(Written for Hope Magazine)
Heartbreaks, loss, addictions, abandonment, broken bones, sickness, disappointments.
We all have experienced suffering and challenges to some degree. It is a part of life – and a great reminder that we are indeed alive.
In those ‘breaking’ moments, we all have the same decision to make. How will we react? Will we look UP or down? Will we breakthrough and overcome the challenge, or dwell in the mess? The actions to those questions define how the rest of the story unfolds.
It wasn’t until Stephanie handed me a ‘shirt and Sharpie’ that I began reflecting on the power of a story. When we communicate certain ‘chapters’ to another person, insight about one’s character is revealed. An element of vulnerability comes with being authentic. Yet, when we get ‘real’ about ourselves with others, we discover freedom while others find hope.
What kind of story brings hope to others? Is it not the one that shows victory over a battle?
So, how do we conquer life’s challenges and struggles?
The best thing we can do is pray, praise God and rejoice. Sounds a little crazy, huh?
We rejoice, because as Romans 3:3-5 says “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame… “
I challenge you, the next time you are faced with a ‘less than ideal’ situation, think on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, excellent and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:4-8). Start praising God and trusting Him to guide you. He makes all things good. There is something powerful about praising Him in a storm that will cover you in peace and pour out favor and blessings upon you. (That blessing could look like a complete stranger, sharing a story about how they overcame the same thing. ;) )
It only takes one time to choose a “rise above” attitude. Once you see how quickly opportunities pop up, circumstances change and/or you feel an overwhelming sense of peace, you will never want to waste another minute dwelling on a negative, hopeless thought. Thinking with a hopeful mindset becomes a way of life. Faith is what they call it.
When someone else is suffering – be a light of encouragement. It’s time we get real with each other. Listen to people’s hurts. Then, speak Life and Truth into their situation. Your words have power (Proverbs 18:21). That means getting rid of the negative “me too” and “you think that’s bad…” clubs. Change it to the “praise God” club.
So what will you write on your Hope shirt? It takes courage to step out and wear your ‘story’ on your back – especially if you are getting real about being broken.
That is where chapters belong though. On our backs, behind us. We are called to press forward (Philippians 3:12-13). Let your mess be your message….your test, your testimony…and your scars, your brightest stars.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:4-8)