Adversity comes. It is a part of the human condition. Adversity can make us or break us. It comes and it exposes us. Martin Luther King, Jr. is quoted as saying, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy." Personally, I try with all my might to live with as little uncontrolled, unsolicited challenge as possible, and controversy is a pariah that I give much planning and effort to avoid. But, they both come without invitation or warning. It is at these times that who I am is not only revealed but can also be defined.
So what are my responsibilities when bad things happen?
My response: The number one way I should respond is in hope. This, however, is not always easy for doers like me. Don't get me wrong, hope is not passive. It requires active participation in the struggle. The action, though, is less about taking control and making change happen. It's a wrestling match that takes place in the mind. I must wrestle with my thoughts to make them focused and faithful. I have to wrestle with my convictions and beliefs to get my bearings, to help me get centered. My ideas of how life should go rather than how it is going must be subdued in order for hope to rise rather than fear and doubt. In hope, there is victory long before anything changes. Paradoxically, victory comes from surrender, in not resisting the inevitable but embracing the challenge. A hopeful response announces and embraces the notion that this too shall pass while still in the ring.
My attitude: An attitude colored by gratitude for the parts of life that are good and beautiful helps me to be better rather than bitter. Instead of kicking rocks because adversity has come knocking on my door, I must to choose to dig in and persevere. It is a daily decision. During times of woe, it seems I have to choose moment by moment to keep my eyes on the good, rather than the mountains of reasons to be anxious and overwhelmed, even by the daily-ness of life during a storm. Attitude really is everything.
Letting people in: I cannot overcome alone. I have had friends who literally patch up my heart and my faith. Inboxes overflowing with words of encouragement, scriptures, prayers and silly selfies to make me smile have been like water flowing over my parched soul during difficulty. I have friends who call or show up at just the right time. They listen and share. They connect and empathize. They let me ugly cry and cry along. Vulnerability with the right people builds bridges that can offer support for the ages.
My faith: Faith is not a shield from desperate situations or desperate feelings and thoughts, but the nature of this walk requires a faithful response to trials and tests. I am assured that I will never walk alone as long as I walk with God. One of the many passages that gives me courage is:
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze. Isaiah 43:2, The Holy Bible
Disasters come in all forms. Some are physical and destroy swiftly such as storms or illnesses. Some disasters are emotional and seem as if they sweep over life all of a sudden with no signs of letting up. Some challenges are battles of the mind, and the struggle is to find the right perspective in order to effect a change of state if not a change of circumstance. Some tumult is completely outside of oneself and brought on as a consequence of living and loving within a community. I have faced all of these in some form throughout my four decades and am sure more will come.
This I know for sure: no matter what things may come, focusing on that which I am responsible for has helped me to endure adversity infinitely better than focusing on the struggle.