“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”
~ Victor Hugo.
On one of my flights into Manchester, I don’t recall how many years ago, I had a surprising discovery. It was a clear, cloudless morning, the sun rising from a rose tinged horizon, the sky a beautiful shade of dark blue. As we started our descent we began to encounter some turbulence, it became a little bumpy, and soon we were in the midst of a dense bank of clouds. When we broke through the cloud ceiling and eventually landed, it was a typical grey Manchester day: gloomy, overcast and damp. It was hard to imagine that above that impenetrable mass of moisture, there was a perfect sky with not a hint of inclement weather.
When we are in the midst of turbulence and struggles, it is difficult to pull back and recognize that it is temporary. For some people, their life seems to be an endless string of hurricanes, with all of the accompanying drama. But as hard as it may be to hold on to a vision of tranquility under those circumstances, that is the only thing that can help you to keep your sanity. And if you open yourself up to the stories of others, it may shock you to realize what tragedies they are dealing with and put your own into perspective.
We often confuse inconvenience with true tragedy, thinking that obstacles are somehow deliberately put in our way to frustrate our own personal agenda. They say if you want to know if God has a sense of humor, tell him your plan! It may be sheer arrogance to believe we have control over everything in our life. Many of us feel extremely unsettled when things do not go the way we expected. And feeling in control gives us a sense of security. But the Bible verse reminds us that when we think that everything is peace and safety all it takes is “a sudden destruction” and everything that we thought was stable is swept away.
There is a video that I saw on facebook which is a reminder of how trivial some of our problems really are. The filmmaker took some of our typical complaints (I believe they were taken from tweets), and had them narrated by people living in deplorable conditions. So a man standing in front of a falling down shack in a shanty town might be saying “I hate it when my house is so big that I need two wireless routers”. Many of us are so spoiled we have no understanding of the true meaning of the verb ‘to suffer’.
On the other hand, how do we make it through the clouds when we really are having a bad spell? What is it that makes some people able to carry the sunshine with them, and make you feel good even though they are the ones in travail? What is it that gets you through the night? I have been thinking about this a lot recently, and would love to hear from you. If you had to isolate one thing that has seen you through the darkest time of your life, what was it? Was it faith? A sense of humor? The fact that others needed you? Family? A sense of balance, that life somehow gives as well as takes away? It would be lovely to create a recipe, a prescription to be taken when life throws you curve balls, to help you through the pain.
Sometimes we overdose on our medicine, and turn devices that help us to cope into harmful habits. A drink to dull the pain may become an addiction. So we have to remind ourselves to do all things in moderation. I was giving some advice the other day, and repeated something I have often said before: “Fake it till you make it”. Sometimes when we are being severely challenged, and would love to curl up in a ball under the covers and hide from life, we have to fool ourselves that we are braver than we think. And so we pretend, act as if we are that brave person, put on a good face, and hopefully convince others that we are up to the task. This may be the way to make it through the night, and the day, until one day you realize you aren’t pretending any more, that you actually are that confident capable person.
But there is another way to look at that. Is it a strategy, or is it a delusion; a denial and failure to deal with the realities of life? And to be sure, taken to an extreme, this could be a sign of a mental illness! Again, we have to be aware of the danger of overdoing things, but in moderation, a device that helps us get through the challenges can be lifesaving.
On this still cool Friday morning, thinking of those who have to dig cars out of snow to go to work I wish everyone the patience to cope with annoyances and the strength to face true tests. And even if life is going smoothly for you, be sure to fill up on those activities that keep your reserves topped up, ready for any periods of adversity or pain. Some of those activities include helping others, for that guarantees to remind you that no matter how tough life may be, it could always be worse.
Have a great weekend, family! May you laugh long and loud, and have family and friends to support you, and as my mother always says: “Keep the faith”.
The link to ‘First world problems read by Third World people’: