I have lived at least one quarter of my life on earth. As I look back, I think about the high points of celebration and excitement. How did I reach those points to celebrate those accomplishments? What advice would I give to others working towards a similar goal? And while looking back, I also think about the low points of disappointment and confusion. How did I survive those years of college plus grad school? How did I get through that difficult break-up? What advice would I give to others working through a similar disappointing experience?
The advice I want to give is this – one of the best ways to get through what you’re going through is one day at a time. Like me, you might finally see yourself walking across the stage to receive your degree. Or, you are waiting for a promotion in your current job. You might be overcoming a job loss or a loved one. Or, you might simply be trying to make sense of your current circumstances and finding how you fit in your community.
So, the best way to get through what you’re going through is one day at a time. I started to learn this truth after hearing the phrase “It’s a process.” I heard it over and over. Ugh. The p-word. I heard this phrase repeatedly in graduate school – “It’s a process. You’ve got to have 10 wrong ideas before you get the right idea. Research takes time. You’ll probably make mistakes and have to start over.” I heard the p-word in church – “It’s a process. God is allowing you to experience difficult circumstances to make you stronger. Be patient. God rarely works on our timeline.” Yes, life is a process that is best lived one day at a time.
Once I was able to accept this truth, get over the p-word, and see God at work, I began to experience peace.
I was still confused. And I felt like my dreams were so far away. But I was at peace because I began to understand that the best way to get through what you’re going through is one day at a time. Think about it – in Genesis, God created one day at a time and Noah built the ark one day at a time. In the New Testament, Paul wrote his letters to the churches during his missionary journeys one day at a time.
As is written in Psalm 23, we will walk through valleys of hard times. And as is written in Psalm 150, we will celebrate joyous occasions. Whether you have heard it five times or five hundred times, in order to get through what you’re going through, you have to do it one day at a time. Here are three suggestions to help you understand how to get through what you’re going through one day at a time.
1. Be consistent.
Remember Joseph’s story of having a dream and waiting years for it to become a reality? (Genesis 37) How frustrating it must have been to wait so long. I suspect he consistently got out of bed one day at a time and fulfilled his responsibilities. The same goes for you. Get out of bed each day. Attend your classes. Be on time to your job. If you’re like me and feel stuck in graduate school, overwhelmed by an internship, thesis, or dissertation, or waiting for an interview for another job, keep showing up.
Consistently put yourself in the place you felt God calling you to when you agreed to go to graduate school or take that job.
2. Be curious.
Now, I get it. If you stay consistent at doing everything one day at a time, you may start to feel like your days are on repeat. Nothing exciting or different happens. Another day goes by. Then a week. A month. A year.
Psalm 118:24 says, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Remember that each day is a new day. Choose to keep your head up and ears open. Take your headphones out and talk to the person sitting next to you in class. On Sundays, sit in another section of the church. Just as you have a story to tell, think about how many new stories you could hear from others. I once sat somewhere different at church and met somebody. Three years later and now living in different cities, we check in on each other regularly, continuing to challenge each other, laugh at old memories, and pray for each other. Stay curious. Who knows what may happen or who you may meet today.
3. Be challenged.
You may be thinking, “Wait a second. As if living one day at a time is not difficult enough, now you want me to make it challenging?” And the short answer is: “yes.” Living one day at a time is a challenge, and I assure you it is worth making it a challenge. In my pursuit to live one day at a time, I learned that we also allow God to continually shape who we are becoming.
While we work or study to do a particular job, we also live and work towards becoming a certain type of person.
Challenge yourself. Challenge yourself to be consistent. Challenge yourself to be curious. When you feel stuck, and you will feel stuck, keep challenging. Maybe you could take a different route on your commute to class or work. As you challenge yourself to be consistent with a curious mind, allow yourself to be surprised by God in a new way while living one day at a time.
So, where are you right now? Are you trying to meet others and find close friends and community? Keep showing up to church and other events one day at a time. Are you trying to finish your degree so you can get that job? Work towards that degree one day at a time. Are you trying to overcome the disappointment of a break-up or losing a loved one? Grieve your loss one day at a time. Remember, trust who God is shaping you to become. As you trust the process, trust His process. Trust one day at a time.