Many times when the journey of life becomes difficult and worries seem to pile on at every turn, we have a natural reaction that makes us want to retreat and withdraw into ourselves. I guess you could say that is the “flight” part of the “flight or fight” response. When marriages are deteriorating, finances are spinning out of control, children are falling into destructive patterns, or we simply feel depressed and frustrated with this life, we have a natural tendency to withdraw from others and try to work on our problems alone behind closed doors. We don’t want others to see how hard things are or how much we are hurting. We stop calling our friends and family members and participating in other kinds of social interactions. It seems that we think if we can just hunker down and get through this stage in our lives, then we can come out and show our “good selves” to the world again. The old adage, “Never let them see you cry” comes to mind. We feel that others won’t want to be around us during this difficult time and that others will only want to share in the happy parts of our lives. This may seem like a logical conclusion since so much of our world is based on appearances. In our fast-paced world, there is so much pressure to look like we have it all together, like we are managing each area of our lives perfectly.

However, there is something flawed in this line of thinking. The truth is that we were made for relationship and if we were made to be in relationship that means that we were made to stay in relationship even when things get tough. It may be hard at times to hear God or to feel like He is listening and wants you to be in relationship with Him when you are going through a tough time. Nonetheless, Scripture says that we are to ask for what we need and to pray believing that we will receive it (Matthew 21:22, John 15:7). God hears your pleas and He wants to comfort you in your distress, but He won’t go barging in where you don’t invite Him to go. Take some time to be with Him, to tell Him about your struggles, and ask Him to come into the middle of them and to bring you comfort.

Don’t be afraid to ask others for the help you need also. Of course God is the one who provides for all of our needs, but that does not mean that He doesn’t use others to provide. You’ve heard, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7). That Scripture most certainly applies to God, but I think it also applies to relationships with others. The truth is, God has gifted others with many different talents and placed them all in relationships. Other people may be just the avenue God wants to use to bring you the help and healing you need. Reach out and tell your friends and family members that you need a job, or you need marriage counseling, or financial guidance, or help dealing with your difficult teenager. You may be surprised at how others can help you or who they may know that can help you, if you will only ask.

If you feel that you naturally tend to withdraw when tough times come along, that may be where you need to work to stay and “fight” rather than give in to “flight.” Fight the urge to withdraw and make a point to reach out to others. If you reach out to some people in your life and you feel they aren’t listening or providing the support you need, keep fighting by telling them that you need them to really listen. If they still won’t listen, look for others who will. Keep fighting until you find that friend, family member, pastor, other church staff member, or counselor who will listen to your story and offer encouragement and support.

When you do share, push yourself to stay in relationship. I have seen many clients that feel an urge to withdraw after they have shared their stories of pain and sorrow with me and with others in the lives. These clients fear that their counselor or family or friends may not be able to handle the truth of their pain. But, good counselors are trained to help you work through the pain and they are ready to help you process all of your thoughts and feelings and walk alongside you during this difficult journey. Your family and friends may not have a complete understanding and may not be able to help you process thoughts and feelings as well as a trained counselor, but they are a part of your life and they can often tell when you are in pain, whether you seek to share it or not. If those are safe relationships, being open and sharing may be just what the doctor ordered. And, if they are not safe relationships, that doesn’t mean that you should withdraw and retreat within yourself. Make a point to seek out new relationships and start with the safest of all…by opening up to the Lord.