Lessons from a teacher called Adversity
Adversity is a brilliant teacher. It takes us through tremendous challenges; the days can be dark but then in a moment, we emerge into the sunlight, a different person.
Adversity has the power to transform, sharpen, break or grow us. However, the difference between one person who thrives at the end of a trying season or the one who gives up is attitude and resilience.
To illustrate this truth, Justine Sim shared her story of bouncing back after four incredibly difficult years. She wrote, “In May of 2012 my life fell apart. Our business went bankrupt. My husband, Dean became depressed and experienced full-blown burnout. The kind where you sit on the couch in silence, not out of choice, but out of stress and exhaustion. We worked stressed, stopped living. In other words, we existed. I was lonely and cried a lot. I even thought that God had abandoned us.”
Adversity comes in different forms.
For Justine and her husband, financial challenges, depression, burn out and paying off debt nearly got the better of them. “After three years our business slowly started turning around, but our lives hadn’t improved much. Dean was still suffering from burnout, but for the first time, we thought we could actually make it work. However, we had ‘lived’ in this mindset for so long that we had forgotten how to actually ‘live.’”
Change starts within.
A glimmer of hope emerged one morning for the two. Change always starts this way. It’s like a little seed that gets planted deep within the soil. After it breaks open the pod, pushes tender shoots through the earth, that we start to see new life. Adversity can breed new life; this process is hard but it can do just that.
One morning Justine turned to Dean and asked ‘Will I ever be happy again?’ and his reply was simple; ‘With true acceptance comes peace.’ That day, my attitude started to change, slowly and I began to make peace with my new normal.”
Instead of giving up, try something new.
“I entered the Spar ladies 5km race. Coupled with being overweight and unfit, I only planned to walk it with a friend. I had always admired folks who participated in sport and enjoyed it, but I struggled to identify the ‘enjoyment’ thereof. Running just seemed a lot like pain to me. During that ladies race, as I walked and talked with my friend I admired the ladies who ran, it looked like they were having so much fun! Consequently, I set a goal for myself; in 2017 I would run the Spar ladies 5km. Hence, I started running. I became determined not to give up because I was going to become a runner.”
New goals breed new hope
Soon Justine and Dean discovered trail running. “One weekend I entered him in a 5km race. He complained all the way there and was mildly annoyed that he had to do it. We ran that race, and Dean was instantly hooked! On the way home, he asked me, please enter him in the next one and so, Dean’s healing from burnout began.”
In 2017 I decided that I was fit enough to give the 10km Spar race a try instead of the 5km. That morning I was nervous and had planned to meet up with two other ladies. Unfortunately, it was freezing and rainy and my friends decided to stay at home. The old me would have turned around and gone home too. However, by now, I had found myself a motivational quote for the year ‘I haven’t come this far only to come this far’. The next thing, I found myself at the start line.”
Allies are essential to help us make it through adverse circumstances
Justine decided to reach out to a running group in her neighborhood. She had decided that she didn’t want to run along. She was serious about this: “I messaged total strangers and asked if I could run with them. The first time I met them was in the pitch dark at 5 am in winter to run 5km. We clicked, and I had running friends! I was beginning to discover that sticking your neck out, beyond what is comfortable can have huge payoffs.”
Life is full of ups and downs.
“Adversity doesn’t play favorites. In 2018, I went for a mammogram. I put on my kit and at the last minute grabbed a new pair of pink Balega running socks with the words ‘courage rules’ across the toes. They are from a limited edition called ‘grit and grace’ made every year in aid of breast cancer awareness and proceeds from their sale are donated towards breast cancer research. My GP didn’t waste time. ‘Your mammogram shows a small mass, but it’s cause for concern, I’ve made an appointment for you with a specialist surgeon, it’s for 2 pm today’.I walked out of the Dr’s rooms and burst into tears in the car park, Dean hugged me & told me ‘Go for that run now, it will be good for you,’ I knew he was right.”
During her run, she said that she smiled at the irony of having put those socks on. “A flippant decision had given me pause for thought, yes, I was brave, I was courageous, and I have nothing to fear. The run was good. I cleared my head & decided that ‘no,’ my life hasn’t ground to a halt; this is one of life’s speed bumps.’ On the run, I decided that I wasn’t going to wallow in self-pity or fear the worst.”
The results: All three samples sent in came back benign!
Know what you can and can’t control.
As Justine reflected on that experience, she concluded with these words: “This may sound silly, but I believe that I was meant to wear those socks on that day. They were a reminder to me that no matter the circumstance or situation, I can be courageous because the situation is out of my control. I can choose to fight it and fret, or I can choose to submit, wait for the outcome, trusting that it will be good, but if it’s not then I’ll take the next step.
I can’t control every circumstance, but I can control how I react to it. Last year, I chose to love life and to live it as best I can. I had a challenge, but that didn’t define my year. Just as happiness is a choice, so is courage. Living in fear of what may never happen is a waste of energy. I trust that my Father in heaven knows what is best for me; he loves me and cares about me. I have nothing to fear because there is nothing to fear.”
What was your takeout from Justine’s story? How did it encourage you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.