hand, Jesus called us to die to ourselves. We’re to be crucified with Christ so that we no longer live but Christ lives in us. The selfless call for the Christian seems at odds with self-care.

But Jesus also commanded us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. When our own soul is well nurtured, we can love others well. The balance comes in self-care, rather than self-indulgence or self-obsession.

And self-care in grief and difficulty is especially important because the stress and intensity of those seasons can deplete us. It takes everything in us to process grueling emotions, to face unknowns and the unexpected and to continue to show up well for our family.

Grief and deep disappointment can wring us out, taking their toll on us emotionally, spiritually, cognitively and physically.

Jesus addressed these exact four areas when he gave us the first and greatest commandment: You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your mind and all of your strength.

Self-care in grief and hard times must be rooted in God.

Biblical self-care should never feed our flesh but free us to follow God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.

God cares about the well-being of our emotions, spirit, mind and body. Let’s look at ways to cultivate self-care in grief and hard times in these four areas.

Self-care for your emotions

Hold space for your emotions. The emotions of loss and deep disappointment can be excruciating. Emotions like sadness, despair, fear, betrayal, regret and more make us uncomfortable. We want to push them away or leap-frog over them. But we’ll never move through them if we don’t give ourselves space to process them.

Let your tears come. We so often apologize for our tears but they are a gift from God who created us and our emotions. Science now tells us emotional tears contain stress hormones we release in tears helping to reduce our stress and brings endorphins to help us feel calmer and better.

Give yourself grace to grieve. Don’t compare the way you grieve or the timeline for your grief. Everyone grieves differently depending on the kind of loss, our personality and our experiences. Caring for yourself means giving yourself grace to grieve the way God made you.

Self-care for your soul

Get alone with God. It’s vital to anchor your hard emotions in prayer and the truth of scripture. When Jesus learned his cousin and baptizer, John the Baptist, had been murdered, he got alone with God.3 Jesus did this often. At the end of his earthly ministry, in agony before his arrest, Jesus got alone to pray and pour out his heart before his Father.4

Worship and gratitude. Turn on worship music. Sing those old hymns while you’re folding laundry. And give daily thanks – on paper – to God. In worship, we praise God and in gratitude we thank him. Both take our eyes off our circumstances to focus on God who alone can lift our head and refresh our soul.

Journal the hard. When Dan died, journaling was another way to process “out loud” to God. I poured out my emotions, worries and needs. I recorded my thanks, answered prayers and all God was teaching me. Journaling not only helps us process in the moment, but provides a forever memorial of all God is doing.

Self-care for your mind

Clear clutter in your schedule. You need time to process the hard emotions of grief. The fog of grief is real – whether grief comes from a death, a miscarriage, an imploded marriage, chronic diagnosis or a soured adult relationship. Your brain works overtime to wrap itself around the new reality. Because it takes enormous head space and time, setting boundaries on your schedule and saying no in this season leaves room for grief.  

Take fear captive. When something that seemed a remote improbability has happened, the door opens wide to all manner of new fears and worries. Stress from fear is crushing and can take years off a life. I began a Biblical process to tame my fear: call out the lie driving the fear and take it captive to the truth of Christ. Replace the lies of fear with the promises of God and let your mind dwell there.

Self-care for your body

Get good sleep. I have to admit sleep is often elusive in grief and difficulty. Night seems to magnify the hard emotions and loneliness descends in the dark. Pray for sound sleep and have a trusted friend pray for this specifically. One of my favorite verses to pray: “I can lie down and sleep soundly because you, Lord, will keep me safe.” (Psalm 4:8, CEV)

Rest well. Rest is different than sleep. Rest is pushing pause on our to-do list, online noise, and expectations to relax. The trauma of grief and turmoil of hard seasons bring a need for extra rest. Rest lets us recover so God can renew our strength.  

Get moving. I love that God designed our physical movement to release mood-boosting endorphins. For me, a walk or run let me physically work out some of the brutal emotions that get bottled up. Exercise, gardening or a walk also help counteract the physical effects of stress from loss and difficulty, help us eat well and sleep better.

Join me for the FREE 2020 Christian Women’s Self-Care conference with 50+ speakers for 5 days of online, on demand Bible-based sessions. Hold your free seat here.

2020 Christian Women's Self Care Conference

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10 Prayers for When Pandemic Panic Is Rising

When the normal rhythms of a nascent spring were interrupted last March by the sudden appearance of Covid-19, we were thrust into a world of unknowns and uncertainty.

We’re now in month six of a season punctuated by more questions than answers. 

Like many of you, I’ve been gauging daily stats and headline news as I weigh choices about school, extracurriculars, online or in-person church and grocery shopping. We’ve muddled through risks and precautions, predictions and press-conferences to try our level best to make decisions that feel responsible. I don’t want to be fearful, but I also don’t want to be careless. 

