“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.” ― M. Scott Peck,
Life is Difficult by Lisa Hunt-Wotton
Some would say that I have had a difficult life. Some would say that drama follows me wherever I go.
Some would go as far as to say some that of the things that have happened in my life are ‘unbelievable’. I would say that I have had my fair share of difficulties.
Last week I after a series of calamities I had two people sit me down and ask to chat with me. Both conversations went something like this.
“I have watched your life, I watch the things that go on and I have to ask you. How do you cope? What do you do to cope?”
Well funnily enough I have never been asked this before. It made me stop an think hard about that. I don’t feel very different to anyone else but I realise that many of the things that I have gone through are a bit unusual. I do remember this quote by T.S. Elliot.
“If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?”
The Turning Point
One of the first turning points in my ‘attitude’ toward suffering or calamities was when my husband was dying of terminal melanoma cancer. I would often have people say to me. ‘I don’t know how you cope’? ‘If that was happening to me I know that I couldn’t cope’. I would go home perplexed thinking, is there another choice. Is there some other way to be that I don’t know about.
You see the first turning point in your growth is to realise that trials are not governed, they are not planned. They are random like the weather and you cannot control them. The only choice you have is to cope. The worst offenders and grief managers are often the Christians who believe that only good things should happen to them. Well I am here to tell you that ‘your Father in heaven gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust (Matt 5:45). You are not exempt from pain. In fact you should be able to not only manage your own pain but come alongside others who are facing difficulties and be a comfort to them.
Life is Difficult
The second point I would like to make I learned from my wise husband. One day whilst we were having coffee with our buddy Jan, Ken quietly mentioned to me that he could not see anymore. He had gone blind. We left the children with Jan and went immediately into the Royal Melbourne Hospital where we were known as ‘the frequent flyers’. After an examination and scans they sent us home from the emergency department knowing that he would be more comfortable at home whilst they scheduled number four of five brain surgeries that he would have. On the way home from hospital we sat in silence and shock. I cried quietly, big fat tears rolling down my cheeks. Feeling helpless and overwhelmed. Ken piped up with this epiphany.
“Lisa, the sooner you believe that this is Gods will for our lives, the easier it will be for you”.
What he was saying was this. “Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters”(Scott Peck). There is a great truth in this. If your view of life is that bad things shouldn’t happen to you then you are going to be mighty put out when they do. You will be very offended that tragedy dared to cross your path.
When you realise that life is difficult, that it IS hard and that bad things happen. Then somehow life becomes easier. You don’t get so pushed out of shape. I can still hear my husband telling our small children when there was an altercation, “life is not fair so get over it”. Life is NOT fair – let me repeat that. In our politically correct climate where we hand out awards to everyone who participated in the school race instead of just the winners, you could be forgiven for believing that life is fair and that we should all have a fair go and that we should all be celebrities and we are all owed the chance to be well off and on easy street.
This is the big lie. Life is hard, it is bloody hard work and we need to do the hard work to have some quality, reward and joy in our lives. No one owes us, the government does not owe us, our parents do not owe us and God does not owe us. This lie will trap you into an endless circle of despair and anger because you are not getting what you ‘think’ you deserve.
Get Some Muscle
Finally let me go back to the first question. How do you cope? When I meditated on this I saw an image of me as a child in the surf, and then later as an adult in the surf. I grew up with a deep love of the water. I was particularly fond of swimming and body boarding in the surf. My earliest memories are of swimming and playing for hours on the Victorian coastal surf beaches. Any Australian surfer will tell you that the waters on the southern ocean are particularly fierce. As an adult I have been dumped flat on my back just standing in ankle deep water on a cray day at Woolamai Beach Philip Island.
Anyone who loves the surf will tell you that you need to read the waves, read the water. You learn to pick out the rips and to know the tides. You talk to other surfers and to the life savers to find out what’s happening and where the danger spots are. You also learn to know your own ability and what you are capable of. When a set of waves comes in you need to learn what type of wave it is. If its a big swell and you can bump right over the top, if it’s hard and you need to dive underneath. You also know when its small that you can stand and let it break over the top of you. But best of all you learn when you can ride it in.
When you play in the surf what you are doing in reality is resistance training. You are building muscle.
- Resistance training increases muscle strength by making your muscles work against a weight or force.
- Resistance training is based on the principle that muscles of the body will work to overcome a resistance force when they are required to do so. When you do resistance training repeatedly and consistently, your muscles become stronger (source).
You are also learning flexibility, to go with the flow. Some waves you cannot resist because they will dump and damage you. Instead you need to quickly dive underneath it and pop out the other side. The other skill you learn is discernment, you learn to read the water and know when you can relax or have a float and when you can take a ride in and have a rest. You also learn a great deal of respect for the ocean.
Why this lesson on surfing?
This was my answer. All of my life I have had sets of waves coming at me. They are relentless, they may ease off but they may also rise to storm proportions. One thing you can count on is that the waves and the tide do not stop. I have faced trauma since I was a small child so I have been building muscle for a long time. Now when big waves hit me I know how to deal with them. That is not to say that some big wave won’t come and flip me cracking onto my back or that a Tsunami won’t take me out, but generally I have three things going for me.
1: I am not shocked when the waves come in so I am mentally prepared. I know that life is difficult and it is not a shock to me when stuff happens.
2: I have had some resistance training when it comes to calamities so I have built up some muscle.
3: I have some discernment. Jesus says that you know how to read the skies but you cannot read the times and the trials that you are in.
This is a commentary of Luke 12:56
“As Jesus speaks of his ministry, he asks the multitudes to think of a weather forecast. Unlike meteorologists today, who work with satellite images and Doppler radar, the ancients had one weather tool, their eyes. They could predict the weather in Palestine by making a few simple observations. A westerly wind meant that moisture from the Mediterranean was riding in and clouds and rain would follow. Southwesterly breezes meant that heat from the desert was on the way and a rise in temperature could be anticipated. The signs of the times were indicated by the breezes.
Such meteorological expertise is common among the people Jesus addresses. But they cannot tell what breezes are blowing through their personal lives.. Or as Jesus says, “Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky. How is it you don’t know how to interpret this present time?”The signs of the time are everywhere, and so was spiritual blindness. Not reading this weather correctly is dangerous–more dangerous than missing a hurricane” (source).
He is saying that the weather is changeable and you can also know it. The changing times and seasons should not come as a shock. The Palestinians knew that when the southerlies started that hot dry desert winds would come scorching into their tents and lives. Christ is alluding to the fact that they should be just as wise and aware of the concerns of their souls, of their personal lives. That heat will come, rains will come, wind will come. It is inevitable. We know what to do when the heat and rain comes, but we are pretty useless when it hits us in the natural. It is actually quite insane to think that every day in our emotional lives will be the perfect temperature of 28 degrees, with no wind and no rain and that we will skip through life without a care in the world.
So people let me encourage you. Stuff happens, life is not fair and it is okay. You will be okay. Straighten out your mind, build up your muscles and learn to understand what is happening. It is not pay back time, it is not punishment, it is just life and life can be very difficult. Once you realise that, then life becomes a lot easier. You can do it.
You’ve got this.
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