Overcoming Adversity: Life Can Suck
Yeh, life can definitely suck. Sometimes it’s for a moment; sometimes, it lasts decades. For some men, adversity seems to come one trial after another with very little break to enjoy things. It seems like just when things are improving to the point of normalcy, life says, “gotcha,” and another trial of adversity shows up and sinks its teeth in. The causes are innumerable, and what may produce adversity in one man’s life may not in another man.
The bottom line, adversity comes in many ways and for many time frames. To be clear, sometimes we men create our own adversity trials, whether it’s through poor decisions or a period of slacking off. What is also true is adversity can come at us that we have no control over, the death of a loved one or the elimination of our position at work, for example. When the two combine to terrorize your life, it is incredibly agonizing, for, on one hand, you bear the responsibility for the things that were in your control and also feel an equal weight of helplessness for what is out of your control.
Compounding the emotions surrounding constant adversity is often a feeling of injustice. Why is it right that some really good people can’t seem to catch a break or have any long-term happiness, while people that just don’t deserve it seem to be getting the most out of life? I mean, solid, upstanding men are in a place where they can’t pay their bills while complete jerks with no real positive characteristics are living it up, providing for their families, and much, much more.
When you are on the adversity side of the equation, it sucks.
As a Christian man, I have heard all the quotes and verses. But I tell you, I have had multiple times in my life where I’m hanging onto not just my faith but my very existence by my fingernails. Do I have the magic solution that I can bottle up, create a landing page for, and sell for not $1,000, not $500, but just $29.99?? (But wait, there's more) Maybe someone does, but I doubt it.
I will simply share the things other men, and I, myself have worked through.
First and foremost
If you are suicidal, get help. You are worth it, Your family, your friends, and the world ARE NOT better off without you. Directly from The National Institute of Mental Health website:
“Call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 (para ayuda en español, llame al 988). You can also contact the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741). Both services provide 24-hour, confidential support to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Contact social media outlets directly if you are concerned about a friend’s social media updates or dial 911 in an emergency.”
Secondly, talk to a friend or friends.
If you don’t have a friend that you can talk about all the aspects of your adversity with, find a couple of friends that you can talk with about the different aspects. You might have a friend that can relate to and understand career stuff, you might have another friend that can understand your crappy attitude, and you might have another that is really great with solution ideas. However it parses out, involve some friends. If you’re worried about how you’ll look in their eyes (we all do), keep in mind that, most likely, they’ve had some adversity they’ve had to deal with.
Third, understand that there are two perspectives.
A long-term view and a short-term view. A short-term view is the “what the heck am I supposed to do right now?” So you find yourself unemployed, you’re pissed off, you’re scared about making the bills, and you’re embarrassed in front of your family and in-laws. How am I supposed to survive this? The long-term view is, “what do I need to do for this not to occur again, or, in the case of something out of your control, such as the death of a spouse, how will I survive life’s milestones without her?
When thinking in the short-term view, the main question that you can address is, “what do I need to do next?” Do not ask, “what do I need to do.” What overwhelms us when we have a position eliminated is this feeling that I’m only getting older, I need to have these better job skills so that someone will hire me, I need to…. Instead, focus on asking, answering, and doing; what is the exact next thing I need to do? Is it I need to pray that I don’t take it out on my spouse, or do I need to tell my spouse, check my savings balance, cancel a large purchase I just made, or find my resume file on my computer? The exact next thing deals with questions such as, what is the next bill and how will that get paid, what job do I need to take in the next 15 days to provide yet still stay fulfilled? Then ask, what is the next thing, do it, then ask again, what is the next thing? Then do that.
Instead, focus on asking, answering, and doing; what is the exact next thing I need to do?
When thinking about the long-term view, this is overall how I manage the carnage. Enlisting the services of a counselor, a mentor, a coach, or other professional to figure “all this out.” If this adversity was the result of my actions or inactions, how do I clean this up, and how do I prevent this from reoccurring? If the adversity was the result of circumstances outside of our control, such as the loss of a spouse, dealing with questions like, how the heck am I supposed to raise a kid by myself and not screw it up? If it’s yet another job application rejection, what am I supposed to be doing with my life- what is God saying? Am I hearing no’s because I’m barking up the wrong career ladder? Should I start my own business? What is it?
There is something or someone in your life that is a positive. Mentally cling to that. You have a spouse that you love, you have a cool hobby, you have an awesome grandchild, you have an excellent bench press, you have a fun outing scheduled, you have a date coming up, etc. If you look for it and admit it, you have something positive which can be embraced and focused on during moments of significant adversity. Focusing on a positive can gradually sway your mindset to a healthier place.
Look, I hate platitudes. And spouting off scripture without relational equity can be off-putting. However, as a Christian man, you have to, at some point, be an example of how to withstand adversity with the fortitude that God and the Scriptures can provide. Different Bible passages speak to different guys at different times for different circumstances.
I’ve found that when years go by and life seems subpar or downright deplorable, I am simultaneously encouraged and mystified by passages like:
Jeremiah 29:11-14 (NIV)
11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.[b] I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
Proverbs 16:3 (NIV)
“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”
Proverbs 16:7 (NIV)
“When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him.”
Isaiah 50:7 (ESV)
"But the Lord God helps me: therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.”
What overcoming adversity has taught me, IS teaching me, is that God and His Word are the only solid rock upon which I can stand (or lay upon in a heap of despair- temporarily, depending…).
So, I have two choices- and they are choices:
I can choose the path of yielding to adversity rendering me ineffective, or
I can choose the harder path, setting my face like flint, taking the next step forward in the dark mist of adversity, not knowing if there is a cliff or bridge, gripping onto faith with my fingernails, hoping, through my anger and sadness, that there is something positive to be had, if not for me, then for the generations watching me.