Journey to Faith

Journey to Faith
Follow your own path

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Ignite the Power Within Step 4: 5 Strategies for Conquering Setbacks

Are you going through a tough time? Adversity strikes us all, often when we least expect it. On the way to seeing our goals and dreams come true, there are setbacks along the way. I like to think of these as potholes in the road of life. They come in different forms: relationship breakups, job loss, and health issues to name a few. They jolt us out of our complacency and sometimes side-track us for awhile. Although most of us would probably prefer a smoother life, I believe the reality is that problems are part and parcel of our personal growth journey and that they really are gifts in disguise. So what to do to when we hit a pothole in life?

1.  Realize life was not meant to be easy.
If that was the case, what would be the point? Sit on a beach somewhere and drink margaritas day in and day out? Spend our lives partying? What would we learn? How would we grow? Would we be motivated to help others? I think not. The pains we experience in life are, as author Rick Warren says in his book, "The Purpose-Driven Life" delivered to us for a purpose.

Take Jesus' life, for example. Talk about suffering. He reminded us that  "In this life you will have trials, but take heart, for I have overcome." (John 16:33). Life was not a bed of roses for him because he had a great destiny to fulfill and so do we.

2. Learn to surrender to what is.
 Accept the fact that we don't always understand why things happen in our lives: an illness strikes, we lose our job, a friend or loved one betrays us. A old friend of mine has a saying "It is what it is". In other words, accept things the way they are.

Now I'm not saying don't do anything to try and change a situation, but some situations are not within our control to change. We can't change other people. We can't change the events of life, but we can change ourselves and how we respond to these. We each have been dealt a hand for a reason, probably only known by God, and we have to live out our lives the best we can so we can be reasonably happy.

3. Choose how to respond to adversity.
When we complain and bemoan about the trials of life, this only magnifies them and makes us more miserable. We ruminate at night about the what ifs and how we are going to handle a situation. We become fearful and irritable.  We expend just as much, if not more energy, being anxious and fretful. This energy could be channeled into positive solutions. The way we choose to respond to adversity is paramount to overcoming life's challenges.

4. Cultivate a positive attitude.
Uncertainty, loss, and overwhelm can make us fearful, but we don't have to let fear overtake us. What we believe about ourselves and, more importantly, what we believe about the existence of a loving and all-powerful God have a lot to do with how we manage the challenges that come at us.

As a single parent who went through an ugly divorce, I faced overwhelm, loss, and uncertainty quite often. I chose to look through the lens of faith rather than fear. Faith pleases God and He will step into our situation when trust Him to work out our problems.

5. Look for the lesson.
Trials are stepping stones to our destiny and I believe every trial has a lesson for us to learn. It is up to us to find that lesson because this is the blessing. Difficult circumstances are meant to refine us, purify us, and make us more like God. When we learn the lesson before us and make the appropriate changes, we propel ourselves to the next level.

Sometimes it takes us a while to figure out what the lesson is. I've noticed that God often presents the same lesson in multiple areas of my life at the same time. It's like "She's not getting it. Let me give it to her over here." As an ex-teacher I can understand this. Here's a quick personal story.

In the late seventies, during the disco era, I was teaching hustle to a class of thirty some adults. I noticed most of the couples grasped the step I was showing them, but a few of them were struggling. As I gave them personal attention, it dawned on me that not everyone learns in the same way, so I explained the step using different terms until there was the "Aha!" moment every teacher lives for.

In the same way, our souls have lessons to learn. This is part of the healing from the wounds of the past. Our parents try to teach us some things. We can learn from them, but they can only teach us what they know. We do ourselves a disservice if we rebel against what they try to teach us but rest assured, God will continue the process throughout our lives.

If we want more peace and harmony during the tough times, it is important to:
1) realize life is not easy
2) surrender to what is
3) choose how to respond to the adversity 
4) have faith 
5) look for the lesson

When we realize trials have purpose, it makes them easier to get through.

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Stay tuned for more on hanging in there when the going gets tough and you will see your dreams come true!

Keep looking up!