We are not immune to hardships and struggles. Just a few weeks ago my father was rushed to the hospital due to liver problems complicated by his long history of diabetes. It was a hard time for our family, resulting in stress and worry, as well as a hard time financially since we need to provide the best medical care available to ensure the recovery of my father.
With prayers from family members and friends, my father was discharged in the hospital after 3 weeks of confinement. Recent laboratory tests show that his liver has recovered and is now on his way to full recovery. This experience led me to reflect the following and made me share the effects of the event to my own life.
Draw near to God
The common reaction when something bad happens to us is to ask God,
“Why are you punishing me?”
We want these questions answered, as if we should not experience any hardship during our stay in this world. Job from the Old Testament offers a very interesting perspective on this:
But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. – Job 2:10
This tells us that the attitude we have when we receive blessings from God should not change when we are experiencing adversity or bad times. This does not mean that we should rejoice when we encounter trouble, but be willing to accept it as a part of this life, regardless of what you think you have done before or if you think you do not deserve it.
Remember that the Apostles, the closest followers of Christ, have suffered a great deal and died horrible deaths. If they have gone through that, being holy and loyal followers of God, why are we thinking we are better than them and thus expect better treatment?
Draw near to your family
Problems expose an important fact that we always forget or ignore during times of prosperity: the importance of having support from your family. No matter how your relationship is with your siblings, parents, or loved ones, in times of hardship you will realize that you will have nowhere to go but to them.
When my father was hospitalized, my wife and my in-laws gave me the support that I needed so I can go back to my home town and attend to my parent’s needs. When I was there at the hospital and my mother needed help in some errands like cooking, cleaning and purchasing goods, my cousins offered their support without asking anything in return. It reminded me of a saying (I had forgotten where it came from):
When you grow old, you will be near the people around you when you are a child.
I am not sure if the words are correct, but the message is that we should not forget the people around us when we were children: our family, cousins, neighbors and our friends. As we grow and mature and set up our own lives, sometimes the tendency is for us to neglect these people as we associate with our new friends and connections in our career. However, as we grow older and weaker we will find that the people we need and those that truly care for us are actually the ones that we know when we were children.
Learn what is important
Adversity also gives us a clearer view on what is important. For me, it gave me a renewed conviction that the most important things in life are things that we do not see.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:18
Money, our careers, and our physical belongings do not even matter when faced with our own mortality or of a loved one. We should look at things in the long-term, and so we will realize that some of the things that make us worry (missed deadlines, meetings, work schedules), do not even matter a few years from now. Thinking of my first job many years ago I am certain that there are instances when I feel that events at work are more important than family, but I do not even remotely remember those events at all! What I do remember are those missed opportunities to be with my family and those moments that I ignored because of work.
Review your philosophy in life
I am drawn to the philosophy of Stoicism. It teaches a lot of things about adversity and how we should think about the troubles and bad things that happen in our life. One important aspect of this philosophy is called Negative Visualization, where we imagine the things that make us worry and focus on that thought.
What if I lost my family?
What if I lost my job and income?
What if I had an accident and became blind?
Thinking of such things make us appreciate what we have right now and should cause us to not take things for granted. It is important however not to overdo these thoughts so that we become gloomy and negative in our lives, instead this exercise should increase our contentment and happiness on the things that we have and the situation that we are in right now.
I also find it important not to dwell on things that we have no control of. Especially during times of trouble there will be some things that are beyond our control, like the actions and emotions of other people, things that happen inside our own bodies (and most especially other people’s bodies), or events that have happened in the past. Worrying and arguing about these kinds of things is from my perspective a waste of time and energy since it does not affect the end result. Instead of worrying, we should focus on the things that we can control and influence, do your best in handling those things, and in doing so eliminate/reduce any regret that we may feel if the outcome is not what we hoped for.
I hope these things can help other people going through some hard times. To sum up my thoughts, we should be willing to accept both blessing and adversity into our lives. Both of these things are instruments from God that can strengthen us and increase our joy in our lives. It is up to us how we will deal with these events and how they affect us.