By the time you read this column, we will be more than half way through January 2015. I wonder how many of you are still pursuing your New Year’s Resolution goals? I go to the gym about 5 out of 7 days a week and I can tell you that the gym does not seem nearly as busy as it has been in January’s past. Maybe, people gave up on making fitness resolutions a long time ago, I don’t know. Personally, I only set one goal for myself this year. It is a rather lofty goal but I am going to achieve, I am determined. My goal is write a book this year. Since I was 28 years old, I knew that there is a book I am destine to write. I have started at least 5 books and written a little in each of them but never set out to fully complete one in a systematic, organized manner. Now, I am going to make sure I follow through and get it done. However, I am not off to a very good start. The circumstances of my life have taken center stage over the past few months and occupied my thoughts, time and energy. Nevertheless, I will persevere.
I recently read a quote from William Buffet that read “What separates successful people from unsuccessful people is that successful people say NO to almost everything.” I pondered that for a while and I do agree with Mr. Buffet. However, I don’t believe that is he primary means of separation. In my opinion, what separates successful people from unsuccessful people is that successful people fill their thoughts and spend their time on positive things in times of disappointment, discouragement and despair. After the events of the past few weeks, I am convinced more than ever that our outcome is in direct proportion to what we think about on a regular basis. This is a biblical principle and if you can really absorb what I am saying it will drastically improve your life.
Life is hard. Being a Christian doesn’t change that fact. More often than not, being a Christian actually makes life harder because we are always called to do the right thing. The right thing is often the hardest thing. As hard as it is sometimes to do the right thing, those of us who follow Jesus and try to please him out of our love for him, understand that there is always a reward in doing the right thing. Sometimes that reward is peace of mind. Sometimes it is a financial blessing, sometimes it is a new job or job promotion and sometimes is it being let go from a job. Discouragement, loss and disappointment come to us all. The Bible says, “It rains on the just and the unjust.” That simply means that all of humanity are subject to the same struggles but what people do in the midst of their struggle is what determines the outcome, their character and their integrity or lack thereof.
There are many scriptures that point us to guarding our thoughts. Here are just a few. “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” (Prov. 4:23), “Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Tim 6:20), Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. (Heb 10:23). This principle is the same as the famous quote that is often posted in offices “Life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.” “Trust in the Lord with all thy heart and lean not to thine own understanding, in ALL thy ways, acknowledge him and he shall direct your path” (Prov 3:5-6).
Over the last several months, I have watched as a few friends have lost their spouse to death, others whose relationships have end and still others who have lost jobs. I have also watched as people have made a commitment to shed the excess 50-100 lbs. and accomplished what they set out to do. The process is the same in every situation. First your faced with loss, then your faced with fear, then your faced with acceptance of what you do not want to accept, then your faced with the long and painful process of transition, which is often the hardest part because it is ongoing and lasting. The moments of limbo, sadness, defeat, fear, loneliness, anger, disappointment and all the other emotions that accompany such life events are difficult to endure. The difference between successful people is successful people turn to positive outlets, faith and hope in these times. They turn to things that bring encouragement. Sometimes it’s a book, maybe it is a podcast that inspires, maybe its prayer or church. It could be anything that keeps you moving forward in hope and faith for a brighter tomorrow. If you are not turning to positive things in moments of despair, you will turn to negative. Negative conversations, gossip, alcohol, shopping, sex, other people to fill the void. Unsuccessful people seek to “escape the pain” instead of going through it open and honestly which ultimately brings personal growth.
The absolute best example I can offer is Cody Hedlund. Many of us followed her family in the media and on Facebook when her husband Joel, was diagnosed with cancer and passed away last year. So many people knew Joel because he and his wife Cody co-pastored Crossroads Church and later went on to Pastor Orange Valley Church in Exeter. When Joel was first diagnosed, I watched as their faith in God never waivered. Throughout the entire process, they continued to say “God’s got this.” In the last moments of Joel’s life and since his passing, Cody has shared her grief and sadness publicly on Facebook. Time and time again, as she shares the loss she and her boys live with and yet she still says “God’s got this.” Her faith and trust in God does not mean the pain of losing her husband way to early will be non-existent, but she doesn’t focus on the pain. She focuses on the hope that she has in God and allows herself to be encouraged in things that offer hope. I don’t know Cody personally, I knew Joel as many people did, but I follow her day after day on Facebook and I watch with quiet gratitude and thanksgiving at the grace in which she is enduring her loss.
Life isn’t easy. It is often messy. We make mistakes that we regret, others have unjustly wronged us when we where helpless children, and some of us have never been exposed to a loving family or a stable home. However difficult the obstacle may be, YOU are the only person in the world who can change the outcome of your future. It starts with turning toward faith and hope for a better day ahead and turning away from fear that brings undesirable consequences. It is a simple, but incredibly difficult, choice. Doing the right thing in life is often the most difficult choice of all.
As you set out about this year, maybe you set some personal goals for yourself or maybe like me, you are in transition. What will you do when you have a bad day? What will you do when faced with disappointment? Can you ride the wave of change until you reach solid ground, or will you drown in the current? The choice is yours. Choose well.
**Kathy Looper has a Master’s Degree in Psychology and is a Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern. You can contact her at Kathy@kathylooper.com