Reclaiming Confidence after a Loss or Setback
by Laurie Wallin
We’ve all probably heard the idea that “the only certainties in life are death and taxes.” Those of us who’ve lived into adulthood know there’s a lot more we could add to that list! There are emotional upsets, financial setbacks, marriage challenges, illnesses, natural disasters and crises of faith. As a business owner, ministry leader, friend, daughter, wife, and mother of four raising adopted kids with special needs, I know from experience this is true.
Just yesterday, I sat in my daughter’s psychiatrist’s office and wept as he said, “Laurie, I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but it’s not going to get better with her. She is as stable as we can get her and it’s still not ideal. She is going to struggle through these teen years. Crying is exactly the right reaction. It’s a significant loss to face the truth.”
Yes, we know that no matter how hard we try to avoid it, life brings crisis and loss of many kinds. If it’s not walking through our own troubles, it’s walking alongside someone we love in theirs. How do we not only get through the tough spots, but recover and reclaim confidence for the future?
First, like me in that doctor’s office, we must face the truth. Not our perception or fear of it, but the reality Jesus promised way back during his earthly ministry: “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33a). Jesus didn’t mince words in this verse. It wasn’t “you might have trouble,” but the clear recognition that we will. Simply acknowledging the truth inoculates us from unrealistic expectations that can layer despair on already challenging situations.
Confidence builds as we acknowledge the truth Jesus spoke because, even though it isn’t pleasant, truth sets us free. It’s the first line of the Serenity prayer for a reason: accepting what we cannot change is the first step to peace. And, I’d argue, regaining confidence. Because not only did Jesus promise us trouble in this life, but he promised us another truth: “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b). He’s faced what we face and triumphed over it. He looked each flavor of personal trial in the eye and beat it back through his death on the cross. Only truth makes knowing this second part of the equation possible.
Once truth, then what? We reclaim confidence by letting ourselves grieve and heal. Probably the most misunderstood concept in Western culture, grief is the processing of “conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior” (John W. James and Russell Friedman, The Grief Recovery Handbook). In other words, when we face crises, we experience loss because we wanted that situation to be different in some way. It wasn’t what we expected, we might not have felt up to the challenge, and our confidence plummeted as a result.
By allowing ourselves to honestly consider what we wish had been different—not censoring or Christianizing our feelings—we open the door to confidence in future tough situations. As we intentionally take steps to heal, forgive, make amends, cry (like me, above), write a letter, or whatever we need to do to recover, we fling that door open even wider. Because confidence feeds on hope, and hope comes from surviving loss and not succumbing to it. The work we do to grieve, therefore, is crucial to recapturing that boldness we long for moving forward.
For me, in that doctor’s office, the loss sliced at a deep place in my mother-heart. Before I adopted my oldest daughters, I envisioned loving them through their own losses and helping them find life and love after foster care. To face the reality that they must choose love themselves, even after a decade of our care, wasn’t on my list of possible scenarios.
“It should have been different,” I thought to myself. But as I cried in the presence of a supportive professional—as he spoke tough truth wrapped in kindness and care for me—I felt the freedom of Jesus’s promise in John 16 seep into my weary places. Allowing myself to grieve the moment’s loss, and making it to the point where I write about it here? That restores confidence that indeed, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
And you can, too, friend. As you take hold of truth, and let grief in God’s hands heal you.
Laurie Wallin strives every day to live out her message for families: that no matter the challenge, in Jesus they can have joy and confidence. She is mom to four girls, two of them with mental and developmental special needs. She has been a certified life coach for over a decade, and is a regular speaker at women’s events and retreats, a popular blogger, and the author of Why Your Weirdness Is Wonderful.
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