Here’s how to navigate through difficult times.
My wife and I just celebrated our fifth anniversary. Thinking back on the past five years reminds me of a lot of joyous experiences. The birth of our daughter is at the top of the list. Thinking back, there have also been some not so great times. We have experienced health crises, the loss of loved ones, financial strains, and some other adversities. The times I like to refer to as the “ugly seasons” in life. Every man knows they are going to come and we are going to be called upon to navigate through them. Five years of marriage does not qualify me as an expert, though I’ve acquired four valuable keys on my journey I would like to share with you.
1. Find hope.
Finding hope may be the most important key to survival in these times. Hope is one of the most powerful motivators we have in life. A guy asks a girl to go on a date because he hopes she will say yes. A guy asks his girlfriend to marry him because he hopes she will say yes. We apply for a better job because we hope we will get it. We aim for a high goal with the hope of hitting it.
Hope pushes us to ask for the date, request the hand in marriage, apply for the better job, and shoot for the higher goal. It pushes us to move toward what otherwise might frighten us. In the darkest of times, it is hope which motivates us to continue pressing on. This is why it is essential to find hope in these moments.
Times of adversity are an unspoken guarantee in life. They range in intensity from difficult to devastating. No matter where the struggle falls on the spectrum, leading your family through it can be a challenging experience. Finding hope will make these seasons bearable. Hope can be found in this fact.
Remember it is only a season, meaning it will give way to another season. Life seasons work on the same principle as weather seasons. One season gives way to another. Focus on this fact while your family is in the midst of adversity. This does not mean pain should be ignored, but realize it does get better. Do your best to comfort your wife’s pain, and she will return her best in comforting your pain. My wife and I have made it beyond devastating seasons by comforting one another and finding hope in the fact the next season would be better.
After establishing your focus on a better season coming, keep your gaze there. Your current pain may increase. Your situation may go from bad to worse, but do not lose focus. A better season is coming. One man puts it best when he says, “travel through adversity with a tent. Do not buy property and build a house.” Find hope in a better season, and keep focused on it.
2. Fly through the season.
Pilots attempt to fly around thunderstorms and bumpy weather. In spite their efforts, sometimes pilots are forced to fly directly through the storm. We respond to life’s adversity the same way. We attempt to avoid it, but occasionally, life forces us to go directly through adversity. When forced, the key is to go.
Pilots survive in a storm by plotting a course, then steering the plane on that course. The plane may be tossed by the wind but the pilot keeps it on course. We should respond to adversity the same way. Plot the course and stay focused on our hope. We may be tossed by the winds of life, but we must keep moving on our course through the storm.
3. Flex leadership muscle.
Adversity entered our home a few short weeks after returning from the honeymoon. My manly instinct told me to solve the problem; find the solution and proceed with it. “After all,” I thought, “I’m the husband so it is my responsibility to take care of everything.” My intentions were good, but my actions were poor. My take-charge attitude was not what my wife needed or desired. She desired a leader not a dictator.
There is a huge difference between dictating and leading. The take charge attitude I adopted actually made me a jerk. It did not bring calm but annoyance. It did not create the desired solution but a conflict. Changing my approach has made all the difference. Approaching the adverse times as a leader has enabled us to walk through those times together as one.
The leader is sensitive to the needs of those around him. He seeks advice and listens to the opinions of others, especially his bride’s. The leader works with his bride to find a solution. He then encourages movement toward that solution. I learned the hard way to be a leader, not a dictator. My wife wants a husband to inspire and encourage her in these seasons. My responsibility is not to fix everything but to guide our family through adversity as best I can.
4. Fix what is controllable.
While it is not my responsibility to fix everything, it is my responsibility to fix what is within my control. Because we live in a cosmos much larger than ourselves, many things are out of our control; however, we still control a few things. If adversity is coming in the form of financial strain, start a conversation with your wife to discover ways to save money or rearrange your budget. If adversity is in the form of conflict, begin the process of reconciliation.
Reflecting on the past five years reminds me of one, two, or maybe more occasions when my actions created conflict. I said or did something stupid and hurtful. Fixing it meant admitting I was wrong, apologizing, and trying not to do it again. When we are the cause of adversity, often times we are also the solution.
It would be nice if we could describe every day as joyous. Unfortunately, the “ugly seasons” come. I hope these keys help you survive the next season of adversity.
Photo: Flickr/Laurelville Mennonite Church Center
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