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Why do I have to endure pain, sickness, tragedy, emotional scars, etc? Have you ever asked that question? Maybe you’ve been told seemingly empty platitudes like, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” or something like that. Perhaps hearing things like that even makes you angry because you feel it’s a load of garbage. On this episode, I want to deal with the trials we face from a slightly different perspective. And I think we’ll see that, too often, we get in our own way when it comes to conquering the trying times we all endure.
Let me start with an analogy. We are often rigid like dried up pasta. Stubbornness, pride, whatever causes an immovability in us. When the pressure comes and we hang on to our rigidity, we break. We shatter into millions of pieces. We had no room within us for withstanding or surviving – the slightest trial just seems to be overwhelming and completely wrecks us. And where does that leave us? Just a bunch of scattered and shattered bits of dried up pasta. Nobody likes dry pasta. There’s no use for it – it’s no good at all.
So how do we avoid this? Well, what do you normally do with dry pasta? You prepare it in boiling water. Now, think about that. If you are this rigid dry pasta, and you have to go into a pot of boiling hot water for a period of time, that doesn’t sound like a very pleasant process, does it? No! But the process, as trying as it may be, doesn’t destroy you. What does boiling water do to pasta? It softens it up and makes it usable.
If we are willing to endure the preparation process, God will season us and make us into something amazing and beneficial to others. This brings us to the life-changing concept of helping others, and the ways doing so benefits us as well. But before I dive into that, let me mention something else to help set this up…
A friend of mine recently shared his frustration with life in general. He spoke about how pretty much everything in his life stinks, he feels like it will never get any better, and he’s just tired – so very tired. Frankly, I think there are a lot of people who feel that way. And I could totally relate to his frustrations to a large extent. So I felt compelled to respond to him. Not to belittle or quash any of what he said or what he may be going through, but I did tell him this:
“I could write a book about all the different types of pain I literally have to live with every single day. There have been multitudes of times that I have asked God why physical pain is such a constant in my life. I don’t doubt God, and my faith is not at all shaken by all the stuff I’ve dealt with physically, mentally, and emotionally. I’ve accepted that it’s all part of this life, but I choose to not allow it to define me.”
I went on to say:
“Trust me, I am immensely tired, too. Tired of the pain, and tired of being tired. The person people usually see when they see me isn’t indicative of my struggles. But it’s not that I put on a facade, it’s that I don’t want to be defined by my pain. I would be a miserable person if I allowed that. And yes, sometimes I AM miserable, but only when I’m focused on the plentiful bounty of negative in my life.”
I finished up by telling him:
“It took me a long time to realize that I actually DO have a choice in what my outlook is. I’m not merely pretending that things are better than they are, but I’m learning everyday that things are actually better than I thought, and how to appreciate the multitude of good that exists in my life. And that’s tough when the pain is so constant. But I’m quite certain that I’m not alone in these feelings.”
So if you, like my friend or myself, are going through struggles – and hey, who isn’t? But if you are having a hard time keeping your troubles from defining your life, know first of all that you are by no means alone. While that in itself may not make you feel any better, it’s important to realize that we aren’t the only ones struggling with seemingly overwhelming issues because otherwise we tend to keep our focus on ourselves and our troubles. The more we keep this narrow perspective, the more miserable we become.
Something, at some point, HAS TO shake us out of our funk and make us look outside our own little miserable bubble. And what I believe is probably the best way to break ourselves out of that self-focusing misery is – yeah, you got it – shifting our focus onto helping others. See? We came full circle. What better way to get away from what we might think of as the miserable existence of our own troubles than to see how we might be able to improve someone else’s life? And in the process, we end up improving our own lives as well.
Now someone out there may say, “But you just don’t understand! You don’t know how awful I have it. You can’t just tell me to get past it and try to help someone else when you don’t know how bad my life is!” And I’ll grant you part of that. I don’t claim to know or understand what all you might be going through. But I CAN tell you without hesitation that your outlook is your choice. It doesn’t matter how bad you have it, your attitude does not have to be ruled by your circumstances. You CHOOSE whether or not to let that happen.
