Archive for the ‘Trials’ Category

Shortcut to Happiness

Sunday, December 2nd, 2018

Anyone can “consider it pure joy” when everything goes well. The time when such an attitude really counts is when “you face trials of many kinds.” Happy people can have just as many problems as unhappy ones. The difference is that unhappy people hate having problems, whereas happy people are content to work through their problems, finding joy in spite of and even because of them. Joy doesn’t result from avoiding suffering but from moving through it. If there’s a shortcut to happiness, it’s through trials.

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 111

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, November 30, 2018

Gifts of Failure

Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

No, life is not about winning. It is about trying, about participating, about striving, about becoming the best we can be, not the best by someone else’s measure. That’s what failure does for us. It teaches us about ourselves: our energy level, our endurance level, what we’re naturally good at and what we’re not, what we like and what we don’t, what it means to do something just for the fun of it. Failure doesn’t mean that we cannot compete; it doesn’t mean not to give everything we have to doing what we do. It does mean that just because we play we don’t have to win. The playing is the thing.

Most of all, it gives us the permission to go through life without public certification. Failure enables us to take risks as we grow until we find where we really fit, where we can not only succeed, but also enjoy the challenges of life as well.

No, winning is not everything. But we will never really know that until we lose a few and discover that the world does not end when we lose. Now it is just a matter of trying again somewhere else, perhaps. Now we’re free to be unnoticed. We’re free to do what we like best, what is needed most, what will bring us to the most we can be: the most happy, the most competent, the most satisfied with who we are and what we do. That means, of course, that we have to make choices about what we want to do and why we want to do it.

— Joan Chittister, Between the Dark and the Daylight, p. 57-58

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, October 29, 2018

Praying for Problems

Monday, October 29th, 2018

When it gets unbearable, it’s worth remembering: These are the problems that you didn’t know you asked for when you were praying for those blessings.

— Chidera Eggerue, What a Time to Be Alone

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, October 29, 2018

Singing in the Midst of Evil

Sunday, August 5th, 2018

Singing in the midst of evil is what it means to be disciples. Like Mary Magdalene, the reason we can stand and weep and listen for Jesus is because we, like Mary, are bearers of resurrection, we are made new. On the third day, Jesus rose again, and we do not need to be afraid. To sing to God amidst sorrow is to defiantly proclaim, like Mary Magdalene did to the apostles, and like my friend Don did at Dylan Klebold’s funeral, that death is not the final word. To defiantly say, once again, that a light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot, will not, shall not overcome it. And so, evil be damned, because even as we go to the grave, still we make our song alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

— Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix, p. 201

[Photo: Great Falls, Virginia, June 14, 2013]

Good from Bad Things

Thursday, July 26th, 2018

This is a critical distinction, and one of the most important things to understand about how adversity can make you stronger. The science of post-traumatic growth doesn’t say that there is anything inherently good about suffering. Nor does it say that every traumatic event leads to growth. When any good comes from suffering, the source of that growth resides in you — your strengths, your values, and how you choose to respond to adversity. It does not belong to the trauma.

— Kelly McGonigal, The Upside of Stress, p. 201

Photo: Staffa Island, Scotland, July 13, 2003

Enemy of Joy

Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

The greatest enemy of joy is fear. The quickest way to send your joy packing is to become afraid that it will leave or that something will happen to take it away. What a pitiful way to live! Nothing can be deeply enjoyed for fear it will soon be gone. Paradoxically, however, the way to hold on to joy is not to cling to it. When trouble arises and I say, “Oh no, my joy is gone!” — then it will be gone. If instead I relax my grip on joy and release it to adversity, accepting whatever life may bring, then nothing can intimidate me and steal my joy. Joy dwells in an open hand.

What are we so afraid of? Fundamentally our fear is not just of losing battles but of having to fight at all. Overcome the reluctance to fight, and the fear of losing dissipates.

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 75

[Photo: Ruines de l’Oedenbourg, France, September 28, 1997]

Heavenward Door on the Latch

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

God loves not sorrow, yet rejoices to see a man sorrowful, for in his sorrow man leaves his heavenward door on the latch, and God can enter to help him.

— George MacDonald, The Hope of the Gospel, p. 98

[Photo: Loch Ness, Scotland, July 10, 2003]

More Life and Freedom

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

I really hate that Jesus’ Gospel is so much about death. I hate it. I wish that Jesus’ message was, Follow me and all your dreams of cash and prizes will come true; follow me and you’ll have free liposuction and winning lotto tickets for life. But obviously he’s not like that. Jesus says, “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” He says, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first,” and infuriating things like “if you seek to find your life you will lose it but those who lose their life will find it.” And every single time I die to something — my notions of my own specialness, my plans and desires for something to be a very particular way — every single time I fight it and yet every single time I discover more life and more freedom than if I had gotten what I wanted.

— Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix, p. 186-187

[Photo: Hug Point, Oregon, November 10, 2015]

Good at Stress

Saturday, June 2nd, 2018

Embracing stress is an act of bravery, one that requires choosing meaning over avoiding discomfort.

This is what it means to be good at stress. It’s not about being untouched by adversity or unruffled by difficulties. It’s about allowing stress to awaken in you these core human strengths of courage, connection, and growth. Whether you are looking at resilience in overworked executives or war-torn communities, the same themes emerge. People who are good at stress allow themselves to be changed by the experience of stress. They maintain a basic sense of trust in themselves and a connection to something bigger than themselves. They also find ways to make meaning out of suffering. To be good at stress is not to avoid stress, but to play an active role in how stress transforms you.

— Kelly McGonigal, The Upside of Stress, p. 94

[Photo: Dunluce Castle, Ireland, July 2001]

Your Everest

Thursday, May 24th, 2018

Everyone has an Everest. Whether it’s a climb you chose, or a circumstance you find yourself in, you’re in the middle of an important journey. Can you imagine a climber scaling the wall of ice at Everest’s Lhotse Face and saying, “This is such a hassle”? Or spending the first night in the mountain’s “death zone” and thinking, “I don’t need this stress”? The climber knows the context of his stress. It has personal meaning to him; he has chosen it. You are most liable to feel like a victim of the stress in your life when you forget the context the stress is unfolding in. “Just another cold, dark night on the side of Everest” is a way to remember the paradox of stress. The most meaningful challenges in your life will come with a few dark nights.

The biggest problem with trying to avoid stress is how it changes the way we view our lives, and ourselves. Anything in life that causes stress starts to look like a problem. If you experience stress at work, you think there’s something wrong with your job. If you experience stress in your marriage, you think there’s something wrong with your relationship. If you experience stress as a parent, you think there’s something wrong with your parenting (or your kids). If trying to make a change is stressful, you think there’s something wrong with your goal.

When you think life should be less stressful, feeling stressed can also seem like a sign that you are inadequate: If you were strong enough, smart enough, or good enough, then you wouldn’t be stressed. Stress becomes a sign of personal failure rather than evidence that you are human. This kind of thinking explains, in part, why viewing stress as harmful increases the risk of depression. When you’re in this mindset, you’re more likely to feel overwhelmed and hopeless.

Choosing to see the connection between stress and meaning can free you from the nagging sense that there is something wrong with your life or that you are inadequate to the challenges you face. Even if not every frustrating moment feels full of purpose, stress and meaning are inextricably connected in the larger context of your life. When you take this view, life doesn’t become less stressful, but it can become more meaningful.

Kelly McGonigal, The Upside of Stress, p. 86-87

[Photo: Berg Goldeck, above Spittal an der Drau, Austria, July 29, 1998]