I often write early in the morning at Starbucks inside a grocery store. That’s where I met Larry who zips weekly through the store on his motorized scooter. As he turns each corner, people call out his name and wave. He has a mysterious celebrity status. Larry has no legs. But on the back of his motorized chariot are strapped two rubber legs decorative with molded streaks of blood. There is a makeshift sign which sums it up: “L on Wheels.” Last week he whizzed by and we locked eyes. I hollered to this local celebrity: “Hey! I really like your attitude.” He replied with a wide grin, “You’ve got very good taste.” And away he went.
But you’ve met other wheel chair bound individuals. Not only are they physically crippled but also emotionally. Life consists of a never ending black cloud following overhead. Nothing is right. Nothing will ever be right. Everything sucks. Just ask them. I saw one the other day. The grim face with glaring eyes served notice you better watch your step!
Two people. Two opposite reactions.
When it comes to the hard things in life some people become bitter while other people become better. Same circumstances but completely different results.
How is it possible to go through similar events but have radically different outcomes? I believe it all depends on how you answer these three simple questions:
This question assumes you are special and ought to be impervious to tragedy. Can I be honest? It is the question of arrogance. What this question says is that everyone else can suffer heartache, tragedy, and pain but I should be exempt. Really? Are you that special?
The Bible reminds us that rain falls on bad AND good people. Why should YOU be exempt? Oh. You are a good church person who loves God? Then maybe you should receive more pain because you are equipped to handle it.
Being a member of the human race on an imperfect planet means bad things will happen. It’s not “if” but “when.” This is the reality of life. I had a friend who heard his doctor say, “You have cancer.” And it was not a friendly kind of cancer. He asked himself the “Why me?” question. He told me he changed the question to “Why not me?”
Stop feeling like a victim. The gods are not picking on you. You’ve not been signaled out for punishment by Odin. It’s called life.
What’s the use?
This is the question of despair which invites us to participate in a paralyzing pity party. When heartache comes, the temptation is to collapse into a protective cocoon.
Mike, my younger brother, died tragically in an accident while on spring break in Florida. Forty years later I still recall the numbing horror. How do you deal with a loss like that? My mom didn’t handle it so well. She withdrew. All of his pictures came off the wall. We couldn’t say his name in front of her. The tragedy turned into a double tragedy because it was as though he had never lived. What’s the use?
When the dark clouds come and you ask yourself “What’s the use?” you better get the right answer. The right answer is not “I may as well give up.” The right answer is “I choose to move forward with my life.”
It won’t be easy. You may falter. But you must wrestle with the temptation to give up until you come up with the right answer.
This is the question of hope which invites you to look at the possibilities around you. Maybe tragic circumstances force you to radically change your life. You’ve been wounded, hurt, divorced, rejected, or diagnosed with a terrible disease. You’ve moved past the “Why me” and “What’s the Use” questions.
You must now ask “What now?”
Look around. Has your pain opened up avenues to help people in similar circumstances? Are you able to connect with people in a deeper level? Has your tragedy given you the ability to mentor others going through the same thing.
Here’s the real trick. Take the pain and find a way to spin it around into something good. Think about it. You can do this. I love the thought. When I do this it feels like I’m smacking ill fortune right in the chops. And I ain’t gonna lie. It feels extraordinary!
Maybe it’s time for you to look at the tough things in your life which shape you. When life turns sour you do not need to drink the cup of bitterness. Instead, it is an opportunity to become better.
It’s up to you. Will you become better or bitter?