Hello friends. Life is not always easy, in fact, it is OFTEN not easy, nor should it be. We grow through challenges. Moments of weakness ultimately serve to strengthen us. Seeing others rise through personal challenges inspires us. Good things can come through rough times. Challenges are opportunities for personal growth.
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Why is This Happening To Me?!
Tough times are not fun. But they are a part of life. There is not one person I know that has not gone through one or more. If you know of such a person, they are most likely very young. We cannot control life. As much as we would like to and as much as we try, it simply cannot be done. You may have the illusion of control for a time, but something will come along and shatter that illusion.
You can either worry about the unavoidable, or you can trust yourself to handle it. Do not let worry rob you of your happiness. Sometimes difficulties come as a result of our choices. Other times, they just happen. Regardless of why they happen, it helps to remember that challenges are opportunities for personal growth.
Challenges as the Result of Choices
Each day we are confronted by tons of choices. Some of them are quite easy like “What will I wear today?” while some of them are harder like “Should I move across the nation for a new job?” Ultimately, our choices have a huge impact on our lives. You can likely trace where you are today as a whole, to choices that you made a long time ago. For myself, I decided to NOT marry the loser I was dating before my husband and moved on. I said “yes” and “I do” to my husband. I had a career based on the choice of college degrees I made, and we are living in the house that we decided to purchase. Each of these was a choice that we had control over.
Obviously, not all of our choices will work out perfectly. Had we tried to get everything that we have today all at once, there would have been no way we could have paid for everything! We would have been in serious financial difficulty. If some of your choices did not work out quite the way you hoped it does not mean all is lost.
The good thing about choices is that we can always choose to work and change the circumstances that we are in. Often, changes take hard work, patience, and commitment, but they are possible. Challenges are opportunities for personal growth, so it is important to look forward to the future instead of lamenting the mistakes of yesterday.
Challenges as the Result of the Unexpected
Sometimes we have to deal with unexpected things. Sometimes they are minor, sometimes they are not so minor. These unexpected challenges may be something like the unexpected death of a loved one that leaves your heart with a gaping hole that is slow to heal. Or it could be an act of nature like your house getting struck by lightning. These are the type of things that you have to trust in your own ability to handle life in general. For me, I find it helpful to remember that while it may be a temporary pain in the tail, it will pass and things will get better.
Challenges as a Result of Circumstances
I guess technically this might belong under “choices.” Sometimes we find ourselves in circumstances that are challenging and it seems there is no way out. Sometimes the Lord uses these circumstances to challenge us and help us grow as a people. They may be the result of a choice that was one that will lead you to greater good farther down the road.
When we first decided to start taking care of our elderly relative the initial adjustment was tough. Sometimes it is still tough because I am “juggling” more “balls.” However, I knew from the start that this challenge would be an opportunity for personal growth. I still feel like the experience challenges me, but I can already tell that some good is coming out of it. My patience has improved. I can better deal with my emotions and those of everyone around me. Just like all of us, I am a work in progress.
The Lord refines us as silver and gold. (Zechariah 13:9) I did not realize what this meant until I saw an article about how a silversmith refines silver. To refine silver, the silversmith puts it in the hottest part of the fire and lets the fire burn away all the impurities. He sits and watches it the whole time, and pulls it out at exactly the right time. I love that metaphor and it brings me great comfort to know that even though the fires of life may be burning around me, my Lord is watching me and is with me the whole time. He will pull me out when I am ready.
Ways to Use Challenges as an Opportunity for Personal Growth
When I go through a rough time, one of the first things it should inspire me to do is to start not only seeking a closer relationship with God but chasing it! I will admit, sometimes it takes me far too long to do this. I’m so stubborn I keep on thinking, “It’s ok, I can handle this.” And I rely on my own strength. It’s usually not until things keep going wrong and I have more stress on my shoulders than I feel I can bear, that I give up. It should not be like that. After so many times, you would think I would learn my lesson and start praying first. I guess I still need to work on that.
In life, a lesson is repeated until it is learned. I’m not saying that I don’t pray during the start of those rough times, I do. However, it seems when my back is against the wall and I have nowhere left to turn, I pray harder, I read more and I seek comfort. Like the child that runs and has no time to hug his mother, until he falls and scrapes his knee. Then he comes as fast as he can run to Mom. When we are hurting is the time that we seek comfort the most.
Like the small child, the more we run to God for comfort when we are hurting, the more that relationship is built. Hopefully, that means that we want to please him more and do what is right. But even if we don’t, just like that child’s mother (or Father) God is always there for us and he loves his children unconditionally. It comforts me greatly to know that there is no way that I can mess up more than God can fix. No matter how bad things get, I know that it’s going to be alright, and it’s going to work out.
