"Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional." M. Kathleen Casey
Life is full of choices: Water or soda? Which job to take? Which health plan to choose? Black shoes or brown? Jacket or sweater? Every day we make hundreds of small choices and a few big ones. There are things we have control over and things we don't. One of the biggest things we can control is our attitude. Not easy - to be sure - but ultimately we choose how we handle things.
We all have trials. Often the first thing we think of to do is pray that they go away. Please make my kids behave. Please make this tumor go away. Please make him love me. When those things don't happen, we sometimes blame God for not answering our prayers. We get angry. We give up.
Another way to look at these trials is that they are just that - trials. They are given to us as little gifts to help us become the people we need to become to be worthy to return to God. So instead of cursing the lemons, we can change our outlook and our attitude and make the proverbial lemonade. Instead of asking for an end to the storm, we can adjust our sails. Rather than praying for an end to our trials, we can embrace them and ask, "What would you have me learn from these?"
Tips on getting through it all:
1. Examine what is going on and why - then act on it
The kids are misbehaving. Is it because they are learning the art of negotiation? Let them fuss. Is it because they are attention-seeking because we have been super busy with other things? Maybe we should give them a little more of our time. Is it because there is something else bothering them? Problems at school? We need to ask and listen. But, rather than being miserable through it or praying it away, we ought to smile, learn and tell them we love them and wouldn't trade them for the world.
2. Accept what you cannot change
You receive a poor medical diagnosis. Now what? Do some research. Follow the doctor's advice. Maybe we need to learn reliance on God. It's OK to ask him to make the tumor go away. But if the answer is, "No," accept it and learn to live and love every moment. We can find joy in every moment in between. Sudden and unexpected unemployment? Maybe there's a better one around the corner. Maybe it's time for some further education or training. Perhaps we have a talent that is not being fulfilled. If the unemployment lasts beyond the prayers, we should make the most of our time and learn from it.
3. Remember that some trials are to teach us about ourselves
When Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac, it wasn't to prove to God how obedient he was. It was for Abraham to learn how obedient he was. God already knew him.
4. Other trails are to see how we will react
Sometimes a trial is given to us to see how we will handle it. Will we grouse or will we make the best of a bad situation? Will we turn our back on those we love, including God? Or, will we turn to him and to our circles of support and lean on them and, realizing that the trial probably affects more than just you, allow them to lean on us?
5. Keep the lines of communication open
Live worthy to receive the gift of promptings and pray always. When we pray, we need to remember it is a two-way conversation and take a moment to listen at the end. Also, we should remember to thank him for all that we do have before we lay out our problems to him.
6. Seek opportunities to serve
It may sound silly when we are in the midst of chaos to seek out someone else to serve, but it works. There is great peace found in service and a closeness to God that can't be felt elsewhere. We can always easily find someone worse off than we are and help them.
I think there are lessons I have missed learning because I prayed the trials away before I had a chance to learn from them. Now I try to remember to accept and ask, "What would you have me learn from this?"