One morning, I woke up with terrible neck and back pain. It was 5:30am and the only thing I wanted to do was go back to sleep. I had a boatload of worries and concerns to face that day, in addition to getting the kids to school, so sleeping-in was not an option. After saying my prayers and getting some coffee, I dragged my grumpy self to the couch and turned on the television only to see fiery images of a horrible explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas. The damage and death that came to that little town was unspeakable. Suddenly, I had nothing to complain about. I was alive, and so were my family members.
And just days before that, we, as a nation, all had to endure the atrocity of the Boston Marathon bombing. If you think about it, our country has been through so much in just a few short months… the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in December, the Boston Marathon bombing and the West, Texas explosion in this 3rd week of April. This would be a lot to endure in an entire year, let alone all in the span of four months. And despite these tragedies, we have examples everywhere of how the American spirit perseveres and overcomes.
And in addition to all the problems occurring on our national stage, we all have our personal worries and concerns to deal with. The economy, health issues, personal loss, the loneliness of single living… We all struggle with issues day-to-day. If you’re divorced or widowed, you’ve got a double dose, especially if you are a single parent working to rebuild a new life in your post divorce/death years. I can commiserate with you, because I’ve been there. There are two things that helped me get through my post-divorce years and all the other tribulations in my life:
1. Reminding myself that, as miserable as I was, I was still alive.
2. Reminding myself that the phase I was in was temporary. It wouldn’t always be this way.
No matter how difficult things were, if I kept these points in mind, I was able to find a reason to hope and a way to move forward. I hadn’t died from my divorce (although at times, it felt like I would). I had survived it, which meant every day I woke up and took a breath equaled “possibility.” The only thing to do next was move forward, and since I had no idea what the day would bring, I had something to look forward to. That made it easy to remind myself that the situation I was in was temporary. Not only that, but it was up to me to move myself into another phase. No one else could or would do it for me.
After that, I learned to count my blessings. My car may have broken down and I was late getting to work, but I still had a job and I had friends to help me out and give me a ride. Some people have neither. My child might be throwing a tantrum, but I still had a child to love and care for. Some parents would give the world to experience that tantrum.
And from there, I learned to look outside of myself and not only consider others who were suffering worse tragedies than I, but find a way to forget myself and focus on them. Setting aside my own concerns to help someone else might have been hard at first, but it doesn’t take long to realize your actions have healing properties for you as well as the ones you’re helping. Maybe that’s God’s entire reason for allowing us to suffer?
The New Testament offers wonderful insight to these problems of heartache and suffering:
…let us exult, too, in our hardships, understanding that hardship develops perseverance, and perseverance develops a tested character, something that gives us hope, and a hope which will not let us down, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us (Romans 5: 3-5).
Every generation from the beginning of time has suffered. I know that everything I have in my life that I consider precious came about as a result of suffering. And in the wake of all that our country has endured these last four months, I know there will be a renewed strength among us and we will see and hear great stories of heroism and selflessness. Let us learn from our personal struggles and move past them, using the strength we glean for the good of others.
Count on my prayers for you each day, and feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.