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Mental Steps For Overcoming Life's Challenges

Sunday, August 04, 2019

It was perhaps one of the best weekends of her life. My mum and I had spent it in the company of good friends and I could see that she was refreshed. I was only 11 years old at the time and she a hard working single mother. Unfortunately the weekend was at an end, and she decided that in the early hours of Monday morning, we were to head back home. But nothing could prepare me for what was to come.

Even back then I had a strange sense about me; a sense that my time shared with my mother was going to be short-lived. I can't explain it, nor could I understand it to communicate it, but it was always there. As we headed out that morning, I soon fell asleep in the front-seat in the safety and security of my mother's presence. Suddenly I was awakened but caught up in a moment as if time itself stood still. In front of me where headlights of a car and then in that very instant things accelerated and then there was darkness.

I awoke again but this time the world had changed. I awoke in a intensive care unit of a hospital. And before me was one of my mother's brothers sobbing. I didn't have full consciousness. I remember him leaning over to me, struggling to communicate and saying that things were not looking good for my mother. I remember passing out and just before I did saying "...but God would take care of her". Sadly she died that day. That was only the beginning.....

Step 1: Accept the fact that life is filled with hardship

Don't fight it. Don't work around it. Embrace the fact that if not today, then surely some day in the future. This should not impact today nor should it be that cloud that follows us around, as it did Eeyore. But it should put our focus, our attention on today. On this moment, on this hour and on this very second. We should stop and smell the roses, see our family, hear our kids, taste life and touch the hearts of others.

A lack of acceptance here breeds bitterness, but also inherently a dissatisfaction with God. This is perhaps the ground where a vast majority of now atheists or agnostics have turned away from God, on the bed of suffering.

Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

Step 2: We need to find our joy in trial

Now there's a step worthy of the greatest giant. Joy in trial? There is no easy answer here. The bible doesn't give us a formula because we each have an individual relationship with God, based on who He is and who we are. But it does say, "count it all joy". That's not saying, suck it up and be joyful. On the contrary, count is the act of determining something. It's taking the trial and putting it into perspective. In South Africa at the moment there are many challenges, and economically times are very difficult, and while we could focus and complain on the strained months that go by where we just make do, it just won't help. Rather we should see, that against the vast backdrop of the country, I am one of the few people blessed to have a home, to be surrounded by a loving family and am able to provide food for my kids.

Perhaps you just found out I'm diabetic and now your entire lifestyle of eating is going to change. But yes, rather that then a fatal disease that only gave you a few days to live! Count is about taking time to put things into the truth of perspective. It's about re-framing, re-thinking and taking stock of life.

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations

Step 3: Understand trials are tests of your faith

Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

Faith is about your belief in what God has said. And we can be sure that when we plot any course in life, there is always friction and toil as we pursue it. Ever been struggling with exercise? So you make a commitment for the week ahead to focus on your health and start exercise Monday. But come Monday morning, it's raining, you had a rough night of sleep, the baby is irritable and the challenge of exercise is set before you and it's very real. Will you or won't you?

I know the example of exercise is a simplistic one but it outlines the very mechanics of life and laws of nature that God himself has sown into it's fabric. And if trials exist in life to test our true desire for our personal goals, why should it be any different for our personal walk with God. If you desire God and you pursue Him, the impending tests to come will show how true that desire is. This is the test of your relationship with Him.

Step 4: Trials are giving you the skills to cope with life

But let patience have her perfect work ......

Patience is a key word here, it's defined as "the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious". If we can be patient by holding fast and move to the center of the whirlwind, then and only then can we find peace.

If we were lost in a desert and we become annoyed about our situation or even frustrated about how we got here in the first place. Two things are going to happen. Firstly, we are going to inhibit our ability to think clearly and creatively, which is vital to any situation of stress. When our thinking's not clear we either dig our selves into a deeper hole or we create one. As you can imagine this is not an ideal situation when you in the desert and more often then not; you will end up more lost.

Secondly, we will be challenged by time. The compass may have said continue "North". And as we walk "North", it never seems to produce any hope. Time continues to move on, but there doesn't seem to be any salvation ahead. And this is where as people we start to break down. Mindfulness is the psychological process of heeding every moment going by and acknowledging it. This is hugely valuable and beneficial to being calm and tasting life. However when someone is impatient and frustrated by how long the situation is taking to be resolved. They practice "mindfulness" over the problem (okay an abused form) that's called worry. This is done in order to have some sense of control of that which they don't or can't. It's the endless analysis of the situation. It's the paralysis of problem analysis for which you have no solution for. And when you worry you lose the direction of the compass and you stop paying attention to it. And that compass is the word of God.

“Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere” Erma Bombeck

Step 5: You ARE fully equipped for the harshest trial, even if you don't think so.

But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing

Having this psychological understanding is crucial to enduring the storm. If you entering a race and you already feel like you going to lose, then that's exactly what's going to happen. But how do you attain this grit to know you going to come out ahead? How do you get a handle on the confidence to know you equipped for the harshest conditions in the desert? I believe the answer is life itself. Endure the first trial. Then endure the second. Then gain victory in the third. And with each trial you will be equipped, strengthened and perfected.

But is this then Schroedinger's cat? For how can you know you fully equipped when you haven't even begun. How can you be confident and equipped without first overcoming? That's the beauty of God. He knows you and provides what you need for where you at. At 11 years old I lost everything. The years of being 11 up until 17 were perhaps the hardest years of my life (well thus far). And yet God provided. Friends and family of my mother like angels would appear out of nowhere and provide grace, joy and hope. They weren't always there. But they would appear at sporadic times to allow me to rest by the juniper tree.

I don't know what challenges await me or what challenges face you, but we are equipped. We have the scars to prove it if we have lived any sort of life on this earth. Suffering falls on us all. But let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, for he is faithful that promised.

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