Struggles are a part of life; if you are alive and kicking, you know exactly what I mean. There is no way to avoid them even if we fast and pray every day, or if we try to bury our head in the various sands of life to pretend we can get away from them. The fact is struggles are a part of the life experience and there really is no sure fire way to skip them or not experience them. I am sure that like me, you sometimes assume that if you play your cards right and formulate a plan for everything, and then somehow struggles will be reduced, if not become nonexistent. But therein lays the deception and the denial because struggles can take so many forms and bear varied features. As you already know by now, there are social, financial, spiritual and (the all too familiar) emotional struggles. In spite of the kind of struggle you are facing or whatever variation is being tossed your way at this time, allow me to share a nugget of wisdom that has helped me deal with those struggles that I just can’t shake.
I have spent so much time and wasted such energy trying to rid myself of struggles that I eventually surmised that it was possibly a hopeless cause. Don’t get me wrong, as I did not lose hope that the struggle would never end, but I became enlightened that each struggle served a greater purpose. Take this recent financial struggle that most of us have been experiencing as an example. One year things were going well as investments paid off, income was steady, money was in the bank, credit was being re-established, debts were being paid off, work was in abundance, standard of living was high, spending was at our leisure and life was pretty good. Then the economic crisis hit and it seemed like a domino effect went into place as one by one things began to change, shifts started happening and each area of our financial lives were negatively impacted. Things literally fell apart in a short time and all of a sudden it felt like our socio-economic standard was in the gutter. Ok, enough of the economic talk as that could take some of us to a serious sob fest.
What about those emotional struggles? You know the ones that you can’t believe you are actually dealing with after all this time! We all have them, so don’t get cute or self righteous and pretend that somewhere in the cobweb infested area of your mind you don’t have issues which would make your momma cry, “Lord have mercy on my child”. If living all these years have taught me anything, it is that we all have some things that we would rather pretend we don’t have to struggle with. It does not matter the title, position, or office we hold. Everyone has something that we all know is like a thorn in the flesh or our own preferred titillating temptations. Now, don’t get excited thinking I’m about to spill some scandalous story, as sensationalism is not what this is about. I will confess that in another lifetime, I would be totally different in character and personality, but then again, given certain circumstances, couldn’t we all? Anyway, the point I’m making is simply this: you and I will always have issues that we struggle with and some of them may never get completely resolved. The Apostle Paul in the Bible admitted that he had something that he could not shake. He could not get rid of this ‘thorn in the flesh,’ which you know was his politically correct way of making his issue sound more pleasing, than to just put his business out there for all to know and see. Like him and many others in Scripture, as well as historic figures on the stage of life, we too bear ‘thorns’ that attach themselves and remain fastened in spite of how badly we want to disengage. Truth be told, in some cases it does not feel like a thorn because the issue with which we struggle is actually enjoyable or entertaining. Nonetheless, the emotional struggles manifest themselves in a multitude of ways.
Permit me to throw a few examples out there just to make sure you are indeed following my train of thought. One example is a woman who is seemingly successful and accomplished in every area, yet she is so insecure and unsure of herself that she feels she must be a perfectionist in order to overcompensate for things in her past which she cannot undo. Or it could be a high profile political figure or preacher who does noble deeds, but has ‘a thing’ for lusting after young ladies all the time. Perhaps it is a corporate executive who has the financial means at her disposal but just has ‘a tendency’ to shoplift a few things now and then. Another example would be the spouse who uses sex as a manipulative weapon or the partner who has a great companion at home, but needs ‘a little extra attention’ on the side (be it sexual or emotional stimulation). Then there is the drama queen who makes everything about her because she knows how to manipulate people to get attention, sympathy and favors. Or the dynamic leader who knows how to hold a captive audience but is incapable of holding his own temper, choosing to demean and undermine people just because he can. All these are examples of issues that people struggle with which they may choose to justify, glorify or magnify. I don’t know what your emotional struggles are, but take a moment and get real with yourself, then continue along with me.
The preceding examples were in no way my attempt to condone or condemn anyone for such choices or conduct. Yet it bears noting that the average person is presently dealing with struggles that (like it or not) have the potential of wreaking havoc on their lives and emotional wellbeing. Now to that nugget of wisdom I previously made reference to: it is all wrapped up in these words – SEEK STRENGTH & SMART STRATEGIES. Whether the struggle is financial, social, spiritual, physical or emotional, it is incumbent upon us to take the initiative and seek the strength to deal with it. Too often, people won’t even take the time to acknowledge that they have a struggle much less do the real work to handle it. Admitting that it exists is the first step to dealing with the struggle, and then aggressively seek the strength to overcome it. Once that is done, find internal fortitude while gaining appropriate support mechanisms. This could be in the form of a support group with your close friends, caring people at church, in the community or on the sofa in a counselor’s office. Depending on the nature of the struggle, it may not be prudent to divulge the details; which means one must take a solo journey within and identify spiritual and emotional tools to cope. If you look for and go after it diligently, strength will come. Regardless of the nature of the issue or the struggle, there is always enough strength, courage, confidence and will power to deal with it, especially if it is the kind of struggle that will not go away. Instead of praying to God to take them away or pretend that they don’t exist, we should seek the STRENGTH to endure and deal with each one that we encounter.
In the same token, SMART STRATEGIES are also important in dealing with struggles. Seek wisdom, understanding and apply a generous dose of common sense to make it through each struggle that life will hand you. Choose to arm yourself with an inner resolve, and then employ tactics that will enable you to have a handle on the situation rather than the other way around. Chances are, if you don’t handle it, it will handle you! By employing smart strategies, you will position yourself to better deal with those things that could deter, distract or destroy you. Remember I already stated that some things are going to be around for a long time or forever. That’s just the way it is! It makes no use getting all worked up about a thorn in the flesh that is meant to be a part of the life journey. It is the ways in which we choose to deal with it that will really matter. As the good Lord assured the Apostle Paul, God’s grace is more than enough to keep and sustain us, even with that thing driving us crazy, or making us feel like a fraud because it does not fit in with the rest of our well packaged persona. By being intentional and purposeful to strategize how to handle it, struggles can be dealt with accordingly and appropriately.
In seeking strength and using smart strategies, make sure you don’t condone the struggle, but at the same time don’t condemn yourself either. Human nature makes sure we beat up on ourselves enough as it is already. But let me encourage you to acknowledge what the struggles are, deal with them in a realistic manner, discard whatever does not serve a meaningful purpose, and if you realize that a few may be thorns that will stay, seek strength and use smart strategies. In so doing, we can all handle our inevitable life struggles. In the bigger scheme of things, a greater purpose will be served if each struggle is dealt with in an appropriate manner. The wisdom and plan is that we become better as a result of coping with struggles. Think about it; the more we are faced with and the more victories we have over these struggles, the stronger we become. Our life stories will be more authentic and credible because we will be able to pass on a lasting legacy of survival. Our very acts of enduring, fighting, handling and surviving will speak on our behalf, showing the world what we are truly made of. It is in the heart of those struggles that the real essence of our being rises to the occasion and we get to reveal who we are at our core. Needless to say, lives will be greatly impacted and inspired by the struggles we overcame and the ones we had to put up with. So always look at the bigger picture and see the greater good. This is not just about you and your struggles, but it is life handing you various opportunities to make and leave your mark as only you can!