There is nothing like losing something that is precious to you to make you feel grateful for what you already have. Gratitude is somewhat of a popular word right now, but it is by no means a new word. Gratitude has been around for a very long time. I don’t think it’s ever been a secret, but it is very easily overlooked.
So often the most precious things for us are what we take for granted because they are always there. Practice it daily, and you will get better at it. When you are going through a life challenge, one of the ways to grow from that challenge is to write out a list of things that you are grateful for. It shifts your mindset from what you have lost, or what you are going through to the blessings in your life that are always there.
Open to Receiving Acts of Kindness, which Develops your Compassion
When we do random acts of kindness, it makes us feel good inside. What is easily forgotten is how much it can mean to the person receiving it. I wrote a whole post on this some time back. I was down and out; sad and overwhelmed. A friend of mine who knew nothing about it called me out of the blue one day and asked if she could come over. She brought a beautiful box of baked goods with a note that said “Just Because ?” Those 2 simple words brought tears to my eyes. It told me “I care about you. You are not alone. I am your friend.” It also felt like an answered prayer to something I had prayed about the night before. It was exactly the encouragement that I needed.
If I had not been going through a challenging time, then I would not have appreciated it nearly as much. My reaction to the same random act of kindness would have been much different. I would have opened the box, read the note, and said “That’s really sweet. Thank you.” And probably would have given her a hug. I would have enjoyed the same baked goods but without nearly as much gratitude. (Gratitude makes cookies taste oh, so much better, by the way!)
Receiving random acts of kindness keeps us humble and it also helps to develop our compassion. I will not rewrite the random acts of kindness post, but that act deeply affected me, and when the opportunity came time to pass it on, I leaped at the chance.
Opportunities for Personal Growth
For me, nothing makes me stop and examine myself more than going through a challenge. When I’m not comfortable, I want things to change and I want them to change NOW! Sometimes you have to be a bit uncomfortable in order to be inspired to change something or even to realize that something needs to change. When I am very comfortable sitting in a chair, it’s hard to find the motivation to get up and do something. Our lives are like that too. If they are too comfortable all the time, we likely would never try anything new or challenge ourselves. This is a very good reason to view challenges as opportunities for personal growth.
Strategies for getting through Challenging Times
Before I started this blog post I was down and out. I felt like I was being challenged. Now that I am nearing the end of it, I am feeling much better. Writing is very therapeutic. It helps us express our thoughts and feelings and it just feels good to get it out. When I read back over some challenging times in my life, I see that I was in the process of growing into a better person. It also helped that I knew how the story ended. It’s going to be alright. Sometimes in the middle of the story, it’s hard to see, but that’s always the end result. We grow through challenges.
Taking Care of Ourselves
When you are exhausted emotionally, it makes physical self-care very important. You will deal with things much better if your physical body is cared for. That means to take that long bath or shower. Make sure that you get enough sleep. Exercise (yes, exercise. I know, I know, but it will make you feel better because of those endorphins it releases at the end.) Do all those things that you know that you should do but that are all too easy to neglect when you are feeling down.
No, you are not allowed to stop these because the road has gotten a bit rocky. If anything, this is the time that you need them the most. You are beautiful. You are capable. (C’mon now, say them with me!) You are strong. You can handle whatever life throws at you. Even if you think you can’t, that’s why all that stuff about praying and drawing closer to God was in the first part. You don’t think you got all this strength on your own, did you? 😛 When you think you cannot go on, He will carry you through the hardest parts.
Talk to a Friend
Sometimes, we just need to know that we are not alone. There may not be anything that anyone else can do to correct the situation, but it helps to know that you are not alone. It helps to know that people are praying for you and that they care.
Schedule a Break
You may not be able to swing a week at Disney World, but that does not mean that you can’t schedule yourself a break or a bit of alone time. This one certainly helps me. It helps me sort through my thoughts and feelings, or even just stop thinking about the challenge at hand. It can be as refreshing as a cool drink of water and a cool breeze on a hot day.
We all go through challenges in life. Viewing challenges as an opportunity for personal growth help me to get through them, and I hope that this viewpoint will encourage you as well. It is often very easy to overlook the bigger picture of how what you are facing can help you grow, but for me, it helps to put it in perspective. I hope that you find some of the strategies helpful and that you can find the answers that you are looking for. Please remember, it is going to be alright. Things will work out in the end.
Change is a constant in our lives. Sometimes it is the only constant. Just because things change, does not always mean that the change will be bad. Look for how your challenge can help you with your own personal growth. What lesson can you learn from what you are going through? The school of hard knocks is not a lot of fun to attend, but it is always very educational, even if what you learn is what NOT to do next time. Keep going, and you will push through to the other side. As Gary Allen says, “Every Storm Runs Out of Rain.”