Every morning, we wake up to intense challenges. Some of us cope with anger or abandonment. Others face exhaustion or exclusion. Still others fight infirmity or indifference. These challenges are unique to each of us. But no matter what our hardships look like, they stretch us to the breaking point and make it a struggle to be our very best selves.
I know what that’s like. My family carries a burden of physical and emotional abuse that stretches across generations. As a child, I woke up to the fear that I would be belittled, yelled at, and hit. As an adult, I wake up to the fear that I will perpetuate the abusive patterns that are all I’ve ever known.
But I am determined to be a more engaged, inspired spouse than what I have witnessed. I will clench my teeth against every angry impulse and be a gentler, mature parent than what I have experienced. And when I am not, I will apologize. Promptly. Every time.
My experiences have turned me into a fighter, even if it means fighting myself.
My greatest ally in this fight has been my own personal conversion to the gospel of Christ. I learned when I was a teenager that I matter to God and that he had an important and fulfilling work for me to do, and that I would need to always stay close to him in order to accomplish it. My conversion has shaped my life into one I am astonished that I have the privilege of living.
That’s not to say that my convictions have never wavered. There have been times, several times, when I have gotten distracted and grown selfish and given up on myself a little. But I always come back to that pivotal adolescent moment when I discovered that a loving Heavenly Father had a work for me to do. I always have to acknowledge that maybe I’m not really doing my part in it. If I was, wouldn’t I see how God has been doing his part all along?
I adore the God I worship; knowing full well how many times he has saved me from despair, anger and my own stubborn stupidity. That is why I have always tried to take responsibility for my part of this father-daughter relationship. I have experienced the truth that as we take responsibility for finding strength, for finding God and finding safe places in storms, we will find them. The following list reflects how to get there, and stay there day-to-day.
Get in a daily habit of prayer, study and meditation
This is the single most powerful tool for conversion that I can think of. When I bring a question to God, like “How can I not be so angry?” and then read and think about it, I alwayscome away with something that uplifts and empowers me. Doing this every day adds up to a lifetime of inspiration and strength, especially because it becomes easier over time to live the principles you learn.
Make decisions ahead of time so you don’t risk making the wrong one under pressure
Poor choices can set us back on our progression, so it’s up to us to prevent them. Consider what your weaknesses are and the situations that make it really easy to give in to them. Decide now what you can do to make those circumstances more favorable to making good choices.
Get used to telling yourself “no.”
As I mentioned, it’s easy to get distracted from our end goal of true conversion. The better we get at saying no to these distractions, the less we want them to begin with and the better we are at sticking to our convictions. That is one very good reason to avoid addiction because it traps us into saying yes to something we don’t really want.
Have patience while you’re waiting to see the results of your efforts
When I focus too much on “doing my part,” it’s easy to feel like I haven’t done enough and never will. That’s when I try to remind myself that changing my heart and giving it fully to God just takes time. Don’t undermine your foundation by demanding the outcome right away.
Understand that every challenge can strengthen our characters
Some hardship doesn’t go away, whether that’s a chronic illness, a wayward child or a deeply ingrained character flaw. However, when we actively choose humility and fearlessness, these challenges become opportunities. God can change us for the better if we endure hardship well.
Get help in wise ways
Sometimes we need encouragement, role models or just more information. We can conscientiously surround ourselves with good influences that will help us become more firm in our faith.
Conversion is certainly a gift from God. Our very nature changes so that we don’t want the things we wanted before; something that would be impossible without him. That said, we have a distinct role in acquiring and maintaining that kind of commitment. We seek God and cultivate self-discipline. Simply put, we pray like everything depends on God, and then work like everything depends on us.