You have heard me say it before: Pain is inevitable, being grumpy is optional. Is this true?
Yes, that is true…and each of us has a choice in how we respond to pain (or anything, for that matter). It’s that simple. We can respond with negativity and irritation or with optimism and positivity.
Which of the following reminds you of you when you are feeling pain? We can choose kindness and self-control. We can stop and take a deep breath before we spew hurtful words pour out of our mouths. We can be easy-going with a sense of humor. We can forgive even when we don’t feel like it. We can ask questions to gain a better understanding, and listen with an open heart to the other person’s perspective. Or, we can have a victim mentality and feel sorry for ourselves. Maybe we’ll lash out at those we blame and even spew our anger onto innocent bystanders. We might manipulate using silent treatment, or pretend whatever happened didn’t happen in order to avoid responsibility and owning up to our part in the problem. So many options; it’s your choice.
You have likely heard someone say, ‘I’m in a bad mood because so and so did such and such.’ People want to blame someone else for their grumpiness or negativity. But is it really the other person’s fault? Certainly seems fair to blame the jerk who hit your parked car and didn’t leave a note, or the “friends” who blabbed your most personal information all over town after you believed you could confide in them.
I will be the first to tell you that I was extremely angry when the now-convicted-felon embezzled my money. I was slamming doors, screaming and cursing…all because of him; it was his fault. Or was it? The crime, yes, but was my reaction his fault?
Thankfully, God woke me up. He brought a woman into my life who in the middle of our conversation about both of us losing our money (hers due to the 2008 recession) said to me, “That guy ruined your life.” Oddly enough, to my own surprise, the Spirit of God interrupted my thoughts and spoke through me. Words I had not expected came flying out of my mouth. “No he didn’t. He just messed up my finances.”
It was the strangest reaction! The words came out of my mouth without any effort on my part and a peace came over me instantly. God’s Spirit made it clear that I was not defined by, nor dependent on, my money; I was a child of the most high God…and God had planned something even better for me. I didn’t know what it was at the time, but God immediately turned me around 180 degrees.
From that moment forward, I took ownership of my behavior in response to my pain. I realized I had a choice. My negative reactions were not only ungodly, but they were also making me physically and emotionally sick. With God’s power, I was free from the victim mentality I had had in my anger. I clung to God and through His Word, He reminded me “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1), and my time for screaming, weeping and mourning was over. I would move on to a time of spiritual growth, joy and laughter…so much more then my modest goal of becoming content.
When I read Ephesians 4:26, I understood God to be saying, ‘You can be angry, but don’t react in a sinful manner.’ I began to realize that my reaction was my reaction; I needed to own it. I had a choice. Be grumpy or not!
Thankfully, God brought things into my life that helped me laugh. Creating and wearing t-shirts with my funny “grumpy” saying kept me thinking about how I was behaving. After all, I couldn’t very well wear my t-shirt while being grumpy, could I?! Laughter and God’s promise to work things for the good turned me around. Like Abraham’s 90-year-old wife Sarah said after giving birth to Isaac, “God brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me” (Genesis 21:6).
I moved forward with a goal of handling the legal aspects of my situation. I tried hard not to think about how grossly angry I had been because that made it harder to imagine how I would get through my mess without falling apart. I needed to keep my eyes on God (reading His Word daily), and thankfully, that is what helped me see that God was truly walking with me every minute of every day.
Any moment a negative thought came into my mind, I would replace those thoughts with something that was Godly and true. For example: a negative thought might be ‘I will never have enough money to survive.’ A positive truth that could replace that would be ‘God knows what I need each and every day and He promised to provide. I will be fine.’ (NOTE: You cannot simply try to dismiss negative thoughts; you need to REPLACE them.)
Despite the fact that I only recovered about a tenth of what my business partner embezzled, I became richer than ever. I saw God do incredible things and I learned that God’s timing is impeccable. I would not trade what I experienced for all the money in the world.
I say all this to share with you that if you feel you are in a bad situation and it looks like nothing good could possibly come out of it, your story isn’t over yet. I apologize if that sounds cliché, but it is true. Hang on to God; read His Word daily; pray continually. He has a plan, a good plan.
That said, here is one of the hardest lessons I had to learn: it isn’t all about me. God (His Word) made it clear…the good isn’t always for me at that particular moment; it’s for all mankind in relation to the plan of God bringing all men to a saving grace and eternal home with Him. That’s a hard reality for some, but once we embrace that truth, we find the joy that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7). I learned to focus on the fact that my pain could possibly help others come to know God better, and it felt good to be part of a bigger picture.
Pain is different for all of us so please give yourself grace as you are healing. You will learn to manage your emotions. Some tragedies are excruciating as they leave you without answers. Be kind to yourself as you heal. It’s okay if you slip back into a poor reaction at some points; just don’t stay there. Replace your negative thoughts with positive words, and ask for forgiveness if you hurt someone else. Keep trying! Keep believing that you will heal.
Enjoy being part of the bigger picture.