Most of us look for a struggle-free life. The less hassle the better, right? I think we’ve been conditioned to see the difficulties of adversity, not the benefits. What if the difficult season you are in right now is the necessary transformation that leads to a better tomorrow?
We’ve all heard the analogy of diamonds. They are beautiful gems for sure, but the formation process they go through on the way is anything but beautiful. They are formed deep inside the earth’s crust: utter darkness, extremely high pressure and scorching heat. Without those conditions, there’d be no diamonds. In the case of diamonds, adversity produces something beautiful.
A lot of us fall into blaming God or getting frustrated with Him when it comes to adversity, “God’s too busy to help me deal with this” or “God is punishing me for something.”
Or we take on a victim mentality, convinced that He won’t guide us through. The truth is that He cares for every detail of our lives.
God desires to make something beautiful of our souls—stronger, more compassionate, empathetic, grounded—and adversity is a necessary environment.
The more we avoid adversity, the less likely we will become what God had in mind when He created us. “Jesus, though a Son, learned obedience by what he suffered.”
When we try to eliminate all struggle, difficulty and adversity from our lives, we miss out on powerful lessons and rich experiences of human formation. We miss out on the best version of ourselves.
What if we approached the difficulty as an opportunity for growth and strengthening character? Here are four things you might try to make the most of adversity:
Each of us has a preferred way of handling difficulty. Some try to avoid it. Others kick into survival mode, grit their teeth and hold on till it passes. Many try to minimize their negative impact. But the best choice is to lean in and embrace it.
Embracing adversity means that you see the difficulty of the current circumstance, but you focus on the opportunity. You know that one day you will look back on this difficult season with gratitude because it was a catalyst for critical learning and strengthening of virtue.
Focus on What You Can Influence
Think about the adversity that is emerging. Make a list of everything causing you angst. Don’t edit as you write. Pay no attention to grammar or spelling or syntax or prioritizing. Just get everything down on paper and out of your head.
Then draw two circles on a piece of paper. Label one “circle of concern” and the other “circle of influence.” Take the list of items causing you angst and determine which circle they go into. Circle of concern are those things that are of concern, but you know there isn’t anything you can do about them. The circle of influence are those things that are a concern, but you can do something about them.
Continue this exercise until everything in the first list is now broken into two circles. Next, prioritize the list of items in your circle of influence, 1, 2, 3 etc. Starting at 1, ask yourself, “What is the next, best thing I can do to positively influence this?” Make a simple plan to execute then move on to the next item. You will walk away from this exercise with clarity and confidence. Be patient with yourself. It’s difficult climbing a mountain, but even more difficult when you are carrying unnecessary weight. Discipline your mind to focus on the things you can change.
Open Your Heart
Your relationship with adversity is key—do you see adversity as a friend or an enemy? If you view adversity as an enemy, fear will strike. Anxiety triggers the primitive part of the brain called the amygdala, which controls our fight or flight response. Fighting against or flying from adversity is rarely a healthy choice—unless the adversity is a grizzly bear! Also, anxiety releases cortisol which inhibits the higher parts of the brain functions such as curiosity, empathy and creativity.
We need more, not less, high brain functioning when dealing with adversity. As we open our heart to the emerging adversity, recognizing the gift within it, we will move into a more relaxed state that will produce more positive outcomes.
Bring Jesus Into the Adversity Through Prayer
In Jesus, religion no longer remains man’s blind search for God but a response of faith to a real, living God. It is comforting to know that Jesus took on human flesh and lived a completely human life. He was like us in all ways except sin. He encountered difficult situations. He dealt with adversity. He can relate to all the difficult things you experience when adversity emerges.
In a season of difficulty, I encourage you to go to Him, let Him in. Lean in. Focus on what you can influence. Open your heart. Bring Jesus into the adversity through prayer. The difficult season you are going through might just be the greatest gift life gives you. You can do this. Jesus will help.
This article was originally published at brettpowell.org.