Life’s Struggles

Life isn’t a stroll through the park, as you may have noticed.

In fact, if one problem or another doesn’t drag you into some kind of struggle fairly regularly–or at least, from time to time–you’re not engaged in the process, and life won’t end up well.

Avoiding problems, then, isn’t the answer. It’s in our struggles that we build wisdom and emotional muscles. In short, it’s how we grow.

That said, problems can sink us unless we know some rules of successful struggling. So here are a few things to keep in mind.

• Limit your losses
If you decide you’ll never get over whatever it is you’re going through, you won’t. Even if your world has pretty much crashed-and-burned, set your heart and mind on getting to the other side of the swamp you’re in, then have at it.

• Don’t take prisoners
And whatever you do, don’t even think about insisting the “bad guys” grovel at your feet begging for forgiveness. First off, it won’t happen, and you’ll live in disappointment.

Worse, you keep yourself engaged in the problem and never make it to the other side. In the end, the prisoner is you.

Disciples of the easy-way-out insist you forgive anybody and everybody for whatever their transgressions, and you will be set free. In a word, no.

For starters, God says repentance comes before forgiveness. No repentance means no forgiveness. We all have to be responsible for our actions and their consequences. And it’s not just a matter of saying “I’m sorry.”

Repentance, according to the Bible, includes making things right–correcting gossip you spread, restoring money you took, admitting dishonesties, the list goes on.

Understanding the cost of repentance can keep people on the straight and narrow so they don’t have to publicly humiliate themselves by seeking it.

Yes, publicly. Private prayers are good, of course, but not nearly enough when you’ve damaged somebody. Unless people who hurt you have honestly tried to make amends, don’t believe their claim that God forgave them.

In most struggles, doers of evil aren’t sorry and don’t lift even a pinky finger to make things right. What then?

• Let it go and move on
When you’re left holding your bag of pain, with not even an insincere apology anywhere on the horizon, there’s only one thing to do: Give the whole mess to God.

Let God keep track of the forgiveness business. After all, the Bible says God always judges fairly in these circumstances (1 Peter 2:23), so you just let it go, knowing that God will do what’s right.

If it helps, you might reflect on the Scripture that says God is a refining fire. You’re not asking God to go easy; you’re asking for justice.

God is really, really good at justice. Not as fast as we’d like sometimes, but sure.

The trick is not to take the mess back. “On the other hand, God, I just thought of another thing I could try, so I’ll take it from here.” Which puts you smack dab right back in the middle of it all.

So, give it back to God again. And keep giving it back until you stop thinking you know better.

And when you finally let it go, words and actions intended to hurt you will lose a whole lot of their power.

• Use the rubble
Every struggle coughs up materials to build a sturdy foundation for change. And once you let God take care of retaliation, vengeance or whatever else is appropriate, you free yourself up to benefit from the wisdom and understanding left behind in the rubble.

It’s time to build.

Check out Bette’s books here.

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