“Why does life feel so hard, challenging and difficult?” A question I get asked by many friends and acquaintances. Adversity holds the answer.
This same question can be posed an unending number of ways while stating the same thing, “I’m a victim” of; my job, my circumstances, bad luck, the economy, tragedy, misfortune, unfairness. What’s important to understand is that whatever challenge(s) you’re facing are actually an invitation into a richer life. Your challenges are invitations to your greatest moments.
If you want to “be a slave” then you should “think like a slave” and “surround yourself with slaves” as is discussed in The Richest Man in Babylon. If you want to be free from what is bringing you misery then something needs to change. You need to walk, talk and first think like a free person. Here’s the tough part to digest, it’s you that needs to change when your circumstances won’t, as they most often do not. No one is going to do the work for you and it’s the child inside of you that doesn’t want to change.
“It is your decisions, not your conditions” – Tony Robbins
In life, those who are depressed have shifted their focus from that which is within their control, to what they have no control over. Think for a moment of The Serenity Prayer, authored by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”
Hear the wisdom coming from Reinhold and see the invitation to courage and wisdom. You don’t discover an understanding as deep as this unless you go through enough pain over a long enough period of time. Reinhold is experienced in being a victim, yes he has learned to seek courage and wisdom, and invited us to do the same.
I’m here to tell you something much more challenging today. I pray you would have the courage to receive it. It is this: Adversity is your friend, teacher, and ally, not your enemy.
Let me explain….
One does not get stronger through comfort. One gets stronger only through adversity, through trials and testing. Only through weight that feels crushing, does one grow. The greater the adversity, the greater the return in strength. Comfort is deceiving. It leads us to believe that we desire it most when the thing we actually crave most is growth. Growth only comes through adversity.
Physically, we become strong under the weight of pressure. Resistance is key if strength is to be earned, the tearing of muscles to rebuild stronger ones. Yet in life, we often fear adversity and go to great lengths to avoid it. Spiritually, we know that we grow the most through trials and testing, which God prepares for us in advance. Yet we run far from the medicine that looks to keep us healthy and bring healing.
A life without adversity looks much like the muscles of an individual who does not use their legs and is confined to a wheel chair. If one starts out with an injury and ends up on bed rest, unable to move, they don’t just stop getting stronger, they immediately begin decaying as their muscles begin atrophying. What we don’t use over enough time withers away. Obstacles we don’t face never shape us.
We must learn to desire and embrace adversity, facing obstacles without frustration or a heart that complains in bitterness. Rather, we must come to face life’s challenges with joy in our hearts, with the expectation of growth, and excitement for the guaranteed return from our seasons in hardship. Do not desire comfort but desire adversity.
The epicurean lifestyle (pleasure seeking) is not that which we truly desire, but rather a stoic perspective (indifference to hardship). Should we have everything we want in life, would there be any reason to continue living? No… unless to find more hardship, beginning within the lives of those around us. Adversity is most rewarding when it is lifted off the shoulders of a friend, a stranger or, even better, an enemy. When you help others face adversity, you will forget your own difficulties, lose enemies and discover friends. Your hunger and appetite will grow towards that from which you once fled. You will make a difference and discover joy. You will become stronger.
Remember, that which you feed grows. Do you feed the slave or the free person?
Indulge in hardship. Desire adversity. When uncertain, take the path of most resistance.
“The obstacle is an advantage, not adversity. The enemy is any perception that prevents us from seeing this.” – Ryan Holiday
- Acknowledge 1 area you feel overwhelmed or defeated in
- Write 1 way this obstacle has the power to shape you for the better
- Write 1 thing you’ve learned from this challenge
- Close your eyes and visualize yourself overcoming this challenge with joy in your heart
- Verbalize your new perspective, “I am greater with (your obstacle and challenge) in my life than without.”
- “Because I am having to face (your obstacle and challenge) I will be greater, more experienced and wise than should I have had to live without.”
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I hope this helps you and brings you joy today. You are not just greater than your obstacles, you are better because of them.