Life’s Lemons: What I’m Learning About Managing Hard Times

A bowl of lemons sits on a table next to a sliced lemon and a glass of lemonade.

When life gives you lemons you’re supposed to make lemonade, right? 

I don’t. 

I usually get all bent out of shape about it. 

Every summer, my kids want to make actual lemonade. In the end, there is always a mess and everything is sticky (including them). The lemonade always has way too much sugar, and once someone just tossed a whole lemon in. No one drinks it. You can’t. It’s just sugar water with lemon seeds swirling around in it. Then, as an added bonus, everyone bails when it’s time to clean it all up. 

The whole process feels pointless.

Kind of like how it feels when an onslaught of difficulties hits us all at once.

RELATED: Keeping Faith Alive in Times of Spiritual Struggle

I’m not a fan of making lemonade ever, physically or metaphorically. I don’t want to deal with the change, the inconvenience, and the work required to deal with unexpected challenges. Because getting bent out of shape is easier than doing something about it.

“Lemons” are God’s way of reminding us that we are not in control. They prompt us to take some kind of action because they force us out of the comfy pattern we’ve been living in. Last fall, I got my fair share of lemons in the form of a software security breach at work, a miscarriage, COVID, and a failed home septic system. All within eight weeks.

There were a lot of lemons. 

So how do you manage multiple stressful events at once when the lemon truck rolls in and pours the problems onto you so fast that you don’t even have time to know what hit you? Here’s what I found most helpful:


When you are so overwhelmed that you can’t think of anything else but your problems, it can be easy to abandon prayer. But this is not the time to quit, it’s the time to cling to it – especially when prayer feels empty and lonely. I have a card that I keep on me all the time that has a prayer/quote that I use specifically when things get difficult, scary, or lonely. It says: 

Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you,

All things are passing away:

God never changes.

Patience obtains all things

Whoever has God lacks nothing;

God alone suffices.

— St. Teresa of Avila

RELATED: How Can I Trust God After a Tragedy? 

Choose the right perspective.

This is hard. I’m not an optimist so I default to negativity the second something goes wrong. But I’ve learned that finding a new angle or a positive perspective really does turn things around faster than you think. How do I do it? I look for the ‘what.” 

What happened?
Our septic failed while we all have COVID.

What am I doing about it?
I can’t do anything right now, so I’m choosing to laugh about this because it’s ridiculous timing. We all have to have timed showers and toilet monitoring while blowing through tissue and cold medicine like it’s going out of style. So very 2021.

What lessons am I learning?
That I can control nothing, so I need to give it to God. 

In what ways did God open a path for me spiritually?
To lean on him, rely on him, go to him, even complain about it all to him (and yes, I did).

Ask God for help.

How? Wave the white flag. Tell him to take it on because you can’t manage it by yourself. He will help.

RELATED: 5 Steps for Praying When You’re Overwhelmed


Or cry. Do both. It’s okay to laugh at difficulties. Laughing takes you away from it all for a bit. Crying helps you start to process it all. Laugh about crying. Laugh until you cry. When our whole family got COVID, it was less scary when we cracked jokes about our septic failing at the same time. When we were faced with the unknown of cleaning up a security breach, it helped to joke about a coworker who still uses paper for everything and how his info was safely and securely stored unbreached.

Take your time feeling okay about it all.

Heavy things take time to move past. It’s okay to take it slow and work through it one emotion at a time, even if it takes you months. There is no deadline for completing emotional work. 

Accept that you may never know “why” and let go.

File it away with life’s unsolved mysteries like, next to: How did D.B. Cooper get away? Why did someone in the ‘90s think colored ketchup was a good idea? And where is Jimmy Hoffa? If God wants you to know the “why,” he will make sure you connect the dots eventually. 

RELATED: Finding Comfort in Jesus’ Agony in the Garden

Find silence.

I know, it’s hard to find quiet in this world because it’s so loud. You have to make time for silence, because there is healing comfort and peace in silence. Sometimes, that means taking a break from the world. I logged off social media for a few weeks to get myself together and I spent more time outside just focusing on the here and now.

So, whether you’ve been given lemons for a pitcher of lemonade or enough to fill a baseball stadium, look for the “what” and ask God to lead you from there. I’ve learned it’s the fastest way to get through the muck and on to the other side of things. Receiving a delivery of life’s lemons is inevitable, but turning them into lemonade doesn’t have to be hard. Just remember that God is always there waiting for us to ask him for help, and he does help. 

Except for when my kids make lemonade and it’s time to clean up. 

He disappears faster than they do.