On this day three years ago, I got out of bed with full intention of opting out of life. Thankfully, as events would unfold, my intentions did not come to fruition. I’ve recounted this story each year since, hoping to shed some light on things I’ve learned since then. Admittedly, I share this story each year as part of my own remembrance and thankfulness for what did not happen, but also for the one or two people who reads this for the first time and it somehow helps.
However, unlike the previous years, I started writing this in January and have updated it along the way. Largely, I have written it starting then due to the events which had unfolded in a mere six months had become seemingly insurmountable, and I was forced to reconcile my own immaturity when I made this post last year. Last July, I suggested the one lesson we should take from continuing to grow in life was to embrace pain as part of the growth process. “No pain, no gain,” as the saying goes. I mentioned a study of the book Job which I had been working through, and how Job was restored at the end of his suffering.
Admittedly, my naivete in recounting the lessons learned during the time frame from 2020-2021 was high. If I thought I knew pain then, God would prove me wrong in the coming months. Often, we get to a certain point of pain or hardship and think “it can’t get much worse.” But it can, and it very well may get worse. In early March of this year, in confiding with a friend, I found the only way to describe the months from August through March was feeling as if I was nail and God was swinging a hammer. At some point, whenever something bad happened or the tides of misfortune found me, I began to laugh. I remember a specific day, in which I lost 40% of my online training clientele in single day, only to find out shortly after talking to the last of those clients that my car (which was in the shop) had officially kicked the bucket. I remember laughing when I found out the news. Among all the things which had happened, I finally got to a point where I didn’t care. Apathy and I finally made acquaintances.
It is in those times, however, which we can learn and grow the most from. But it does not mean it is devoid of pain, grief, or struggle. I made some new friendships this year which mean a lot to me, and I lost some which took a large toll and caused more pain than I could previously imagine. And hard times are truly a great teacher. But you have to be open to truly learn the lessons pain, grief, and struggle are trying to teach you. Sometimes you have to be emptied of the old before you can be filled in with the new.
Something which I found noteworthy among all of this, and perhaps a great testament to the wonders of therapy and redefining of who I am over the last few years, is how I never got back to the point of wanting to take my own life again. Admittedly, the deep pain I experienced three years ago was not as bad as what I experienced this past year, because with a different perspective comes clarity. I don’t think I could truly explain this phenomenon, until I had a conversation with my brother at the tail end of a seven-month period of misfortunes. My brother told me this:
“Your current self is a product of your past self’s courage.”
That’s an interesting statement. He went on to tell me how odd it is when we look back at those hard times when we were freaking out or stressed or lonely. Now those moments seem fleeting. What were we so stressed about in the first place? Did any of it matter? Sure those things matter. They most definitely mattered then as they do now. But the courage we display in those moments gives us a deeper courage to push past now.
“I’ve been through hard times before,” we tell ourselves. “I will make it through this.”
And you inevitably will. My previously mentioned study of Job last year took me four months. I wrote last years lesson on the hope of restoration and how we had to go through pain to get there. I knew the book of Job because I read it before, but I don’t think I understood it. I think I have a better understanding of it now, though I’ll admit I still don’t understand it fully yet. Yes, Job was restored. He went through a tremendous amount of pain and suffering before he was. And in the process, he had to persevere.
The friend I mentioned lamenting to earlier, after listening to me list all my struggles through held back tears, reminded me of something so crucially important. Having trials leads to perseverance. But perseverance has to be displayed and brought to fruition for you to learn from it. So many times you hear people quote James 1:2-3 saying “Count it all joy…when you face trials of many kinds, because …the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” My friend reminded me of the following verse: “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:4NIV). This stuck out to me. Because the initiation of trials, which can happen and be applied to a greater context than the biblical reference, only allows an opportunity to persevere. But to persevere actually requires action. You have to choose the action of “counting it all joy” and to keep going.
I’ll admit, I didn’t want to hear this advice. But I knew it was true. Even when things kept getting worst, the best thing I could do each day was get out of bed, and keep going. It’s the same thing for anyone who finds themselves in a hard time, even when things seem like they cannot possibly get better: keep going. It will take every ounce you may have. Like gasping for air when a wave crashes over you, or reaching for the next handhold while climbing a rock. But you have to persevere. And if you do, the rewards will be plentiful. The rewards will be sweet. And the insight you have moving forward will serve you.
So for those of you hitting hard times. Keep going. For those of in the midst of hard times. Keep going. For those who finally are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Keep going. For those who are finally out of the tunnel. Keep going. Persevere. You’re doing great!
For previous years reflections see below: