I recently heard a super frustrated person say, “Life’s not fair!”
That person is spot on. Life’s not fair. And we must stop expecting it to be fair because that’s not reality. That’s actually a distorted view of the human condition (see John 16:33). The sooner we accept this reality (that life’s not fair), the better off we’ll be in overcoming pain, suffering, opposition, and disappointment. No one gets a free pass on those things. No one. It’s only a matter of time until life knocks you down and kicks you in the face repeatedly.
Many of us are under the illusion that we’re in control of so many things in life, but the truth is … we have little to no control over a large portion of what happens to us. The only thing we truly have control over is our response to what happens to us!
Holocaust survivor, Viktor E. Frankl, says it best, “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation … The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”
If you’ve never read his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, you need to. If you don’t like reading, then get the audio book. It’s one of the most insightful and inspiring books I’ve ever read.
Take a few moments and really ponder his words … “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation … The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”
Those words are powerful because of who wrote them. Frankl is not a mere philosopher or some sort of self-help guru who gave a TED Talk. He’s a man who courageously survived multiple Nazi concentration camps. From personal experience, he knew the dark depths of pain and suffering in ways that most of us never will (I’m telling you, read the book).
I’ve said it numerous times, but it’s worth saying again because so many of us need the reminder (including myself) … At times, life is going to suck (really bad)! That’s reality, and I believe the best thing we can do with that reality is embrace the suck, trust God through it, and make the most of it.
What good does all the fear, anxiety, anger, bitterness, envy, and complaining over life’s “unfairness” do for us? In my experience, it makes our situation worse. Over the last few years, when I’ve responded to my pain and suffering with fear, anxiety, anger, bitterness, envy, and/or complaining … it’s totally made me feel worse (mentally, emotionally, and even physically). It’s so easy to go down that rabbit hole. I hate it.
On the other hand, when I choose to do the unnatural thing and embrace the suck, trust God through it, and make the most of it … there’s an inner peace that can mysteriously show up. Don’t misunderstand me … my pain and problems don’t magically disappear when I embrace the suck, trust God through it, and make the most of it. I’m just saying that there have been times that I’ve experienced an inner peace when I’ve done those three things. It’s like I go from drowning in the crashing waves to riding them.
I recently experienced this mysterious inner peace when I was enjoying an evening on my bathroom floor (sarcasm). I was actually moaning in pain and considering heading to the ER. My anxiety was majorly elevated because of unresolved abdominal and rib pain that’s been my thorn in the flesh for over two months now. My Lyme Doc says it could be the result of a parasitic infection known as Babesia. Or it could be another type of parasite? Or it could be the fact that we are aggressively treating Lyme Disease with some hardcore homeopathic meds that can cause painful “herx reactions.” Who the heck knows?
All I do know is that in that moment on the bathroom floor, I chose to embrace the suck, trust God through it, and make the most of it. I began thanking God for every good and painful thing in my life that I could think of and I told Him that I trust Him through this pain. I then reminded myself that no matter what happens to me, I’m eternally secure in His omnipotent hands (see John 10:28-29). Then I began praying for several of my friends who are also physically and mentally suffering from Lyme Disease and co-infections (Sam, Dennis, Taco, and Hannah). I then decided to text two of them to see how they were doing. That’s what I mean by making the most of the suck. I turned my suck (pain and suffering) into something good.
It’s weird how it works, but when I get the attention off of my pain and suffering and I check on someone else who is suffering, it reduces my emotional pain and can even ease my physical pain. My chronic pain and suffering has definitely made me a more compassionate person (this is something I have majorly lacked in my Christian life).
Before you go thinking, “Wow, what a super saint Jason is!” Don’t. Because I’m not. Showing genuine concern and compassion without any selfish motive is not how I typically roll. I’m not as godly as I have often portrayed myself. Over the last year, I have become painfully aware of this fact.
Here’s some hardcore truth about me … negative, discouraging, and dark thoughts often invade my mind when I’m in the midst of pain and suffering, and sometimes they win the battle. I don’t always think “positive” or “godly” thoughts when all Hell is breaking loose. But let’s get real … no one does! It’s taken me a long time, but I’m slowly learning to let my negative, discouraging, and dark thoughts come and go. I don’t have to allow them to become permanent fixtures in my mind. God has given me the power to replace them with better thoughts (see Philippians 4:8 and 4:13). It’s not always easy. It doesn’t come natural. I have to work at it continually.
One last thing that I’ve been learning that I wanted to share with you is that I’m also really trying to stop expecting everyone to treat me the way that I want to be treated. That’s also a distorted view of the human condition. The Master simply tells us to treat others the way that we want them to treat us (see Matthew 7:12). That’s the code we’re supposed to live by. Just do that and expect nothing in return. Sounds so simple, but it’s not. I’ve really been trying to lower my expectations of how people should treat me (even with my family and friends). I believe that’s going to help my life go a whole lot better. Just focus on treating them the way I want to be treated without expecting anything in return. Period.
That’s all I got for now. Enjoy your weekend.
Battling with you,