Painting By Takahiro Kimura – Tokyo, Japan
#$&^@(!!! Rats! That’s what my brain keeps thinking every five minutes. For I am a teensy bit bummed right now. I’ve been up most of the night with throbbing nerve pain on my upper right molars. I know what it is: I need an emergency root canal. Again! Sixth time, in fact! God has blessed me with many great things, but sadly amazing teeth isn’t one of them. And in case you were wondering, I do brush and floss and don’t drink soda.
This unforeseen and unfortunate medical emergency has coincided “perfectly” in its timing with our family vacation trip to Disney World in just a mere three days. We are so looking forward to our first vacation as a family of five since our youngest son was born seven years ago.
Merry Christmas from Adversity! Happy Blue Year! You’ve just been given a citation for exceeding the speed limit under Murphy’s Law.
So as I lay in bed all night in a futile attempt to snatch moments of sleep between these nerve-shattering contractions of the mouth, I’ve had some time to have a few choice words with God. Primarily this one: Why? Or these two: Why now?
I winced at what I think may be His reply: Why not?
Why should I be exempt from suffering any more than the rest of the world? I realize that in some other part of the world, perhaps Cambodia, at this very moment there may be a nearly toothless fisherman who would laugh at the simplicity of my situation. I can after all go to a dentist. I do have access to dental care, even credit to ultimately arrive at a remedy. That alone is worth so much.
Gahhhh! Even now, the throbbing is fairly insane! No matter. I will still write. I will use my suffering. I will not let it defeat me. I am however humbled by it; it reminds me, yet again, I am not completely in control of my own life.
Perhaps one of the most import things we can ever do in life is to learn how to not just survive inconvenience, pain, trauma, illness, and other drama in life, but how to thrive in doing so. Striving towards excellence in all situations should be our modus operandi.
But it’s hard. It’s hard when you hurt, be it physical or emotional. It’s hard when there seemingly is not a person around. It’s hard when others just don’t get it or are too busy. You’re going to have to go deep and deal with this with God. Or you can try and handle it all on your own, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll reach the end of that resource fairly quickly!
So how do you survive adversity? How do you go from survivor to Sir Thriver? (Or Ms. Thriver, as the case may be.)
Stop counting your sorrows and start magnifying your blessings. It’s all about perspective. You can see your life as a glass half empty or just about full. Which thoughts you feed will determine the words you say and thus the feelings you carry. Focus on what is good, pure, true, lovely, excellent, and praiseworthy—you know that already!
Stop looking to other people for understanding. I’m not saying stop relating to humans. I’m just saying there isn’t always a strong enough person available to carry all your burdens. Remember, they have some too! This is where faith steps in: when people walk out. You will not always get what you need from other people. But you will from God, if you allow your own doubts to be extinguished by a love that knows no limits.
Stop focusing on FEAR. Start STEPPING OUT in faith. Christian writer and speaker Joyce Meyer said the acronym of F.E.A.R. stands for false evidence appearing real. How true this is! We let what we are afraid of paralyze us from doing what we know we need to do. I can’t let fear of pain, finances, or outcome keep me from going to the dentist today. So in 81 minutes, I’ll have the opportunity to pick up the phone and make the call that can change all this. What call or faith step do you need to make or take today to make that change?
All things can be used for good. Romans 8:28 doesn’t say that all things ARE good, but that they can be used for good, for those that love Him and are called according to His purposes. It’s easier to see situations and people as “lessons for life” that God uses to grow us, when we look beyond our line of sight, beyond the person or circumstance staring us in the face, and beyond our human understanding. If you can trust God who gave you life, you have already taken the first faith step to thriving! Congratulations! You have accepted that you can’t control everything!
Pain, suffering, death—it’s all part of life. It’s the part where we want to hit the fast forward button that doesn’t exist. We don’t get to walk around it. Through it all, this is the only way. Just remember, you are not alone.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Philippians 4:8
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. Isaiah 43:2
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
Pain removes the veil; it plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul. ~ C.S. Lewis