Setbacks or Silver Linings?

Think back at how many things in your life didn’t work out as you had hoped.  Colleges that rejected you, jobs you were turned down for, relationships that unexpectantly ended, relocations you didn’t want, health issues that inhibited you or those you care for, the list can go on and on and on. 

I can look back at my inability to conceive a child, an adoption that didn’t work out, an exciting career situation that evaporated, a start-up business that faltered -- and I can recall how devastating many of these situations felt at the time.  But with hindsight, I can see how each of these circumstances led to something much better.  I couldn’t see it at the time, and in many cases it took years to see the benefits of these disappointments.  But in each case, God had a different plan for me -- one that I was not privy to and that required patience in order for me to see what God actually had in mind.

If similar situations happened today, I don't believe I would feel as distressed -- and this is why:

I can look at my life and divide it in two.  Most of the experiences I mentioned above occurred in the first part of my life, which could be labeled “Before Faith."  To be completely honest, there was never a point in my life where I didn’t have faith.  Fortunately, I have never struggled with whether or not God exists.  But in the part of my life I label “Before Faith” I would say I just didn’t believe God was that interested in the details of my life.  I believed He wanted me to be a good person and make good choices, but as long as I was for the most part doing that, I just felt like God had more important things to focus on in this world.  So my philosophy in the first part of my life was much about working hard for whatever I wanted as if everything depended on me.

The second part of my life I label “After Faith,” which is when I finally realized that God has a great interest in what is going on in my life.  He cares about the small and relatively trivial things, not because He wants me to be happy and accomplish everything I want, but because He wants to me to know He is there for me so my relationship with Him will grow.

Now when things don’t go the way I want or the way I think they should, I handle the disappointment in a different way.  Do I still sometimes feel some sadness?  Sure.  Frustration? Absolutely.  But I don’t feel these emotions to the same degree as I used to, nor do they stay with me as long.  I have learned that God is never far from my side no matter what life throws my way.

I want to be clear that I do not believe God is directing all that happens in our lives because if He did, He would essentially be taking away our free will.  But I do believe that God can make some good out of almost anything that happens --  if we cooperate with Him.  The way we cooperate is by eliminating any self-pity we feel, looking for the opportunities God will undoubtedly offer us, and truly, truly trusting Him.

Remember how I said that during the first part of my life, one of my philosophies was to work as if everything depended on me?  Well now my philosophy is different: work as if everything depends on me, but pray as if everything depends upon God. 

photo credit: Stuart Miles on