No one disputes the fact that last year was difficult. For our family, as for many others, the hard stuff spilled over into the new year. That’s the way it is. Difficult life seasons don’t follow the calendar, advance with any sort of orderly progression, or resolve in the time frame of our choosing. While challenging to do, it’s possible to focus beyond current difficulties, sustain forward motion, and gain hope for tomorrow.
Keep the following in mind as you navigate difficulty:
It’s normal, but not realistic, to desire a carefree life. Hardship provides a counterpoint to times of ease and peace. If you never encounter hardship, you don’t appreciate times of calmness. The greatest life lessons spring from the hardest circumstances. Difficulty teaches appreciation for simple pleasures and makes us more aware of blessings.
Over 25 years ago, I participated in my first Spin (cycling) class. It was a 30-minute beginner class and the instructor told us first-timers to feel free to stop after 15 minutes. “It can’t be that hard,” I mumbled to myself. “I’m not a quitter.”
Ten minutes into the class my legs were wobbling, and I was pouring sweat and struggling to keep up. When the instructor gave the command to stand on the bike, I tried my best, but could not make my knees support my body while peddling. I felt stupid and wanted to quit.
My countenance must have conveyed my thoughts because the instructor came near and said, “Next time will be easier. Don’t give up.” The instructor was right. Over the years, my physical stamina, muscle strength, and endurance developed, and today, I can fly through a 50-minute class with confidence.
Weathering difficult life circumstances produces the same sort of endurance. What seems impossible and unendurable at the time strengthens you in ways that prepare you for the next challenge, if you don’t give up.
In the final days of preparing my childhood home to go on the market, I walked around the yard, sat by the pool, and reminisced. I looked at a tall oak tree and thought of the story my mother told of the days when the house was under construction. At that time, the tree looked more like an overgrown weed than a tree and tractors and trucks ran over it at will. Amazingly, the tree survived and grew tall and strong. For years, it shaded that side of the house from the afternoon sun and provided a home for the cardinals my mother dearly loved. The tree shouldn’t have lived. No one took precautions to protect it, yet it recovered from the ill treatment it received and flourished.
We have a choice in how we respond to hard circumstances. We can withdraw, complain, become bitter, and give up, or we can grow despite challenges.
The difficulties of life provide opportunity for growth, but only if we allow it. Growth occurs on many levels and often not without discomfort. Sometimes, we learn things about ourselves we’d rather not know. We see areas that need adjustments, emotionally, mentally, relationally, and spiritually, but we have to do the hard work that leads to growth. Later, we can use what we learn through difficult circumstances to encourage others in similar situations.
When I was five years old, I became dissatisfied with some element of my life. I don’t remember what, but it likely involved not getting to do something I wanted to do. The unfairness of the situation, in my 5-year-old point-of-view, warranted running away from home. I was resolute, until I tried to pack my tiny suitcase and realized all the things that were important to me wouldn’t fit. It was late in the day, darkness descending, and I decided I could stand the unfairness until the next day. After all, tomorrow might be better.
In recent weeks, I’ve wanted to run away from home. Too much pressure, difficulty, and stress from too many sources took me to the brink of too much to endure. But then, slowly, things began to improve. A week dawned when no one required at trip to the emergency room, my calendar was miraculously free of deadlines and appointments, it stopped raining, and the tension of an on-going heartache eased. Although struggles still existed, a little whisp of relief settled over me like a warm blanket on a cold day.
When difficult circumstances engulf you, don’t give up. Relief is on the horizon. While you wait, learn, find balance, develop endurance, and grow. View your situation from the perspective of moving through and beyond instead of feeling mired in hopelessness. Look for blessings. Give thanks for the difficulties because they prepare you for the next season, the next challenge, and the next victory.
“The little troubles we suffer now for a short time are making us ready for the great things God is going to give us forever.” 2 Corinthians 4:17 NLV
Candy Arrington is a writer, blogger, speaker, and freelance editor. She often writes on tough topics with a focus on moving beyond difficult life circumstances. Candy has written hundreds of articles, stories, and devotionals published by numerous outlets including: Inspiration.org, Arisedaily.com, CBN.com, Healthgrades.com, Care.com, Focus on the Family, NextAvenue.org, CountryLiving.com, and Writer’s Digest. Candy’s books include While You Wait: 7 Simple Truths for Seasons of Waiting (Bold Vision Books), When Your Aging Parent Needs Care (Harvest House), and AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B&H Publishing Group).
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