Life is nothing, if not a constant source of ups and downs.
We are born – life is good!
We learn to walk…and bite the dust a lot – life is hard!
We learn to read – life is good!
We read our first bill – life is hard.
We fall in love, we fall in love, we fall in love. Life is complicated!
We get married, we have babies, we experience bliss the way God intended. Life is beautiful!
We get divorced, children choose wrong paths, and death creeps into our lives in horrible, unexpected ways. Life is terrible.
We find Jesus again and again and again. Life is redeeming.
Ups and downs. It will never stay up just as likely as it will never stay down. Rarely does anyone need help navigating through the ups, right? It’s the down times that really force us to question ourselves, our faith and our decisions. And we keep hearing, “Praise God during the trials, too”, “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel”, and “There is some good in this, you will see.”
But what does that really look like? In a moment of depression or grief, WHERE is the good? WHERE is the light? HOW can we praise Him?
I’ve always felt it’s unrealistic to dive into a trial feeling thankful. Let’s face it, hard times suck. Sure, we admire people who handle hard times gracefully, and sure, the healing process tends to go smoother for people who try harder to forgive. But truthfully, each disappointment in life deserves it’s own moment of just plain hurt.
When my husband and I lost our firstborn baby boy at birth, the baby we had spent two years trying to conceive, life was hard. That night, that week, that month, and even most of that first year after losing him, there is no way I could have looked at you and tell you I was thankful in any way for that experience. Seven years later I still can’t look at you and say I’m thankful that he died. I CAN tell you I am thankful for the friendships his death has brought into my life. I can tell you I’m thankful for the positive impact his death has had on my marriage and faith. I can tell you I’m thankful for the empathy I am capable of now, because since then many friends have lost children.
There are some situations that aren’t quite as hard as losing a child but still cause down days. My beloved van died at the end of the summer, leaving my family with one pretty unreliable car and “trapping” me at home during the workweek. Two months later, my husband was hit by an oncoming car and his car was totaled. Both events felt hard at first, but in those cases, it was pretty easy to feel thankful even in the midst of the trials. When my van died, I felt thankful that we had a second vehicle, and that my babysitting job didn’t really require a vehicle. When my husband was in his accident, I immediately felt thankful he wasn’t hurt and that it wasn’t his fault! That situation pretty quickly improved, too, because the at-fault driver’s insurance company was very generous to us, paying for a rental for two weeks and giving us more than we thought we’d get for Ty’s car! We ended up having a nice down-payment towards a newer van and were able to get the transmission fixed on our old van. Believe me, I am nothing but thankful to have two vehicles again, no matter the challenging circumstances that happening in the interim!
Ultimately, we all deal with circumstances beyond our control. I honestly believe feeling angry or sad over hurts and hardships is ok and part of the healing process. But along with that comes looking for that silver lining, focusing on it, and eventually finding a way to see the good that has come out of each circumstance. God has our backs. He loves us, and promises His plans for us are good. “’For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future ‘” (Jer. 29:11) Pushing past the initial reaction to wallow in hurt, anger or sorrow is the next step.
Life comes with ups and downs. Being thankful, eventually, is the key to contentment.
Chelsea Daniels is a homeschooling mom to Cosette “Cozy”, age 5, and Dagny, age 2. Happily married to Ty, Chelsea enjoys writing, reading, cooking, running, and obsessively posting pictures of her newest kittens to Facebook.
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