Hello, Friends! I know that a lot of people have been sick around here or going through some hard times. You know, our lives go through cycles of bad times and good times. It’s almost like the seasons of the year. Just like the season, remember that spring always comes after winter. If you are having a hard time, keep on going. Even if it’s one step at a time; one foot in front of the other, keep on going.
Story of a Man Who Had to Start Again
I heard a story once from a man that started with nothing (as most of us do when we start out) and finally managed to save a little money each week to spend on boards to build a house. He had a small foundation poured, and every week he bought just a few boards or supplies and worked on his house with his own two hands. He built it board by board, nail by nail. Finally, he had a very small house for his wife and two babies that they had poured their hearts into. It was not quite finished yet, but they were living in it. However, since it was not completely finished they had no insurance on it.
He awoke one night in a panic out of a sound sleep. Something was wrong. There was a strange roar and he was sweating. It was hot. With a start, he realized the house was burning. He went for one baby and his wife went to the other, and they heard the walls falling behind them as they fled.
After getting the children to the safety of their grandparent’s house, the couple came back. The fire department had been called, but too late. The wife sat under a cedar tree and watched the house burn and she wept great tears and said “Oh, my house! my house!”
One of the firefighters came up to the husband and asked: “What are you going to do now?” He took a deep breath and said, “The concrete slab is still there. I’m going to come back tomorrow with a shovel and start again.”
That was rock bottom. But you see the thing is about rock bottom that it forms a firm and strong foundation. The valleys in our lives are not very fun, but do you know where the Lily of the Valley grows? It grows in the valley. The mountain tops in our lives are wonderful, but I have never seen a mountain yet that I did not have to climb to get on top of. The view from the mountaintop is wonderful, but what makes it really pretty is having been in the valley first. It gives us an appreciation for the mountaintop.
Another thing that I want to point out is that the man did not give up. There is a word for that; it’s called “tenacious.” The dictionary definition is “persistent in maintaining, adhering to, or seeking something valued or desired” (www.merriam-webster.com) When something means a lot to you, you have to keep after it. Don’t quit. Be persistent.
We see our lives as a straight line from point A to point B. That’s not how it actually goes. There are all kinds of hills, valleys, and curves that we can’t foresee. We get through them though. We just have to keep our eyes focused on the goal. The man in the story’s goal was to build a house for his wife and kids. The next day, he did come back with a shovel and he cleared what he could. As the coals slowly died, he found what he knew was underneath: the strong and sure foundation he had poured. He still had his wife, he still had his kids, he still had the land, and he had a clean start.
Were they devastated? Yes, I’m sure they were, but they KEPT GOING. Nail by nail, board by board, he rebuilt that house. One day, when he was working on the roof, he heard someone drive up. Then, they climbed up the ladder and he looked over and saw his neighbor. Without a word, his neighbor started helping him nail shingles on to the roof. He was not as alone as he thought.
It took time, and I’m sure there were days that he wanted to quit or days that he did not see how it was possibly going to come together, but little by little it did. Sometimes life throws some strong storms at us. Sometimes we feel like we are being tossed around by that storm and can’t see a way out. But every storm, no matter how strong, runs out of rain. And we are promised that we are not alone in that storm.
God is always with us, and he cares and understands our trials and difficulties. What’s more, is that we also have people in our lives that love us and that also care. Sometimes, it may be like the neighbor in the story; they are simply there for us. Other times it may be someone to talk to and/or give us emotional support, or they may offer us support in other ways. As a couple, my husband and I have found that when we CHOOSE to draw closer together and lean on one another during hard times, it strengthens our relationship. The other alternative is to lash out against one another in blame and anger. That destroys relationships.
If you do not have a spouse to lean on, then look to your family and your friends. Your true friends will be there for you. Your family will as well. They may not always support you in the way that you want to be supported, but remember that hard times in our lives are growing experiences as well. Think “What can I learn from this?” or “How is this teaching me to be a better person?”
Believe in yourself. Encourage yourself with some positive self-talk. Tell yourself, “I can do this! Yes, I may have messed up, or it may simply be that bad things happen to good people sometimes, but I’m going to make the best of this and learn from it. I am going to take those lessons and move on and use this experience to grow as a person.”
If all else fails, or it feels like you are making no progress on your own, then I encourage you to seek professional help. This is not a sign of weakness. Everyone needs help with something at some point. A licensed counsellor is trained to help you sort through your emotions and help you get into a state that you feel like you can put your life back together again. They are sworn to confidentiality, and you will have a safe environment to talk things out.
If you really look at it and examine it, odds are that you will find a lesson somewhere. It may be that you made some sort of really bad choice. Learn from that. Don’t make the same bad choice again. It could just be that crap happens. Learn from that too. Try to self-examine and ask yourself how you can grow from this experience. Instead of bitterness and anger, how can you use the situation to improve your patience and your love for others?
Often times, anger is a shield. We do not allow ourselves to feel what hurt us; instead, we get angry! It’s safer, and it does not hurt as much. If you are really angry, stop and ask yourself why? Ask yourself if you are really angry, or if you are angry to shield yourself from the hurt. It’s ok to hurt, and it’s ok to cry sometimes. The trick is that you can’t wallow in it. You have to process that hurt, and move on. Learn from it, but don’t dwell on it. Look for the good.
Gratitude and Forgiveness
Practice gratitude. Try to do something nice for someone else. Yes, that may sound odd, but when you do, it takes the focus off of you and on to someone else. I am a CHAMPION over-thinker. I will dwell on things and have them all figured out and picked apart and by the end of it, I will have made the whole thing out to be tons more complicated than it actually is. You know who that helps? No one. Most of all, it makes me good and miserable for a time.
The other key is to practice forgiveness. I know this one is HARD, especially when someone has wronged you. When we practice forgiveness, we let it go. We keep the lesson, but we forgive the person and do not harbor resentment against them. When we do not forgive, it is like a hard ball of resentment that grows inside our hearts. The other person does not suffer from this. The person that we really hurt is ourselves and sometimes those close to us as well. When you hold a grudge, the grudge is really hurting you. Letting it go may be hard, but it will give you a sense of peace and rest.
When you are going through a hard time, and you feel like you have hit rock bottom, look at it as an opportunity to grow and to learn. Trust in the Lord. Pray a lot. Lean on your family and friends for support. Recognize that this is not the end of your story. This is the beginning on which to start the rest of your life. Use it as a foundation that is both strong and sure.
Most of all know that things will get better. Mountains have to be climbed. One does not just teleport up to the top. That would be nice, yes, but the valleys in our lives teach us the value of the view from the mountaintop. They remind us to appreciate what we have. Hang in there. It will get better. After winter comes spring, and the sun always comes out after a storm. Our lives are no different. Don’t quit.