Right now many people feel that things are going bad. We started with Covid 19 and then moved to a man being killed. Then we had riots throughout the US. The summer hit and we had brutal fires and huge storms that left 100,000’s of people homeless. Then we had the election and more riots. People are struggling right. They are feeling unheard, marginalized, taken advantage of.
This reminds me of a story. The only survivor of a shipwreck washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He prayed feverishly for God to rescue him, and every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming. Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect him from the elements, and to store his few possessions. But then one day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, the smoke rolling up to the sky. The worst had happened; everything was lost. He was stung with grief and anger. “God, how could you do this to me!” he cried.
Early the next day, however, he was awakened by the sound of a ship that was approaching the island. It had come to rescue him. “How did you know I was here?” asked the weary man of his rescuers. “We saw your smoke signal,” they replied. It is easy to get discouraged when things are going bad. But we shouldn’t lose heart, because God is at work in our lives, even in the midst of pain and suffering. Remember next time your little hut is burning to the ground- – it just may be a smoke signal that summons the grace of God.
But the problem with this is we only look for the first part of the story. We look at the part when we are shipwrecked, we concentrate at the fact that no one has saved us. We focus on the part that our hut burned to the ground. We might give small acknowledgement to the fact that we were then rescued but then we examine the next steps that when we returned our spouse had moved on, and we lost our job and were pronounced dead having been gone so long. The thing is that life is sandwiched between growth opportunities. Growth opportunities can be described as difficulties. But growth is what brings happiness. It is what this life is about.
How do we retell the story? How do you look only at the things that happen as steps rather than the end?
Be mindful of the language you use. Often our language attaches value, it involves judgement. It assigns the experience into a binary code. Either “good” or “bad.’ But that takes away all of the intricacies that are involved with and experiences. It produces emotions.
Shift the focus from what happened to what can be learned. What did the experience bring you? What did you learn while being stranded on the Island? Maybe you learned that you can take care of yourself. Maybe that you can do hard things.
Start a story about where this experience can take you to in the future. Because the hut burned down or the transmission blew up I can now experience (fill in the blank)
So I now know that things happen, that they can cause growth and they catapult me into the next experience. They are neither good nor bad, they just are. I am much happier and less stressed looking at things this way. My experiences are just that, they are experiences. My stories are my stories. I can’t always choose my experiences but I can always choose my stories.
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