Most of us don’t even realize the strain of chronic, low-level stress we’ve been carrying.

And some days – some days – the sheer volume of it all gets to us and we can feel pandemic panic rising in our chest.

The surest antidote for rising panic is prayer.

Let these 10 prayers be a resource to pray through the worries, decisions and issues you’re facing in this uncertain season.

10 Prayers for When Pandemic Panic Is Rising

prayer bible verses, scriptures on prayer, verses about prayer

1. A Prayer for Uncertain Times

Lord, I do not know what to do, but my eyes are on You. You are my rock; keep me anchored in You. No matter how the world shakes, You are the same yesterday, today and forever. Help me walk by faith and not by sight and clearly discern how You are leading me. You are the way, when I can’t see the path ahead. You are my supplier, when I don’t see provision. You are my shield, when the enemy tries to unseat me and You are my help, when I feel utterly helpless. Help me love you above anything this world offers. Only You can do this in me. I ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Scripture references: 2 Chron. 20:12; Psalm 18; Mark 12:30; 2 Cor 5:7; Hebrews 13:8

2. A Prayer for the School Year

Father, I am facing a school year of unknowns. You promise to instruct me and teach me in the way I should go; please counsel me with Your loving eye on me. Give our school administrators wisdom to make decisions and our teachers energy, creativity, safety and perseverance to teach well in a changing environment. We ask for your protection over each child and school worker. Help me be a light of love and patience to my children and others when my flesh wants to criticize and complain. Lord, every day this year has already been written in Your book. Help me walk them out faithfully, looking for Your hand and Your good and glorifying You in all things. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Scripture references: Psalm 16:8; Psalm 139:16; 1 Cor. 10:31

3. A Prayer for Faith over Fear

Lord, when anxiety is rising in me, help me fix my eyes on You. You alone are my hope and deliverer. Give me an undivided heart to fear You alone. My circumstances are not the truth because You reign over all things. You reign over disease and diagnoses, elections and economies, my children and me. My fear is a spiritual battle and so I ask You to demolish every thought and every worry opposed to You. I take them captive to the truth of Your character and promises. You are faithful and You have not taken me this far to drop me now. Be my refuge and strength. In Jesus’ strong name, Amen.
Scripture references: Psalm 47:8; Prov 28:202 Cor 10:5; Hebrews 12:2

4. A Prayer Against Discouragement

I lift my soul to You, O Lord. I am dismayed and feel crushed under the weight of things too big for me. Refresh me and renew me as only You can. Give me Your strength to do what I cannot and give me courage to do hard things today. When I am weak, You are strong and so I trust that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Silence the enemy’s lies and even my own so that I hear only Your truth guiding me. Fill up my soul to overflowing with your unfailing love and deep joy so I can love and serve those around me today. In Jesus’ mighty name, Amen.
Scripture references: Psalm 25:1; Psalm 143:8; Isaiah 40:1; 2 Cor 12:10; Phil 4:13

5. A Prayer for Good Fruit in Suffering

Jesus, this trial is hard and it hurts, but since it has come through your hand, use it for good. Show me the idols I’ve created and trusted, reveal the sin I’ve nurtured and give me strength to turn from them. Forgive me and create in me a clean heart. Give me a heart like Yours that desires what You desire and that loves as You love. May Your pruning produce much good fruit in me and through me for Your glory. You are good and You have good for me, even though life feels hard. I put my whole trust in You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Scripture references: Psalm 51:10; Psalm 119:68; Psalm 139:23-24; John 15:2, 5, 8; Romans 8:28

6. A Prayer for Decision Overwhelm

Lord, You promise to give wisdom generously if we ask and so I am asking. In a world of conflicting news reports, give me discernment and insight to make right decisions. I need Your practical guidance to keep my family safe and healthy. You led the Israelites through the wilderness providing every practical need – water from the rock, manna from heaven, shoes that didn’t wear out and protection from disease. And so I ask that You would shepherd me through the wilderness of decision-making. Help me to trust Your way absolutely and to make decisions in perfect peace, not fear. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Scripture references: Prov 2:8; Deut 8:3-4; Nehemiah 9:21; James 1:5

7. A Prayer of Gratitude

God, I give You thanks even in the unexpected and unwanted because You are good, You are just and You are right. Thank You for the hidden gifts of this pandemic: more time with my family, slow evenings at home, the beauty of creation and rediscovering joy in simple things. Thank You for supplying every need and delighting me with more than I could ask or imagine. Thank You for health care workers, for incredible minds working overtime to create a vaccine, for teachers going above and beyond to serve their students and for first responders showing up daily. Open my eyes to see Your goodness all around me because I don’t want to miss it. You are a good, good Father and I love you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Scripture references: Psalm 103:13; Psalm 119:68; Eph 3:20; Phil 4:19

