Have you ever gone through a stressful time in your life and thought you were through with its “opportunities for growth,” but were soon proven wrong and hit with even more challenges? When in this situation, I often used to demand that God tell me what He wanted me to learn from it all, but all I got were more disasters. I think the part that frustrated me even more than the actual situation was that I couldn t (or wouldn t?) hear His message.
So, I decided to try out a new tactic and started acknowledging that these things were not being done to me, but that my attitude was creating these “opportunities for growth” and my soul could learn and advance because of them. I won t tell you I’m never frustrated, that I’ve never broken down, or that it doesn t hurt but I will tell you that I now feel a strange sense of serenity, a knowing that I will live through it all and be a better person because of it.
Wayne Miller, author of Legacy of the Heart, once said during an interview that if we could really be objective and know all the intimate parts of individuals, we d realize that every human suffers. He said the only uniqueness may be in the manner of the suffering. This certainly backed my belief that the main reason we take on this human form is to help our soul grow and that “suffering” is certainly a growing experience.
His comment reminded me of an ACA (12 Step) meeting I attended many years ago, during which my close friend and I volunteered to host the newcomers group. The usual format for this subgroup was to go around the room and share what had caused us old and new participants alike to seek out ACA. Some of the tales from the new people were true horror stories of how awful life could get. After the meeting, as my friend and I were walking to our cars, we both said we felt we didn t “deserve” to be there since our lives hadn t been that bad.
I mentioned this later to the counselor I was seeing and received a very enlightening response. She said, “So, as a child, you don t think going to bed every night, leaving for school, going off with friends, and not knowing if your dad would still be alive when you returned, was that bad?”
Hearing her say this made me realize how used to my “normal” I had become. Sure my dad was rushed in and out of the hospital all the time he had a chronic illness, what else could we expect? You get used to turning your schedules upside down, jumping when the phone rings at odd hours, sleeping in hospital waiting rooms, and so on. You learn to cope.
What I really experienced from her comment was that one person’s “norm” is someone else s concept of horror. As Miller said, we all suffer, it s just the manner of suffering that s unique. That may sound pretty defeatist, but the truth of the matter is that acceptance takes a potentially unbearable situation and turns it into something we can handle. If I know a situation is going to occur, I can plan for it line up my best resources (inner and outer). If I am broadsided, well, that s another case.
As I have seen with my challenges, it isn t easy but I no longer go off the deep end either. I always know God is watching over me, doing what is best for me not necessarily what I want, but what is best. With my change in attitude, I “see” things I didn’t see in the past. And as time goes by, I continue to understand many other lessons I learned from my past experiences. This too is acceptance knowing we don t have to get it all right now, that it will come when we are ready.
Miller also said during the interview that: “We re broken open not down we start to see, hear, and feel things other people, without our wounding experience, don t get.” Next time you are in a stressful situation where others are also involved, watch how they react. You’ll see those who feel picked on and those who are choosing to learn and grow. And if you are really observant, you’ll see a sense of serenity in those who chose to grow from their challenges.
Taking on this attitude that these things are not being done to me has also helped me better understand why “bad things happen to good people” why pain occurs in a world watched over by a caring God. You could almost say it isn t really real. After all, our time here on Earth isn’t all there is for our souls this is just one piece of something so much larger and grander. It is our human side that clings to this physical existence. But God knows this isn t it. It s we humans who haven t learned that yet, or at least don’t consistently feel it.
Yes, bad things happen. Our human side doesn t like it, but it isn t about the things it s about how we handle them and whether we choose to grow from them. Jobs are eliminated, people get sick, relationships end, cars get banged up. If I choose, I can walk away from all of these things. When I m alone with me, however, I can t leave it s just me and my higher self. It sure feels like the emphasis is best placed on the inner person, on being open to growth. After all, the outer world is only for now. Our souls, on the other hand, are forever!