I have even known people who seemed to be almost addicted to their own misery. Seriously. There are those who have become so consumed by their bad circumstances that they actually purposely choose to wallow in them. Having something to constantly complain about can truly become like a drug. I’ve seen first hand how someone like that would turn every little thing into another tragic part of their own pitiful existence.
And I have to tell ya, it is exhausting to simply be near a person like that. So they end up feeling lonely on top of everything else, thinking no one cares about them, and it just continues to feed their self-absorbed life. The misery is their drug, and they don’t seem to want it to ever be taken away.
Allow me to qualify what I’m calling self-absorbed. I don’t mean selfish. Being selfish is something that you pretty much choose to be. But being self-absorbed in the sense that I’m referring to is more of a default position that occurs when we’re dealing with a lot of stuff in our lives. Let’s face it. It’s easy for anyone to become self-absorbed because you can never get away from your own issues, and they may indeed seem overwhelming. You are the one person you live with every day. You can’t escape yourself. Like the saying goes, “No matter where you go, there you are.” You don’t really choose that, rather you have to choose NOT to be controlled by it.
My friends, you DO NOT HAVE TO live a miserable life. However, you DO HAVE TO make the choice to live better. You CAN, and I know this from experience. No, everyone’s situation isn’t the same, but anyone CAN make that decision and start living a more positive, fulfilling, and abundant life.
If you’re willing to put in some effort and really want your life to improve, then the next thought you should have is, “Okay, tell me how.” If that’s you, keep listening… You’re going to need to refocus your outlook on life, adjust your attitude, and change your daily goals.
First of all, get rid of the idea that this life is all about you and your circumstances. When your focus is constantly on yourself, you will quickly become fixated on the negatives – the things you don’t have, the aches and pains, the crappy job, and so on. And yes, I learned this the hard way.
I’ve been married and divorced twice, and I went through the blame game. I’ve been in car accidents, and other injuries, and endured a lot of pain because of it. I’ve lost friends and family who died seemingly before their time. I’ve had to file bankruptcy twice. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. If at some point I didn’t get my focus off of me and how unfair life was treating me, I would be miserable all day long and absolutely loathe my life.
What did I do? I had to recognize the positive stuff. This required me to stop wallowing in self pity and realize that I was still very blessed. I dare say that I could never have done that without my relationship with God, a praying family, and a few good friends. But that support from God and the Holy Spirit was at the forefront of my recovery from every single trial or tragic circumstance that I faced. Leading us to the next thing…
Secondly, you need to allow yourself to be surrounded by a strong supportive group of people. I’m not saying that you have to necessarily start going to therapy or an actual support group. I’m talking about leaning on those who you know that truly care about you and your well being. It might be family. It might be one or two good friends. Or yes, it might be a pastor or spiritual leader.
For me, my church family was greatly instrumental in helping me get through the toughest of times. But that doesn’t just happen. You actually have to intentionally cultivate those kinds of relationships with people who can count on you as much as you can count on them. This takes a little time, but only a little, and the benefits are immeasurable. That brings us to the crux of the matter…
Thirdly, while investing time in REAL relationships with people, you need to begin thinking more about how you can help THEM than how they can help you. I have spoken repeatedly on my show about the vital importance of serving others. We were created to love one another, to care for and serve our fellow man. And doing so comes with its own reward. The more you do things for other people, the more fulfilling your life becomes, and the happier a person you will be. Don’t believe me? I challenge you to TRY IT and see for yourself.
Misery, of some sort, is something that we all are likely to experience during our lives. But we don’t have to live there. You can choose to live a better and more rewarding life. But you do have to make that choice. And know that you are not on your own. You can find help when you look in the right places.
Ask, seek, and knock. Change your perspective. Change your outlook. Change your attitude. And change your life, for the better. No one else can do it for you. You have to willingly and purposefully do it for yourself, and there are those who are ready and waiting to help – greatest of all being God Himself. And He cares more for you than anyone else ever will. What do you have to lose by giving Him a try?
Choose today to live a better life. I’m Stace Massengill, and I’m just saying.