Tuesday, March 6, 2012

In Spite of Trials

With billions and billions of people on earth (or who have been, or ever will be on the earth), and the truly infinite variety of experiences that make up each life, trials are a common factor. They come in many forms, but the bottom line is the same for everyone - they make life hard.

So much of our life is spent avoiding trials: we do homework so we get good grades so we get good jobs so we have financial security so we don't go hungry or naked; we socialize with people who have common interests so we have acquaintances and friends so we feel connected and don't feel lonely; we eat a variety of foods and do things to get out of the house so we stay relatively healthy and don't get bored. Sometimes, though, these negative things happen anyway, without our desire or consent. That can affect our self-esteem - because a common emotional trap is the idea that "if I were better, this wouldn't be happening" - and place limitations on achieving our goals. Those are things that no one enjoys, and their association with trying circumstances colors those circumstances with a negative light.

That's been my attitude for most of my life. But it started shifting in the past year or so. When I've taken time to think about it, I've come to be genuinely grateful for the trials I have. Believe me, it's not because the trials in my life have gotten any easier; the gratitude has come because I like the changes I see in myself that only could have come because of going through the trial. It's been a very interesting conundrum to simultaneously acknowledge both "This is really hard right now" and "I'm glad this is happening right now"; when those two words occur together when having a hard time, it's usually along the lines of "It's really hard to be glad right now." 

For me, it comes down to this. Trials make life more challenging by giving us a situation where we have to work harder to achieve our goals and feel good about ourselves. Learning how to work hard is a valuable lesson that benefits us through the rest of our lives, and learning to become resilient to discouragement gives us the tools to be happy in a wider range of situations. Learning requires us to be humble, open to new ideas, patient with ourselves, and accepting of help from others. From trials, we learn how to learn, we gain more potential for empathy with others, and we gain increasing insight into how capable we really are. While I don't always appreciate or enjoy the hard situations I find myself in, I do appreciate the end results of the journey. That makes trials a little more bearable for me, and I can then have faith that things will work out for the best. 

The only way I can get through trials is by having faith in Jesus Christ. The quicker I remember that He's there, that He loves me, and that He knows what He's doing, the quicker I can feel at peace, be patient, and be happy. My feelings tell me that it is impossible to survive this life without happiness or hope, and those both come from Christ. Because of Christ, I know that when I mess up, I have another chance without being condemned to failure. Because of Christ, I know that there is more to life than what is immediately in front of my face. Because of Christ, I know I'll always have a friend who understands me perfectly, and is perfectly suited to help. Everything good in my life goes back to Jesus Christ. I'm grateful for Him and all He's done for me. Because of Christ, I have the opportunity and certitude of being happy in spite of trials, if I choose to listen to Him. 

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