How to experience happiness in midst of challenges, pain and personal mistakes
Have you ever had to face a reality that was not what you wanted it to be?
A life that didn’t turn out the way you imagined?
The reality of failure or meaningful mistakes, a painful loss or situations that turned out differently than planned?
I did. And actually, I’ve never met someone who didn’t, in some way or another.
However, I’ve come to realize that those people in my life who went through the most difficult, painful realities, weren’t the people with the greatest sadness in their lives, the greatest bitterness in their spirit.
In fact, I have met people who went through a great deal of difficulties, who lived painful stories and had to recognize big errors of failure – but they still live a life I want to imitate. A fruitful life, where love, grace and joy radiates out of them.
How can that be? I’ve wondered.
I’ve figured out that it had much more to do with truths they understood, than with the amount of bad things that had happened to them.
It had to do with their way of dealing with the shortcomings, including their own mistakes and failures – but also bad decisions, poor choices or wrongdoings from others. It had to do with their revelation of who God is in the midst of their imperfection, in the midst of the reality of this world we live in.
In this post I would like to share what changed me. How I went from a suffering girl, who felt inadequate and useless to become this woman I am today, filled with hope for a future – despite my own mistakes, failures and imperfections, despite this imperfect world I still live in. The article is written out of the perspective of a woman (me), but I’m sure the basic idea applies to men as well.
I can (and need to) choose where I want to live
This is one of the first – and most important things I’ve come to understand.
The idea comes from a book I mentioned in a past Article, the book called: „ Keeping a Princess Heart in a Not-So-Fairy-Tale World “.
And this way of thinking has changed my world.
It springs from the fact that we as Christians have a heavenly father who is king – we are all royal. We simply are. Not by our achievements or by our possessions, but through our identity in Him.
This identity is the place where we belong. A place where we can relax inside, knowing that we are loved. A place where we naturally worship the king, overflowing from the inside out.
We live in this dark hole, lonely, sad, feeling bitter, not seen, not valuable, not worthy.
Such a person can be
- single, looking at every couple around her with the feeling of loneliness and being „left out“.
- a childless woman who is desperately longing for children, filled with deep pains and sorrows and inable to look at any pregnant woman, families with children
- a married woman with a difficult marriage, looking at any seemingly happy couple.
In the dungeon, the reality, the painful mindset is often:
- „I’m forgotten“.
- „I’m left out“.
- „No one sees me – not even God.”
- „Probably, I’m not (good) enough. Or I probably made too many mistakes. „
- „Maybe I’m just not worthy and valuable enough to be happy“.
This way of thinking will rob us of our joy and our general happiness. Simply because out of that dungeon, bitterness and pain will follow us anywhere we go. It is a way of life. We can actually choose to live our lives in that place.
That way of life emerges, when we are too scared to face reality. When we live in some sort of „castle in the air“, filled with imaginary happiness. The author of the mentioned book states: „It’s hard for us to keep our heads out of the clouds when our hearts so badly want to live there.”
What woman doesn’t long for a happy ending to her challenges? To be seen, recognized?
If reality gets too challenging, we sometimes try to run away from it, too scared to face it.
Living in the castle in the air includes trying to hold something (be it their personal life, family, marriage, friendship or career) together by ignoring the problems, pretending that „everything is fine“.
- So the teenagers are out of control? „Oh, you know, they are just finding their true self, things will be fine.“
- A marriage is suffering under a void of sexual intimacy and under personal isolation? „ This is simply a season, everything will be fine again by itself, my husband would never look at another woman anyway.“
- When the personal life of the inhabitant of the “castle in the air” is drained by struggles, sorrows and self-blame and lacking intimacy….
…she’s still all smiles, refusing to face her reality and is living in a dreamlike world of pretense.
Both ways of dealing with reality are pretty understandable.
However, when I read that book, I recognized myself – not in the castle in the air, as I always wanted “to face reality”… but in the dungeon instead.
When I realized, I was living a life in the dungeon, feeling left out, unable to rejoice with anyone who had something I didn’t have – I took a decision.
I wanted to get out of there and instead learn to live in the castle of the king.
This was my first big step in the right direction.
It was a process, however. Changing a habit of thinking, a pattern of life is not easy at all.
However, by holding on, I learned a few additional truths that helped me in that process:
- God is not surprised by my imperfections. He knew them before I realized them.
- My personal mistakes and errors – as big as they may be – are not the end of my live. In handing them to God (and by refusing to find my own short-cut solution to them) he will turn them into something beautiful.
- God made me unique. Trying to be someone else or being ashamed of who I am will not only rob the world of this unique person of mine but will rob myself of the joy to discover how uniquely I am made.
- When I am faithful in the little things (as little they may seem to me) God will do the rest.
When I finally understood these points a new reality entered my life.
Suddenly, this deep, authentic gratefulness made its way into my heart.
I’m not talking about that well-meant gratefulness out of a place of pain from being forgotten in the dungeon. I have been there. I have been praying this kind of prayer: “God, even if I have nothing, even if I seem to be forgotten, I still thank you”.
I neither mean thanking God for the food on the table and for all my possessions, while being unable to face the real pain about my life.
While the purposely decision to be grateful is a good thing, that’s not what I experienced at this point. No, this gratefulness I talk about was there because I understood that God is greater than my imperfections. He knew them before I realized them.
This gratefulness is, because I experienced in my life that my personal mistakes and errors are not the end of my life. That he turned them into something beautiful
This gratefulness lies in discovering who God made me to be – and the joy of being it.
This gratefulness comes from situations when I was faithful in the little – and he surprised me with the big thing, more wonderful than I could ever have imagined.