By Dick Innes
You’ve no doubt heard about the bricklayer who applied for time off work for the following reason. “When I got to the building, I found that the hurricane had knocked off some bricks around the top so I climbed onto the roof and rigged up a beam with a pulley and hoisted a couple of barrels full of bricks to the top of the building.
“Then I went to the bottom, and holding onto the line, I began releasing it. Unfortunately, the barrel of bricks was much heavier than I was and before I knew what was happening, the barrel started coming down, jerking me up. I decided to hang on since I was too far off the ground by then to jump.
About halfway up, I met the barrel of bricks coming down fast. I received a hard blow on my shoulder. I then continued to the top, banging my head against the beam and getting my fingers pinched and jammed in the pulley. When the barrel hit the ground hard, it burst its bottom allowing the bricks to spill out. I was now heavier than the barrel, so I started down again at high speed. Halfway down I met the barrel coming up—fast—and received severe injuries to my chin. When I hit the ground, I landed on the pile of spilled bricks, getting several painful cuts and bruises. At this point, I must have lost my presence of mind because I let go of my grip on the line. The barrel came down fast, giving me another blow on my head, putting me in the hospital. I respectfully request sick leave.”
Everybody has times when things go wrong. But when troubles come, it’s not what happens to us, but how we react, that counts. Troubles destroy some people. Others they make. The difference lies in our attitude, being realistic, acceptance, and what we do about resolving our problems.
Attitude. If we respond to our difficulties positively, determined with God’s help to overcome, we will. If we react negatively with a defeated attitude, we will be beaten, no matter how brilliantly are.
As Zig Ziglar Says in his book, See You at the Top, “Attitude is much more important than aptitude. . . . Despite the overwhelming evidence that supports the importance of the right mental attitude, our entire educational system from kindergarten through graduate school virtually ignores this vital factor in our life. Ninety percent of our education is directed at acquiring facts with only ten percent of our education aimed at our “feelings” - or attitudes.
“These figures are truly incredible when we realize that our ‘thinking’ brain is only ten percent as large as our “feeling” brain. A study by Harvard University revealed that 85 percent of the reasons for success, accomplishments, promotions, etc. were because of our attitudes and only fifteen percent because of our technical expertise.”
Ziglar also pointed out that William James, the father of American psychology, stated that the most important discovery of our time is that we can alter our lives by altering our attitudes.
Being realistic is also critical in determining the outcome to one’s problems.
A doctor friend of mine tells about a family where the mother broke her arm. The husband and son had to force her to the doctor and hold her while the doctor put her badly broken arm in plaster.
“There’s nothing wrong with my arm, Doctor. It’s perfectly all right.” she insisted.
“I see.” said the doctor setting the badly broken arm. Several weeks later the woman returned to have the cast removed and the arm was healed.
“There,” said the woman, “look at that I told you there was nothing wrong with my arm!” This woman was of a certain religious conviction that led her to believe that there was never anything wrong with her. Fortunately, her family was a little more realistic. We also need to be realistic about our problems if we are going to resolve them.
Acceptance. Furthermore, whatever happens to us needs to be accepted. It’s no use saying. “If only.”
Several years ago, a close family member suffered a massive stroke and was left partially paralyzed. Learning to walk, read, and write again as much as possible was painstakingly slow and difficult.
Doctors felt that the stroke could have been avoided so it was extremely tempting to say, “If only we would have known.”
However, it’s useless to say. “If only” Our family couldn’t go back and do things differently. We had to accept the reality of what had happened, pick up the pieces, and go on.
“How do you cope?” people have asked when things have gone wrong in my life.
First, express emotions. For one thing, I’ve learned not to deny my feelings, so when I’m hurting, I cry. God not only gave us laughter to express our joy, but tears to express our hurt and sorrow. Crying has a healing effect. It soothes the soul. Plus, when I’m frustrated, I share my feelings with a friend. Or if I’m angry, I share my feelings with the person I’m angry at or I write them out and throw away the piece of paper.
Second, give thanks. I constantly make a point of giving thanks to God for the many good things in my life that far outnumber my few problems.
Third, trust God. I have learned to trust God-not always without doubt or confusion. I don’t always understand why bad things happen. However, one thing I do understand, while Satan and his forces of evil want to use my circumstances to try and destroy me. God wants to use them to strengthen me. The choice is mine.
The only times in my life when I have grown have been during difficult times. Who wants to change when everything is going well? Also, if there is any quality to my writing and other work, it has all come out of life’s struggles.
While I don’t believe in quick fixes or simplistic solutions to life’s complex problems, I do know that God teaches us many lessons through difficult and challenging times-if we let him. In spite of outward appearances, I also believe that “in all things God works for the good of those who love (and trust) him”1
-even if it is eventually!
Can you accept your difficulties as opportunities to grow and ask God to show you what he wants you to learn through them? If so, your life will be greatly enriched.
1. Romans 8:28