In M. Scott Peck’s book The Road Less Traveled, he talks about how life will always have pain and suffering, and that those who embrace that pain will be far better off. In my life, I have certainly experienced pain, as I’m sure most of you have as well. If not, get ready. It will come. When I first heard Peck’s comment, I wondered how we could be better off by fully embracing painful experiences. So I studied some of his writings, and they made sense.
When a painful experience happens, we choose how we respond to it. We can allow the emotions to flow by grieving, crying, getting mad, or kicking the dog (so to speak, please don’t take it out on Fluffy). Or, we can withdraw from our emotions. Put them in a box, bury the feelings from ourselves and others. Think about some painful experiences you've had. Think about those experiences people you know have had. How were they handled?
There is benefit in allowing ourselves to have and experience emotions. I believe this is a truth in human nature. If you shut down one type of emotion, it also affects the ability to experience other kinds of emotion. What do I mean by that? Let me say it this way. Those who shut out painful experiences—to not have to deal with a painful reality or feelings—correspondingly shut down the ability to experience joy, happiness, and wonderment. Life is tough. It’s also amazing. How we deal with the tough times also affects our awareness and enjoyment of the good times.
So how do we survive painful experiences? We can go it alone, or we can have help. I am always amazed, and a little saddened, as I watch friends, loved ones, and acquaintances who choose a secular life view (for this brief article I define that as those who do not have a spiritual/personal relationship with God). Their secular view is, the world evolves around me. I’m in it for me. There’s no higher power. It’s just me. The problem with that is they’re right—it is just them. They have no outside source of strength, no one to help carry the burden, no one who really cares that much. Because at the end of the day, we really just have ourselves to answer to, right?
We all will have pain. We all will have trouble. And often the extent of it will be so overwhelming that we are not equipped to handle it. Have you ever felt like that? Do you know anyone else who’s ever felt like that? Here is another truth I believe. I don’t think we, as human beings, are equipped to handle the trials and tribulations we may endure—without help. And the good news is, help is available.
I believe that without the power and strength available from faith and a relationship with God, the trials of life are often overwhelming. There is also good news in that we do not have to earn this help. It is offered free of charge. Let me repeat. It is available for you, for free. You don’t have to earn it, nor could you do anything that would be worthy of earning it. It’s called Grace. “Wow, if I can get help to overcome the trials of life, just sign me up!” Shouldn't that be everyone’s response? Why isn't it? Remember the secular view? It’s all about me. I want control. If I were to allow myself to have a relationship with God, it might not all be about me. That’s right.
What’s interesting is, God made us that way. We have free will. We have a choice. My purpose here is not to tell you what to do; it’s just to say you have an option. You can have help to cope with the struggles of life. Personally, let me tell you about a conversation I had one day, with Jesus, who is a close friend (He’s also God). There was a point in my life when I was reaping the rewards of my actions. I had believed in God for years, but never let Him be an intimate friend. Things were a mess. I didn't know what to do. I just knew I was in trouble.
I said, “Jesus, I've never asked you for advice ever, and you can obviously see what a wonderful job I’m doing on my own. Just wanted to let you know I am hereby open to any suggestions you may have.” Those were the exact words I said. I kept talking and asked Him to give me the strength to endure what was happening and find a way to overcome it. As clear as if you and I were talking He said, “Bert, why would you want me to give you the strength to handle these troubles when you can just give them to me and I will take them off your shoulders?” I said, “Lord I’m yours, I will follow you.” Instantly, I could physically feel weight lifting from my body. I told Him I have faith that He will take care of me and my family’s needs. My worry was replaced with hope.
Since that day, I still occasionally have struggles and trying times, but now they are just opportunities for me to watch in amazement as God leads, overcomes, and blesses me. If you find yourself in pain or trial, seek him out. Better yet, do it now and see his power in action when the inevitable trials come your way.