I have just finished the first 3 modules of the course I am going through on creating my life plan and it has been eye opening So far, Donald Miller has had us write down specific life turns that we have experienced throughout our life, both positive and negative. These are things that have happened to us in which our lives were never the same again.
It was a really hard exercise because I, and probably you too, tend to want to remember the positive events of our lives and not dwell on the negative ones. But, I also know that even though I have that desire, I tend to dwell on the negative things so much that some days they can consume most of my thoughts and send me into a negative depressive state that I have to work hard to overcome.
We had to write down a title for the life turn, a description and then use one of those impossible rating scales from 1-10 on how negative or positive the event was for us to experience. After that, we put these events on a timeline with positive events being on top and negative ones on the bottom.
Of course the goal is to look at the timeline we have created and discover a theme for our life. I have to admit I was a little skeptical at first but after I completed my timeline, I was surprised how vivid my theme had appeared.
My timeline seemed to point out that even though I have experienced a lot of betrayal and abandonment by people in my life, God has always been there trying to show me that I can count on Him for my security, acceptance, consistent commitment and unconditional love. I was able to see how I have tried to conjure up these needs to be met by myself but it has never really worked.
So far, I think my theme is to help others understand the intrinsic value that God has created them with, even though they missed understanding that for all sorts of reasons, and that they have a specific purpose to live out for God, others and themselves. I want to help others find that purpose so they can live the life God created them to live. That's a big goal since I am still in that same process myself!
The other startling revelation I had was that even after seeing all of the very difficult things that I have lived through written down on paper, I am now starting to see the good leaking out of those experiences.
I have always struggled with really accepting James 1:2 which says that we are to "consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of any kind". It's an easy thing to say but when it comes down to it, it is really hard. It's tempting as a Christian to gloss over a lot of hurt, put on that church smile and spout off something about how we just need to consider it all joy. God's word says that we need to do exactly that, but we need to be able to accept the richness of really digging deep into our hurts in able to truly see the joy that can come. That doesn't come easy but takes a lot maturity and surrender.
In this process that I am going through, he refers to it as finding a redemptive perspective through the negative turn in our lives. It's been a challenge for me to really see how God has used this pain for me to give encouragement to others, to teach me something through it about myself or about Him, has revealed my own sin or at least acceptance of the lies that I had distorted as the truth, and has demolished the temptation to judge others who are having struggles.
The reason I am writing any of this is that I know most of you have also gone through some really difficult trials in your life. Finding a purpose in it has really helped me to be able to start to heal and I want the same for you. Just remember that finding blessings hidden in a tragedy doesn't mean that we are calling what happened a blessing. It still remains a tragedy, but the blessings we find down the road a bit can redeem the tragedy and make it matter. That's when there is purpose in the pain.
Victor Frankl says, "In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds meaning..." I'm looking for that to happen for me and for you as well. Blessings to you as you ask God to help you to find the joy.