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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Things Always Work Out

I've been thinking about adversity and challenges lately. While hardships will always be a recurring part of our lives, I think the important thing is how we face them.  Everyone has their own set of problems.  The severity of our adversity tends to ebb and flow.  The truth is, we never really know what another person is struggling with.  But we all are struggling each day with something, rather big or small.  And if we think we have no struggles, then we have the struggle of pride, right?

Here are some of the ways I personally deal with challenges.

Have faith and hope, not fear and worry.  Our natural-man tendencies lead us to fear.  Having faith instead of fear is a choice and must be worked for.  Everyday.  Try to look at things optimistically instead of focusing on the negative.  Think about all the wonderful things in your life and all the wonderful things yet to be.  Don't allow yourself to mope, stay in bed, wallow in self-pity, or embrace depression.

Trust Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  They love us and wants to help us.  They will never abandon us.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), humility is key to learning to trust Heavenly Father.  I attempt to be one of those people who chooses to be humble, but it is really hard to keep pride out of our lives.  Challenges compel us to be humble and therefore should be valued.  Humility leads to trusting God and increasing faith.

Pray, pray, pray.  Pray for patience and to be faithful.  Pray for the Lord's will to be done.  I have the tendency to be bossy and have to be careful when I am praying that I don't try to tell the Lord exactly how to answer my prayers.  I am constantly facing the battle of "MY will be done" versus "THY will be done."  This concept has changed the way I pray.  Life experience has taught me that I don't have the full picture.  He does.  It seems logically smart to listen and be guided by someone who knows what I need and when and how I need it. 

Be grateful.  Keep a list (mental or tangible) of all your blessings.  Pray in gratitude for the blessings you do have. When you see all the good in your life, you realize how blessed you are.  The fact that we wake up alive and able each day is a gift.  All the good things we try to do in our lives pale in comparison to what the Lord does for us.  We can never repay Him for the gifts he has given, continues to give, and will give us.  Gratitude will chase away self-pity.

Don't compare yourself to others.  A wise woman once said, "Don't compare yourself to others - nearly always it will make you despondent."  We all have our personal set of challenges.  Our own adversity is tailor-made made to help us grow and progress.  As I look at other people's problems, generally, if I am really honest with myself, I would choose to keep my own.  Pride is essentially competitive in nature and comparison is the thief of joy.  No one has a perfect life.  Another thought is, don't compare your behind-the-scenes with everyone else's highlight reel.  We have no idea what others are going through (or have gone through) and other people don't know about all our "stuff."

Be happy.  Have fun!  Don't let problems suck the joy out of your life.  There will always be something to worry about so don't let your worries control your thoughts or take up your time.  Think happy, be happy!  Allow yourself to do things you enjoy and to enjoy experiences with others.

Serve others.  If we are struggling, it only feels worse when we focus on our problems all the time.  Get out there and serve others.  Everyone has stuff going on in their lives and if you look around, you can find opportunities to bless others' lives.  Serving will change your attitude for the better while helping spread joy to others.  But be careful not to mindlessly over-serve just to avoid facing things you're afraid of.  It needs to be a healthy balance.

Be obedient.  Keep the commandments. Take an honest look at your life.  If you are having an issue with a commandment, repent and get back on track.  We see it all the time in the scriptures - if you keep the commandments you will prosper.  Sure, people in the scriptures (and real life) don't have perfect lives just because they are obedient and faithful, but they do receive blessings.  Some blessings are easy to see, some are more internal and eternal in nature.  So keep the commandments and set yourself up to receive blessings.  Blessings might not be the magical solutions that you are hoping for, but the blessings you need will come.  Having peace and hope in your heart are often overlooked joys. Building character and compassion are blessings.  Gaining humility and increasing faith are blessings.  Some may be tempted during financial trials not to pay tithing.  Big mistake.  I heard a talk in church last month from a well-respected financial planner.  He said that of all the advice he could give, the best was to pay your tithing diligently.  Then things will work out. 

Study the scriptures.  It is hard not to feel empowered when you read the scriptures.  Look at all the challenges that prophets faced through the ages.  I am currently reading in the book of Alma in the Book of Mormon.  I look at all the hardships and heartbreak that people faced through wars, disobedience, pride, persecution, hunger, etc. and I am amazed at the way these people handled their challenges with faith.  Prophets get depressed and sad, they have challenges and struggles, but they turn right to the Lord for help and their prayers are always answered.  I am trying to study the scriptures on a deeper level and learn from the examples of those who came before me.  I also find great strength in studying the talks from General Conference (click HERE to read or listen to the talks).

Learn from others.  Listen to people when they share their experiences.  Observe how people deal with their own challenges.  When my husband was laid off several years ago, we had a friend from church share an experience with us.  At one point in his life, our friend had taken a job and relocated to another state.  When he got there, he was quickly laid off.  He was confused and sad because he had prayed about this decision and then the job didn't work out, but he trusted that things would work out.  Not long after, the person who was doing the work he would have done was killed in a terrible work-related accident.  All of a sudden it clicked in my mind as I heard this story.  I was reminded that Heavenly Father knows what we need more than we do.  He sees the big picture and we need to trust Him instead of trusting ourselves or trusting in the world.  When my husband was laid off again this year, I still struggled with worrying, but I reflected on this story and realized that there is always a reason for everything.

Don't be a whiner.  I have friends who seem to give all their time and attention to the negative things in their lives.  You know what I'm talking about.  If you need a prime example of this, just go on Facebook and look around and you'll find the complainers pretty fast (I usually don't even waste my time giving attention to those posts).  Just listening to and watching these friends can be exhausting and depressing so I can't imagine willingly trapping myself in such negativity.  It is okay to be concerned about things, but don't wreck your life by focusing on the bad stuff.  Plus, no one wants to be around or listen to someone who is constantly complaining or bemoaning their lot in life.  It is a recipe to losing friends.  Be positive even if it is painful at first.

Remember your "Best Worst Experiences."  All of us have these experiences.  You know, the ones that you think may kill you (physically, emotionally, spiritually, etc.) but you survive to tell the tale.  I have named these my "Best Worst Experiences."  After the trial has passed and you realize how much it helped you grow, you can begin to see the point and value of the experience.  The challenge fundamentally changed you for the better. You've become stronger, more compassionate, more faithful, more grateful, etc.  Keep a list of these experiences and treasure them.  And if you're in the midst of one of the worst experiences in your life, be comforted in knowing that someday that experience will become one of the Best Worst Experiences that enabled you to become the person you are meant to be.

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