8. A Prayer for The Grieving

Lord, thank you for being a Savior who walks with us in our pain, who is close to the broken-hearted and doesn’t leave us there but saves those crushed in spirit. Today, I lift up ____________ to You and ask that she would feel Your strong presence all around her and sense the comfort only You can bring. Help her to feel Your love sustaining her through deep missing. Draw her to You and to Your Word for daily strength and fresh hope. Guard her heart and mind so that she can get the sleep she needs and give her strength for difficult decisions and estate tasks. Silence the enemy who taunts with lies and regrets and bring her instead many warm memories of her loved one as she processes the pain of loss. Help her to feel Your everlasting arms carrying her through indescribable difficulty. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Scripture references: Deut 33:27; Psalm 4:8; Psalm 34:18; 1 Thess 4:13

9. A Prayer for the Church

Lord, do not let us be silent. You have called us to such a time as this. Apart from You, we can do nothing. I lift up my pastor and church leaders and ask You to guard their hearts, guard their marriages, guard their time and guard their decisions. Bind Your people together as Your body to serve locally, to give generously, to love lavishly. Help us live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together we may with one voice glorify God and share the hope of Jesus. May we fear You only. Give us the strength and power to carry out the tasks You have for us with grace and endurance. For from You and through You and to You are all things. In the powerful name of Jesus, Amen.
Scripture references: Esther 4:14; Matt 10:28; John 15:5; Rom 15:5-6; Hebrews 12:1

10. A Prayer for Government Leaders

O Lord God, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open to hear this prayer for the people of this country. We have sinned against You. I and my family have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You and we have failed to keep Your commandments. Lord, give us mercy in accordance with Your unfailing love. Turn the hearts of our local, state and national leaders to You and give them the wisdom they desperately need to make decisions and govern justly. Turn our hearts to You and let it begin with me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Scripture references: Based on the prayer of Neh 1:5-7; Prov 22:1; 1 Tim 2:1

*Want to flourish even in hard seasons? Get email encouragement and your free guide -- Flourish in Life's Unexpected: Find Your Footing, Tame Your Fear and Bloom in Difficulty.

Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Drazen Zigic


Flourish in the Unexpected

Flourish in the Unexptected

In a few weeks’ time, our world has turned upside down.

That’s the thing about crises — they come unannounced and settle right over the plans and dreams we’d scrawled into planners and calendars. 

Stores have sold out of toilet paper and hand sanitizer and our best plans have cancelled like bad Christmas tree lights – conferences, speaking engagements, church services, ballet lessons, senior class trips, weddings, sporting events, and more.

In the days since, we’ve seen this virus escalate globally, then nationally and then like a London fog seeping into our towns and cities.  We’ve isolated to protect the vulnerable and ourselves, working from home and schooling from home and we don’t know how long this will last.

Both the world at large and our personal worlds have turned upside down.

I hear all around the weight we’re carrying in crisis.

  • We’re weary before the day’s even over as we prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.
  • We’re grieving that once-in-a-lifetime events won’t happen or certainly won’t look like we dreamed.
  • We’re adjusting to massive change and upheaval to our day-to-day normality.
  • We’re watching markets tumble, layoffs happen and businesses struggle, wondering what kind of economic repercussions are down the road.
  • We’re overwhelmed with headlines and predictions and anxious for the unknown that lies ahead.

It’s all leaving us confused, fearful and vulnerable.

While I’ve never been through a time like this — none of us has – I’ve been through the kind of crisis that upends every part of life. Several years ago, I became a sudden widow and single mom to 7 and our world as we knew it completely imploded.

I know despair. I’ve grieved once-in-a-lifetime events that will never happen for me or my children. I’ve grappled with massive change to our day-to-day normality and wondered what the future looks like without the single income that supported us. I’ve feared for my children and worried for the unknown the lies ahead. I’ve felt confused, fearful and vulnerable.

And here’s what I know.

We are not victims in this.

No matter how grim the circumstances, God enables us not merely to survive this season – lots of people will do that.

God enables and intends for us to flourish DESPITE this season and IN this season as he leads us through.

I’ve put together a FREE and simple workbook called Flourish: Find Your Footing, Tame Your Fear and Bloom in Unexpected Difficulty. This study is based on Jeremiah 17:7-8, where God reveals four steps to flourish in the unexpected.

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord
  whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
  that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
   its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
   and never fails to bear fruit.

Isn’t that what we want? To be stable when the life rocks, to be deeply nourished when life is barren, to disarm fear when we face the unknown and to bud and blossom even in the hard.

Listen the current crisis may have come unnounced but we can stay steady in the unexpected.

This workbook is a short 5-day study unpacking each verse of Jeremiah 17:7-8 to see how God tells us we can flourish in the unexpected.

Get yours here. 

I pray this blesses you mightily!

This post originally appeared at LisaAppelo.com.