In the space of time from birth to adulthood, we usually face a trial or two. Some folks are lucky enough to go through more than the class average. Undoubtedly you have gone through a valley or two and wondered why. Sometimes it’s clear, sometimes not. It has been said that these times build character, but more often than not they tend to build resentment and bitterness, which leads to cynicism and a hardened heart.
Imagine if building character was the goal. That means you would purposely seek out hard times just to go through them. A little sick in the head don’t you think? Sort of like masochism without the gratification (yikes). If that were true, that means someone like Martin Luther King Jr. meant to get shot. Think about that one for a sec.
It could be said that certain people throughout history have martyred themselves for purposes other than the common good. We all can think of at least one within our generation. But let’s be clear here, you don’t go through trials on purpose. Not many people I know get up in the morning and say, “I hope someone craps in my Wheaties”.
We are programmed to be an emotional race. We are sensitive; we cry at the appropriate time in a sad movie. We are caring; we mourn the loss of a loved one and also delight in new life. We are giving; whether tragedy or a great cause, we give because we can and we want to. Of course there are the scrooges, but even old Ebenezer was eventually warmed to the emotion of the human spirit.
When faced with tragedy in our own lives, we go through phases of emotions. But one thing is rarely evident; someone who is happy to be going through troubled water. Every once in a while we witness someone like that and shake our heads, somewhat in disbelief but also in respect. Most of us are not capable of holding our heads high when faced with some of life’s worst situations.
Learning to accept the trials is one thing, navigating through a wicked storm without a map is another (I hope you get my inference). To top it all off, imagine doing so with a smile on your face! Imagine welcoming a large wave that might sink your ship!! So maybe masochism is not the right word here, maybe the old elevator doesn’t go to the top floor anymore, if you know what I mean.
But here’s the crazy thing about it. Every person I have ever met who has mastered this ability to walk through life’s biggest pits with joy, are anything but nuts. In fact I would say they are some of the sanest people I have ever met. These people have a peace I just don’t get. I mean, I know what it is but wow, I don’t have it. Or do I? Based on the awareness of such individuals I am plagued with self doubt. How do I get to that place of joy while in the midst of suffering?
The answer is there, the problem is I have a tendency to launch into tactical self support mode where no one can solve the issues but me. Or at the very least no one has my best interests at heart so therefore I have no choice but to attack it with everything I’ve got. The real bummer here though is that sometimes the problems are bigger than I am and I get in over my head. Even in those times I’m still looking for my own solutions. Bent on fixing it my way, with my agenda, all based on my plan. Of course we all know what happens there, the bad gets worse and things get real ugly, people get hurt, mistakes are made and someone ends up in a real mess.
For the past 10 years or so my track record has looked good. But lately, the wounds beneath the self applied band-aids are beginning to show. The scars are evident in a few places and there is some explaining to do. My best efforts have fallen short, I think I need a coach. Someone who understands a thing or two about weathering the really tough storms, because I got a funny feeling that a few waves are on their way.
I’m not advocating for doom and gloom here but I know this much for sure, trials are assured in this life, count on them. The difference for me now is I have joy knowing what lies ahead. Whatever gets tossed at me is something I will have to deal with but I finally feel ready. Not just prepared but in a way, I am looking forward to the next wave, if for no other reason than to know I am blessed no matter what happens. I will get through it and be better for it, knowing I have asked and prayed for light in the darkness.
Neither you nor I can control what comes next, but we can control how we react. Even more importantly we can ask God what He wants us to get out of these situations. Stop asking ‘why me?’ and start thanking Him for the opportunity to grow. Start praising Him because He cares enough to prune you from time to time.