Sometimes it is hard for me to talk about trials for a few reasons. My trials are never as hard as someone else’s, I am very blessed, and I am somehow fearful that if I talk about trials then the Lord will see fit that it is time to face some. This is not to say that I am without my own trials but they seem insignificant in comparison to what others have dealt with However, we all have trials that we will endure and we ought to learn to lean in and endure it well.
I understand that these past couple of years have been trying for many people. I have seen it directly through my wife who is an ICU nurse. She has been faced with the sorrow and frustration of dying patients.
It can become an easy thing to get lost in our trials, become depressed, or seek to blame something or someone. We tend to want to deflect our trials. Trials can either strengthen our resolve through working through them or, they can break us and cause us to give up. I have experienced both of these in my life and have found that the first is always the best, especially long-term. By learning to use these obstacles of life as opportunities for growth we become greater and stronger.
One of the most powerful ways to not just make it through a trying time but to grow through it is to have a practice of gratitude.
We live in a world of abundance. If I need a vegetable for dinner tonight, I simply drive down to the store and get one. There is no need to plow, plant, and reap. The harvest is already done. We might have felt it a little more when we wanted toilet paper but the shelves were empty. Traditionally, how simple it is to get what we want.
This level of abundance can cause us to take for granted all that we have.
A couple of weeks ago, we were in a small town church after a ski trip. We were grateful for two feet of snow because of what it did for the ski experience. When we heard from some of the congregation members, they were immensely grateful because of what it would do for their crops and herds. When we are removed from it we might forget about how much of a blessing these seemingly small things can be. What made a great ski weekend for us would make a much more bearable summer for these farmers and ranchers.
By recognizing the gifts of abundance we can have an enhanced perspective in the middle of our trials. I like to keep a gratitude journal as well as thank God through prayer. By going beyond just the mental note, we can find hope as well as strength to endure well.
If you are not doing it already, start your gratitude journal today.
A while back, I wrote about- the Japanese art of Forest Bathing. To me, this is a great way to step away and find peace through my trials.
Last spring I injured my back. It gradually worsened until I ended up spending most of November lying on the floor. Winters can be tough for many but for me, they are a great time to get outside with skis or snowshoes or to just hike on tracked-out trails. Because of my back issue, I could not do anything. After some cortisone and other medications I am able to function. It is still a trial but far less severe.
We are blessed to live by the Lakefront, That has been good for me. I can get out and walk through the trees and enjoy the birds. I have also been trying to hike in the foothills more. This form of Forest Bathing has allowed me to find the connection that I have been missing. There is something about these natural spaces.
Now go spend some time in the trees.
Sometimes when we are suffering we tend to turn to self and think woe is me. That can be among our greatest mistakes. As we look outside ourselves and seek opportunities to serve we can overcome the doubt, depression, and loneliness of what we are going through.
Service brings joy. We learn to stop being focused on ourselves and the problems that we are going through. By helping someone else ease their burdens we find ours made lighter. By helping others we find gratitude, love, patience, and power to overcome.
Set yourself a plan on how you can help someone this week.
Be Patient but Progressing
As we work to overcome our trials or learn to live a great life with them, we need to develop patience. This kind of patience is not the idle kind that keeps us on the sidelines. In his book, The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday shares the story,
There is an old Zen story about a king whose people had grown soft and entitled. Dissatisfied with this state of affairs, he hoped to teach them a lesson. His plan was simple: He would place a large boulder in the middle of the main road, completely blocking entry into the city. He would then hide nearby and observe their reactions.
How would they respond? Would they band together to remove it? Or would they get discouraged, quit and return home?
With growing disappointment, the king watched as subject after subject came to this impediment and turned away. Or, at best tried halfheartedly before giving up. Many openly complained or cursed the king or fortune or bemoaned the inconvenience, but none managed to do anything about it.
After several days, a lone peasant came along on his way into town. He did not turn away. instead he strained and strained, trying to push it out of the way. Then an idea came to him: He scrambled into the nearby woods to find something he could use for leverage. Finally returned with a large branch he had crafted into a lever and deployed it to dislodge the massive rock from the road.
Beneath the rock were a purse of gold coins and a note from the king, which said:
“The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.”
–– Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle is the Way
In this story, the peasant was not sitting and waiting. He didn’t simply pray and hope. He went to work. Gordon B. Hinckley used to say, “pray like it is all up to God then get up and go to work like it is all up to you”. We should have hope and exercise faith but we must put in the work.
As we work patiently we will grow through the trial. Our trial might last days, weeks, years, or the remainder of our lives bit how we deal with it will define what we become. Let us choose to not be defined by our trials but become greater because of them.