Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. For many of you it will be a tough day. You are struggling with family or marital stress that makes being thankful a true challenge. Instead of answering a specific question this week, I want to ask you to answer two questions (at the end) that will help you learn how make lemonade when life gives you a sack of lemons.
Ecclesiastes 3 is one of my favorite passages. It says:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven;
a time to be born and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
Each of you are in different seasons and in each season it takes time to move through it and heal. But somewhere in our suffering we’ll need to rise out of the rubble in order to cope with what’s happening to us both internally and externally.
This is where we have a say in what kind of story we are writing about our lives. We don’t always understand that we play a very significant role in our own healing process. We can’t always control what happens to us. But from this point on, if we want to mature and become healthy people we must decide what to do with what happens to us.
This is the most important part of our story.
How we choose to respond to our adversity not only reveals our character, it shapes it (tweet that).
Psychologists who study how people cope with traumatic life events provide overwhelming evidence that individuals who are somehow able to find the positive in the negative and work toward a solution, or squeeze some kind of meaning out of their difficulty do better physically, emotionally, and relationally than those who are not able to do these things.
Studies have shown that people who look for the good, even in tough situations grow stronger and become more resilient and even feel happier with themselves and life than those who don’t.
Mining for diamonds is hard, ugly work. They are not easily seen embedded in the mud and muck of the earth. In the same way, God says that he gives us treasures in darkness but we really have to look for them (Isaiah 45:3). By discovering, even creating good things in the middle of our traumas and trials, we can experience pockets of joy, peace and purpose.
While chained up in prison, the apostle Paul wrote,
I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly (Philippians 1:12-13).
Paul never minimized human suffering. He experienced enormous trials in his ministry and talked honestly about the pain of them, yet he didn’t get stuck in the pit of despair. Looking for a higher purpose or meaning in his suffering helped Paul emotionally climb out ( 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 & 6-18). Paul understood the power of our mental attitude (CORE STRENGTH) on our emotional well being, especially in difficult life circumstances.
When going through a difficult time, here are two questions you can ask yourself that will help you make lemonade out of lemons …
- What strengths have I discovered in myself, or have had the opportunity to develop because of what I’m going through?
- What lessons have I learned that will help me be a better, stronger, kinder more godly person?
Paul reminds us, “We rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character hope” (Romans 5:3-4).
This Thanksgiving sit down and write out the answers to these two questions. Give it thought and take your time. Then thank God that you are not being overcome by evil, but you are learning to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).
Friends, please share with us some of the strengths you have gained or lessons you have learned in your destructive marriage?
PS If you’re not able to answer these questions you may be interested in taking my Introduction to Building CORE strength class which is being offered in December. Click here for more information. It's my most popular class and I would love to have you be part of it.