Joy on the Narrow Road
10/5/15 at 11:18 PM 0 Comments

A Practical Guide to Seeing Light In Dark Times

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I never doubt that the sun will come up each day. Therefore I always look for it. Yet everywhere I go I hear people say they don’t see the sun and they don’t feel the rain. There are even songs written about it. I can only guess that what they mean is that their pain is so great they are numb to feeling or seeing the sun. That simply amazes me. With that thought in mind I try to understand when people tell me that my attitude or perspective amazes them.I hear it almost every day.

“It’s amazing that you can see goodness through all that you’ve been through.”

“I’m surprised you’re sane after all of that.”

“Hard to believe you’re so religious and still you suffer so much. Good thing you have a good attitude.”

Those are just the ones I remember from today. When people say these things to me I wonder how on earth they get through their own trials. From what I’ve seen, some don’t. Two days ago I met a woman who told me she is sick of suffering but can’t get past her negative thoughts, depression and anxiety. She said she can’t see the sun most days. I was able to tell her she’s not alone as many people have told me similar things.

Even on the darkest of days I still see the Light (beauty), whether it’s a beautiful flower, a smiling face, a rusty gate, barbed wire, water droplets, a beautiful song or a clean fragrance. I see those things as light because they make me smile.

I look for them. I'm determined to find these types of things in every moment of my life. Even when I am crying and completely sad I still notice beautiful things. I take them into my mind and collect them. It brings balance to the pain I am experiencing. Once I have something to alter the scale of pain and pleasure I then chose which to focus on. You guessed it! I always chose the things that bring me a smile, even if I can only smile from within. I honestly consider it survival tactics.

It’s almost like I have a switch that turns off thoughts of troubling things. It must be connected to my heart because once I feel the pain I instantly search for something beautiful to make it go away. Now that I’ve said it like that, I can see how people get addicted to things, whether it be drugs, shopping or gambling or anything in between.

I will admit that I used to use food, shopping, and caffeine for comfort when I experienced pain, until each one of those things made me sick. I’d like to thank God for those horrible pains (physical pain and financial ruin) because it taught me how to get through the daily pains of life without those things. Now I simply seek out beauty when I am in pain. What a lovely exchange program it has turned into.

It requires mental discipline to do this. I haven’t always been able to do it so well. This last year was like boot camp for me as I learned a lot about how to deal with hardships in life. I have to say the first thing I learned was that it’s okay to cry hard at first and without guilt. I say it that way because many people think it is a sign of weakness to cry. I have always been a crier but I have always felt bad about it. Not anymore! I cry on purpose and with intention. I cry to let all of the pain out.

A young man admitted to me recently that he has always controlled his emotions by not allowing himself to cry. Until recently he was able to have such control. But one day while driving he couldn’t hold back the tears. He just let them out. What he confessed to me was that it felt good to let it out. He said it was a relief and then the pain was gone.

Once you’ve had a good cry, you have to find things that make you happy. One woman asked me “How do you know what makes you happy?” She continued by saying nothing makes her happy anymore. Like the others she has lost sight of the sun. I told her “pay attention to the things that make you smile”. After spending some time with her I observed what brought out genuine smiles and even laughter in her. Only when I pointed these things out did she acknowledge it was true. She really was unable to recognize these things on her own.

Make a mental list of things that make you happy and then search for these things on a regular basis. Eventually you will know where to look when you are in need. I want to point out that it is best to find things that are not human. What I’ve discovered is that people are a wonderful source of encouragement and support but the fact is everyone is facing struggles of some nature that you know nothing about. Not everyone likes to talk about their problems and many like to wear a fake smile so that others will not ask. Remember, people are imperfect and full of emotions so miscommunications will happen. You may find yourself disappointed you if you put the sole responsibility of your happiness on the shoulders of another human being.

In this modern world of social media there is one more aspect of human reaction I must talk about. Some of the things that make me happy are what others share on social media sites whether it is pictures, poems or songs. The thing I’ve learned is to accept the happiness in what is offered not in the person offering it. For example: if a celebrity posts a video from a show and it makes me happy to hear it or see it, I have to stop right there and realize it is the music or the memory of being at that show that is bringing me joy. If I take it any further and transfer those feeling of happiness to the celebrity and say “she makes me so happy” then I’ve missed it all together. Artists, writers, singers, actors etc. all share their emotions through their art. Their art is all they are offering you not themselves.

Additionally, commenting on these types of posts shared on social media has caused people to stir their emotions in all sorts of twisted ways. Keep in mind that when you post a comment to someone, specifically a celebrity, it is your offering back to them: a word of praise, thanks, or a memory. You should make sure when you post the comment that you are giving it away and not expecting something in return. If you are expecting a response and do not get one, you will be disappointed. It’s all about perspective.

I’ve learned from falling and hitting the ground so hard that perspective makes a huge difference to my happiness. I used to get such a thrill out of getting a response from famous people. Actually, I still do get excited about it. The difference is, I used to base my happiness on whether they responded or not. This is how I put them in a position to control my happiness. This was a crash and burn learning experience for me. I now have my perspective in the proper place; when I make a comment on a post I make sure it is a blessing to that person and leave it at that. I respond only if it makes me happy doing so.

Believe me; I am still learning some of these things, just in other areas of life. I believe God gave us feelings and intuition to use as a guide- it shouldn’t hurt. When I do something for someone and it is not well received and/or my feelings get hurt, I now know to check my intentions or consider my perspective. I learn from these experiences.

I want to wrap this up by saying the above instructions or advice is second to having complete trust and faith in God for joy. Similar to giving directions on how to plan and prepare a meal for a party, I have just given a practical (not spiritual) step by step plan on how to train yourself to see light in darkness. I do pray daily and ask God to show me these things. I do thank Him when he reveals his beauty to me. When I smile, I am smiling at Him. When I cry, I cry to Him. When I breathe, it’s by His grace that I am able. In like fashion, all of these instructions are done by His grace. I believe it is His will that I see things as I do so that I can shine the light of Jesus to those in the darkness. It is His name above mine and His will that goes before me.

If you have the light of Christ within you, let it shine. The world needs more Light in these dark days. If you cannot see the Light, my prayer is that you would call out from the darkness and seek Him. I believe with all of my heart that if you call out to Him, he will hear you and answer. He stands at the door and knocks, you must open your heart to let Him in.

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