Mar 162015 14 Responses

In Your Darkest Day, Survive and Advance

What do you do on your worst day?

When your wife dies?

When your child is arrested?

When your marriage ends?

When your trust is broken?

When life as you know it, is no more?

On a weekly basis, I am with people as their lives are dramatically changed.

  • The new grandmother entering her favorite chapter of life is suddenly gone.
  • The rock of a man is diagnosed and withers to a shadow of his former self.
  • The perfect child makes a life-altering decision.
  • A day which begins with a normal drive to work, ends with an emergency helicopter ride to a trauma unit.
  • What is supposed to be a normal week is blown up by an accusation, an arrest, and a family’s name brought to shame.

The examples are endless. (See: Why We Didn’t Sue Our OB/GYN When Our Daughter Was Born with Down Syndrome)

But what should you do?

Only one thing comes to mind.

March Madness has one motto: survive and advance.

As college basketball teams pursue their dreams of a National Championship, it doesn’t matter how well they play, by how much they win, or if they meet expectations. The only thing that truly matters is if they find a way to win the game. As long as they stay alive, they have a chance to accomplish their dreams. The motto of every NCAA basketball team is survive and advance.

It should be the same motto whenever we face an overwhelming situation.

When it comes to grief, many people have high expectations of themselves. They think they must:

  • learn a great lesson
  • be the model of perfection
  • show strength for their family
  • be a testimony to others
  • avoid any outward displays of sorrow

Many of these attributes are noble. If a great sorrow came into my life, I would love to be the perfect example of how to handle tragedy with bold faith and deep trust.

Yet what if I don’t?

What if I didn’t learn a great lesson?

What if I struggled with doubt and uncertainty?

What if I wasn’t able to “be strong” for my family or be an example for others?

What if I fell apart? Doubted everything? And wasn’t sure what tomorrow would hold?

It wouldn’t greatly matter. (See: A Dangerous Assumption About God’s Will)

There are moments in which we should learn lessons. We should regularly seek to be an example to others and give a testimony to the faith we hold. Most of the time we should serve others and assist them through whatever circumstance they are in. All of these are good goals to pursue in most situations.

However, there are moments in which we can forget all of these goals. At times, the sorrow of life is so overwhelming that we can rightly set a lower bar for success.

When grief is overwhelming, have one goal—survive and advance.

Forget the great lesson.

Don’t worry about what others think.

Know there will be another day to serve others. (See: 7 Recommended Books for when Life Hurts)

Simply survive and advance.


  • keep breathing
  • try to sleep
  • eat
  • do whatever is minimally necessary to live


  • work the steps
  • seek direction from others
  • accept help
  • get counseling
  • cry every tear necessary
  • confront your emotions

Survive and advance doesn’t sound like the most noble of pursuits, but it is the most useful advice possible.

Difficult times can bring opportunities to learn great lessons and teach great things. Yet nothing will be learned or taught, no example will be given or testimony presented if the dark days are not endured. (See: What to Do When Life Falls Apart)

Sometimes you can decide to learn later. Preach later. Work later. And be an example later.

When times are at their worst, just try to survive today and all those other things can wait until tomorrow.


14 Responses to In Your Darkest Day, Survive and Advance
  1. Joyce Sanders Reply

    Thank you! Very good advice that was very timely for me personally and I’m sure for many others. You have a wonderful gift and I appreciate your time and effort in sharing it.

  2. Majetta Reply

    Good stuff as always! As Mark says, Moving forward at any pace is the goal, but sometimes just hanging on to the place you’re at is enough.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      You can never go wrong quoting your brother. Ha. At least that’s what I tell my sister.

  3. Nikki Reply

    Your words accurately describe how I felt at my lowest moment. To “keep breathing” might have been the most difficult challenge on many days because I didn’t want to, I just wanted relief and for it all to go away. The feelings of pain were so heavy, I felt suffocated and immobilized by the weight of it all.

    By Grace, I crawled through the steps; looking back I can hardly fathom how I ever felt so low, but it was totally real and in my face.

    Thank you for the wisdom and compassion in your article. I know it will bring comfort and hope to many.

  4. Amanda Moore Reply

    Great post Kevin. I am following your posts now 🙂

  5. Janet Lesford Reply

    Thanks Kevin! I needed that!

  6. Letty Wang Reply

    I love this! I wish I had it when my husband died 4 years ago but, I will now be able to share it with others who are new to grief and those in my grief support group. I’ve been sharing the story about Hawaii and how our loved ones may not yet realize we’re not there yet. I even found a photo of him looking away at the waterfall and the beauty when we went to Hawaii for our 10th anniversary. I took that photo from behind as if I can almost tap him on the shoulder to ask where’s he’s been all this time. When I shared it in my grief group everyone sobbed hopeful tears. Thanks so much!

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  9. Angela Reply

    Thank you. My mantra lately has been to ‘Find the joy in walking in the rain’ but ‘Survive and Advance’ seems attainable. It’s the process of eating the elephant one bite at a time so as to not be overwhelmed. Thank you. I needed the clarity at this time, and more often than not, your columns are where I find the answers to my prayers. Thank you.

  10. Elle Reply

    Good morning my brother and thanks for this timely message. I always enjoy your shares! However, I wish you would include more scripture references. God’s Word seems to be the “meat” that sustains, and who can dare argue with “thus saith the Lord”?!
    Thanks again and God bless!

    Yours in Christ,

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