No life is without its fair share of problems. Being a Christian, no matter how committed, doesn’t change that fact.
I got out of the hospital 12 days ago and I must say these 12 days on home health care and physical therapy have been much easier than the 23 days I spent in the hospital. But they haven’t been without problems: I push myself too hard and get achy muscles; my wonderful wife Sheila needs respite (although she denies it); my gout keeps flairing up; I miss driving. And, of course, there is always the nagging fear of another heart attack that is right on the edge of consciousness. I’m learning first hand the truth that it is not the problems that determine the state of your mind, it’s your attitude towards them. But I’m finding “attitude adjustment” much easier said than done. Here are some things I’ve learned so far while persevering through a major life challenge:
Maintaining your sense of humor when confronted with a problem automatically reduces the size of the problem. Giving into despondency is so easy so I try to cultivate the attitude of a warrior, to stand firm and not let my negative thoughts rule me. For me, that means laughing at my weakness sometimes. I find that I seem to gain strength when I remember times that make me laugh. Energy and vibrancy come easier in laughter than in tears.
Determination, stubborness if you prefer, like any other positive quality can be cultivated and increased. When I am feeling afraid of what the next step will be it strikes me in the pit of my stomach. When I get that feeling I know that it is time to pray until I have once again acknowledged that my future is better in God’s hands than in mine. Once this is done I ask God for the determination and resolve not to let the sheer magnitude of the long recovery ahead worry me. Practically I find that it helps to break it down into smaller tasks and to just focus on getting them done one at a time.
Resolve is maintained through inspiration. Scripture reading, inspirational stories, motivational movies, listening to other people tell their story all let us know we are not alone and that our problems are not peculiar to us. God has placed within the human spirit the quality of resolve. I try to surround myself with as much inspiration in the form of Scripture, books, music, movies (DVD’s from Catalyst are a great source of inspiration) and people as possible. On the other hand I try to remove myself from influences that discourage me from reaching my goal.
Inspiration comes from strange places some time. I found the movies “Whip it” and “9” inspirational in wildly different ways.
Self-doubt may be the greatest obstacle of all. After all I got myself into this mess so what makes me think I can really change? Negative self-talk like this is counter-productive so when it invades my thoughts I know I need to increase my faith in myself. However, even as a Shadowlander, I know that faith in myself is a dead end unless it is tied to faith in God to work His will through me. He gives me the power to conquer self-doubt but I have to accept it and put it to use. When a doubt returns I have learned to ask myself if this doubt really has any basis in reality; most of the time it does not. On a practical level even accomplishing some small task restores my faith that God has given me all that I need to follow through to the end. Self doubt often is really God doubt!
Paul records in II Corinthians 12:9 that in response to his appeal to have his weakness removed that God says “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
I have never been this weak. Physically, spiritually, emotionally weak. My weakness brings this passage to life for me: God’s grace is sufficient for me! His power is made perfect in my weakness! Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me!
I am alive because of the grace of God. I should have died 35 days ago but God miraculously rescued me. While my circumstance is pretty remarkable the same truth applies to us all: WE live because of God’s grace!
May God give us the grace to persevere and conquer all obstacles in His name and to His glory!