Life is messy. It’s unfiltered, unapologetic, and unrelenting in its ability to bring us to our breaking point. Scrolling through social media, you might come across inspiring messages of hope and positivity overlayed across a mountain or sunrise, aspiring to remind you that “this too shall pass.”
But what if it doesn’t? What if the hard thing life just handed to you feels catastrophic and impossible to overcome? Is hope really on the horizon, or will you feel destroyed forever?
The world is imperfect. Life is tough. Relationships are complex, and outcomes are uncertain. But if we could fundamentally reframe how we view life’s challenges, perhaps hardship and hope together can do something for us that a problem-free life never could. Consider these four reasons to harness life’s catastrophes for your good.
Hardships point us to hope.
Many people view hope and pain as polar opposites. Actually, it’s the existence of pain which allows hope to express itself. Hope lives in the presence, not the absence, of suffering and crises. So, when you feel hopeless, you’re closer to the life-saving virtue of hope than you realize. Growth and pain go hand in hand.
People have long tried to capture the idea that hopes and adversity are not only connected but intrinsically reliant on each other. Beauty from ashes, light at the end of the tunnel, the sun after a storm. The truth in these clichés is that some of your greatest good in life will come because of pain, setbacks, and disappointments — not in spite of them.
Perhaps a better understanding of the connection between life’s challenges and our potential is the best avenue toward building resilience and finding hope.
Hardships reveal what’s on the inside of us.
Whether it’s a global crisis or a personal one, an ambush usually comes without warning and affects us in ways we never could have anticipated. When the hard knocks of life hit, it can make us realize that the ground beneath us was shaky and we weren’t prepared for it. Without a framework for navigating the murky waters of uncertainty, we can become discouraged and disillusioned.
Adversity is a great teacher. It exposes the innermost strength we all have — or don’t have. It reveals our ability to overcome hardship and become a better version of ourselves. Life’s catastrophes come bearing hidden gifts and can turn out to be sources of growth if we allow them. We discover a maturity from which to function in the future. Maybe we’re more introspective, less prideful, more loyal, or better friends and parents. Maybe we’re prepared to help someone else who’s facing their own catastrophe.
The very hardest moments of life will shape us into who we’re supposed to be – the sooner we can view it that way, the better.
Problems can stretch our worldview.
If we can reframe our perspective, life trials can become redemptive markers in our life, bringing new perspectives to the way we approach the next hurdle.
Many of us can recall memories of talking with Grandma about what she did “back in the day” or stories of Grandpa from his days fighting in the war, working in a factory, or putting himself through college. When our grandparents’ generation reflects on the experiences that shaped who they are, they don’t talk about memorable vacations or dinner parties. They talk about the hard stuff — the things they pushed through, the challenges they overcame, and the events which left an indelible mark on their heart. And they share it with an understanding that they are stronger and more resilient because of it.
When the older generations see the degree of social upheaval, cultural chaos, division, and strife in our world today, they’re not as rocked by it as Gen X or millennials tend to be. They’ve had a front-row seat to the world’s chaos for decades, and they’ve learned how to process it.
Sometimes, we become so consumed with our current circumstances that we think that’s all there is. When we’re facing a trial in life, it’s good to remember that it’s just a season, and life is so much bigger than this one thing.
Your scars make up the road map of your life.
Consider this: the broken parts of you do not make you a lesser version of yourself — they make up the authentic version of you.
We celebrate the mountaintop experiences of life. New jobs. New relationships. Anniversaries. Promotions. But real life is not only when we are at our best, but also when we’re experiencing trials. Many people are aware of my biggest achievements — my successes, my wins, the things I’m proud of — but only my inner circle knows the real me. And the real me is the one with scars, failures, and deep disappointments.
Perhaps we are more our valleys than our mountains. We are our battles. When I see the perfect version of someone’s life, I know I see only a veneer. But when I know their pain, I know the real person.
Don’t filter your mess. Allow yourself to be authentically human. We want to see the age, the weathering, and the scars of life. Show your story. Don’t hide it. Don’t be ashamed of it. If we’re not honest about our hurt, we’ll never be able to process it in a healthy way. There is strength and power in saying, “This is me.” I’m in debt. I just received a life-threatening diagnosis. I have an estranged family member. I suffer from depression.
Has life thrown you some hard curveballs? One of the most revitalizing, hope-building decisions you can make is to forge purpose from your pain. I call these experiences in life “good catastrophes.” View your hardships as an opportunity to obtain hope, become a more resilient you, and gain a new perspective.
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Benjamin Windle is an author, pastor, and Millennial/Gen Z Specialist. As a pastor for over 20 years, he’s walked with many people through the dark shadows and valleys of the human experience. He has dedicated his life to helping people overcome life’s challenges by growing deeper in their faith and reaching higher in life. Benjamin is a new-generation content creator for some of the most respected Christian brands in the world. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Cindi, and they have three sons. Benjamin is the author of “Good Catastrophe: The Tide Turning Power of Hope.” For more information, visit benjaminwindle.com.
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