Hope, Life, Perspective

Life’s Hard: 4 Tips For Surviving Hard Times

Red dirt path

By +Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

We just returned from a couple weeks in Hawaii visiting Hubby’s family. While there, some of us spent time on Kauai. One day we hiked the Kalalau Trail, an eleven mile trek that leads hikers to some breath-taking views along the Napali coast. Two miles into the trail, there’s a stopping point at a secluded beach. Our goal on this particular day was to find the beach.

quarter mile up K-trail

This was the most challenging hike I’ve taken in years . . . maybe ever. But my inner-adventurer loved the challenge. Steep ups and downs on an uneven, sometimes rock-filled trail. The blazing sun made us welcome the bits of shade from overhead palm trees.

The trail made a quick ascent from the trailhead. By the half-mile point, the ocean lay far below us, all the shades of blue causing me to sigh in awe. We trekked across switchbacks. Up and down.

View from half mile point K-trail

As demanding as this hike was, there was such beauty. Purple butterflies . . . a small orchid growing in the wild, other flowers. Palm trees and all sorts of greenery contrasted with the red dirt path our feet trod.

Just before we reached the beach, a river poured around varying-sized rocks at the mouth of the ocean. To reach the beach, we had to pick our way across these. I needed help leaping from a couple boulders, and I was thankful for the guys in our group who loaned me a hand.

River rocks K-trail

Help across the rocks

The sound of crashing waves exhilarated me as we walked across hot sand. A cave on the far side of the enclosed beach offered shade and a cool placeto re-hydrate and eat snacks. I couldn’t get enough of waves colliding with a steady, solid rock a few feet from the craggy cliffs . . . large, unpredictable and frothy with salted water. God’s power comforted, even as nearby signs warned that the waves were dangerous.

Our cave K-trail

Steady Rock

Waves crash against rock

This hike reminded me of life’s hard times. We trek up and down the emotional paths of uncertainty, unsure where the path is leading. We grow weary from the exertion of trying to live well in the midst of life’s hard. The sun’s heat bears down on us, sapping energy, making us sweat with weariness.

Footprint and waves

A few things that helped me succeed on this hike would also help during the difficult seasons:

  1. Savor the shade. When there’s a little respite from the heat, savor it. This might look like a hug and encouraging words from a friend. Anything that eases the burden of the journey.
  2. Seek out the beauty. I’d never seen an orchid growing in the wild before. And purple butterflies? Such small, easy-to-miss glimpses of God’s beauty. When we walk through trials, God reveals Himself to us, often in the small things. A sunset, a flower blooming out of season, an amazing vista out the car window. An unexpected act of kindness. When we’re intentional about looking for glimpses of God in the midst of the hard, we’re reminded of His faithful love. We’re reassured that we don’t walk this path alone. small orchid
  3. 3. Be vulnerable enough to admit when you need to rest. As we hiked back to the trailhead, the steep inclines left me gasping for breath. When my strapping young nephews were also heaving for air, I felt better about my weakness. They weren’t about to admit they needed a break, so I made myself the excuse. We stopped for drinks from our water bottles, caught our breath and walked on together. God never called us to walk through life’s hard alone. Unstopping. Soldiering on. He’s given us people to walk with us. He doesn’t expect us to be strong alone on the path. He wants us to lean on others and especially on Him.
  4. Celebrate the good. Sometimes it’s difficult to see any good in the middle of the hard times.  When we choose to look beyond our circumstances for those God-glimpses, we receive gulps of hope. The “good” may be something very small—a shift in perspective. It may be something big. If we miss His good in our lives, our hope ebbs away, leaving us sapped and gasping for breath.

Waves on cliff beauty K-trail

Hiking back to trailhead K-trail

Walking the path of life’s hard stretches us beyond where we thought we would go. But, when we walk with God—and with those He’s placed in our lives—we can get through to the other side.

What about you? How do you walk-well through life’s hard? What suggestions would you add to this list for surviving life’s hard?

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13 thoughts on “Life’s Hard: 4 Tips For Surviving Hard Times”

  1. What lovely pictures, what a lovely day, and what wise thoughts, linking them like pearls!

    Many years ago, on another continent and in another language, I was told that my “spirit guide” in the animal word was the Cape buffalo. When times are hard, he just waits until things change…

    …and when attacked, he can become a bit of a handful. The hunter who wounds the buff is in for a surprise, because the hurt buff will circle back onto the hunter’s trail to ambush him. The results are usually not pretty (though I’m sure the buff does rub his hooves together in satisfaction, and snorts at a job well done).

    The hunter, on the other hand, finds the experience is like champagne left open…a bit flat.

    So to speak. 🙂

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    1. Loved this perspective, Andrew. And I suspect that Cape buffalo description fits you pretty well. In the best of ways. Sometimes when we wait through the hard times, we grow through the waiting, and we take lessons learned to live well.

      And for the record, I wouldn’t want to be the hunter who only injured that buffalo. 🙂

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  2. Lovely soul refreshing pictures expressing God’s love for us. Thanks Jeanne for sharing the pix and the encouraging words like “look for the good” when walking thru life’s challenging times. My momentary inclination sometimes is to sink into the hard which leaves one stuck; your tips relate to climbing out of the hard before being stuck. Thanks for the insight!

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    1. I know what you mean about the temptation to sink into the hard times. I like the way you synthesized these thoughts in using the ideas to climb out of the hard before we get stuck. Being stuck only feels good for a short time. 🙂

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  3. “Trying to live well in the midst of life’s hard” … beautifully said. I know that after my appendectomy, I had people asking me to go here and there, expecting me to be back to normal. They didn’t understand my lack of strength or the other complications that had come along with my surgery. I had to tell them “no” … and explained my lack of strength … and just rest. Your #3 speaks volumes to me. ❤

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    1. Shelli, I think people easily forget that it takes time to recover from surgery, especially what you endured. It’s always interesting how often people forget the beauty and necessity of rest. Rest oftentimes is the best thing to strengthen us for walking through the hard. It strengthens us as well to live well.

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  4. A lovely post and a lovely place. I have been there! And like life, the struggle and exertion make the beauty and rewards all the sweeter. Did you make it all the way to the waterfall? Either way, thanks for the inspiration…and the memories!

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    1. How fun to know we share this experience, Julie! Actually, we only made it the first two miles, to the beach. When I arrived at the beach, my endorphins were flowing and I was ready to tackle the hike to the falls. But, common sense prevailed. Most in our party wouldn’t have made it. And honestly, as we trekked back toward the trailhead/parking lot, I was so tired, and so grateful we didn’t try to make it to the falls. Next time though. I want to be ready to make it! They must be beautiful, yes?

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  5. Seek out beauty & Take time to rest. I wonder how many conflicts, frustration, and general misunderstandings in this world would be solved if we followed that wisdom? Thanks for this, Jeanne. And, what an amazing vacation!! Hope you came home rejuvenated.

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    1. Great point, Annie. I can’t count the number of times I’ve found myself in an argument (especially with one of our boys) when I’m tired, or feeling stressed from being task-focused. I’m learning to slow down, enjoy the beauty and rest. I function much better when I do these things. 🙂

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