Trying to see the good in difficult situations.
I had a friend, but now she dropped me. I feel so down, lonely, and upset. Why did she do this to me?
I wanted to go to a certain university, and I applied Early Action, but they didn’t accept me, and I’m really discouraged – I can’t believe it. How do I deal with the disappointment?
My parents just told us they’re getting a divorce. My life is shattered, and I don’t know what to do.
Lauren Roth's Answer
Life is hard. God gives us all hardships of one sort or another to make us grow. To help us strengthen our emotional and spiritual muscles. Whatever difficulty you are going through right now, God has made that difficulty for you, to help you achieve what He sent your soul here to this earth to achieve this lifetime.
It’s understandable to feel discouraged, upset, devastated, down, shattered, lonely – it’s okay to feel your feelings. Not only is it okay, it’s important. It’s important to recognize, to be aware of, and to feel your feelings, even if they’re uncomfortable. People who try to avoid feeling feelings end up ingesting, injecting, imbibing, or otherwise using substances (whether it be alcohol, heroin, mall purchases, or even chocolate) to numb themselves – to freeze their humanity out of their heart. Or they shut off their emotions and can’t connect well to the people closest to them.
But we are human, we do have feelings, and if we try to avoid them, the one thing I can guarantee you is: you will be miserable. Avoiding your feelings will make you more miserable than the original event made you feel.
I had five interesting events happen today which speak to this topic of dealing with difficulty.
I dropped off my car at the mechanic’s, and the secretary told me the mechanic had had a stroke in his eye last week. The stroke completely obliterated vision in his left eye in a matter of seconds, and the doctor couldn’t get his vision back. A few minutes later, the mechanic himself walked in. Do you know that he was as cheerful as he’s ever been? I couldn’t believe it. I told him how sorry I was for the loss of his vision, and his response floored me: “Well, what are you gonna do? Stuff happens. You just have to go on.” I told him how amazed I was at his incredible attitude, and he said, “There’s nothing to do about it, so why be upset? And I’m just grateful the stroke didn’t happen in my brain; I could have died.”
Yes, we have to feel our feelings, even if they are uncomfortable. We have to recognize them and be aware of them and acknowledge them. But then we can choose to work at having a positive attitude.
Later that same day, I met a friend for lunch, and she reminded me that she’s been dealing with a major health issue. And she said a statement which, like the mechanic’s, blew me away. She said: “You know, I could be crying every night and feeling so sorry for myself that I’m sick. But I’m not. I’m just taking care of my family, loving my kids, living life. I’m grateful that God is giving me life right now.” She has a major challenge, and she is facing it with such an indomitable spirit.
Then I took my younger kids sledding. I parked on the side of the road, next to a steep hill covered with snow, and they and I laughed and laughed as they zoomed down the slope, ran up again, and careened down again. People passing by in their cars saw us having a great time and smiled. One older couple – they must have been in their late 80’s – gave us the thumbs up along with big smiles. I motioned for them to come sledding with us, and they got a big kick out of that, and were laughing together in their car at the idea of their speeding down the hill on a sled. A young African American woman, probably in her 20’s, yelled out her window, “Have fun, guys! That looks awesome!!”
And then there was the one. The one cranky grump. Everyone else who passed by saw the beauty and the aliveness and the joy in our sledding escapade. But this one guy was the scrooge of this story. He honked and grimaced and motioned to me angrily that my car was too close to the roadway. He didn’t see the fun, he didn’t see the happiness; he focused on the negative. Even if he were right (which he could have been – I’m not sure), he could have focused on the good, smiled and waved, and nicely said, “I think your car may be too close to the road.”
I’m willing to bet that he leads an unhappy life. Because even though we all are dealt difficult cards, even though we all have to go through trouble and travail, we can choose to focus on the good, the light, and the joy as we go through our difficulty, or we can choose to focus on the darkness, the negative, the bad. The choice is ours. And that choice determines the tone of our entire life.
The fourth incident, also today: I heard someone explaining that deciduous trees gather sap during these frigid winter months, and the sap that they gather is what allows them to bloom in the spring. The colder and longer the winter, the more abundantly the trees bloom in the spring. What an excellent metaphor for our lives. The difficult, dark, cold times concentrate our strength so that we can bloom and blossom more fully afterwards.
Difficult times aren’t “bad.” They are just difficult. They might even bring about a lot of good – if we respond to them properly. By acknowledging our feelings, feeling our feelings, then choosing to respond with strength, confidence, dignity, and a positive outlook.
Fifth: today someone told me that his father was a Holocaust survivor. He was the only one in his entire family who survived the war; his entire family was murdered. When this man was a young boy, his father used to come into his room and into his brother’s room three or four times EVERY NIGHT and just touch them, to make sure they were really there, and to make sure they were still breathing. That gave me perspective.
Yes, we go through difficulties. And we also have to keep perspective. We have to see the good, as well as the difficult, and we have to be grateful for all the good we have in our lives. Even though there is bitter with the sweet, the sweet is there, waiting for us to taste it.