“There’s a lesson in everything.” I keep discovering how right my godmother was when she told me things like this (but my inner teenager is still rolling her eyes). I’ve written about my struggle with mental illness (anxiety and clinical depression). An important coping mechanism is learning how to process strong emotions so that you’re empowered instead feeling victimized. Nothing is a waste if you take time to look at it and learn a lesson from it.
I recently read a book by Rebecca Musser, the 19th wife of a polygamous religious sect leader. After running away from the community and losing contact with her family, she was faced with a lot of difficult decisions. She had to process a lifetime of strict religious indoctrination and she comes to find a deeper faith in Jesus Christ. In her book, she describes how she could either look at her life and say, “Why me?” or “Show me.” To say “Why me?” puts you in the position of victim. To say, “Show me” invites God to show you His purpose.
I will share a painful example for my own life. My Hope is that you will learn a bit from my experience.
Last summer (2016) I lost the job I loved – my dream job. It was a job with people that I genuinely enjoyed working with at a nonprofit organization. We were working on a meaningful project. I was challenged every day and I was a valued part of the team.
Then I lost my job because of circumstances beyond my control, and my boss’s control. I was angry because it felt personal and I was frustrated because, no matter how hard I fought and how much I reasoned, the position within the organization was terminated. I couldn’t place the blame one person in particular. I grieved the loss of my job because I lost a grounding point in my life. I spend a lot of time praying trying to understand why God would take away something I loved.
Apostle Paul also experienced a dramatic change several times in his life and ministry. (For example: The Conversion of St. Paul – Acts 9:3-9) Lord brought Ministry Partners into his life at different times (Barnabas and Silas). When St. Paul was sailing for Rome (Acts 27:39-44), the ship he was sailing on wrecked off the island of Malta. On the island of Malta, God used St. Paul to heal the governors’ father and “the rest of the people on the island who had diseases” (Acts 28:7-10).
St. Paul’s life was literally blown off course. I felt the same way after losing my job. Mrs. Musser’s book reminded me that I could either complain about losing my job as though there was no possibility of ever having meaningful work again or I could ask God to show me His purpose. I really hate the platitudes like “There’s meaning in everything.” Those feel like cold comfort when you’re facing a very real loss or disappointment. Losing my job was a crashing disappointment and I was in a state of shock. Then you’re facing overwhelming circumstances, please process emotions as they come in a healthy way. Dealing with emotions will keep them from building up and turning into something far more damaging like bitterness or deep anger.
I was challenged myself to list three things to be grateful for every time I complained about:
- I lost my job but I am still friends with the amazing co-workers that I had.
- I can see the fruit of the effort that I put into the project as it moves forward and it feels good knowing that I helped to lay a strong Foundation.
- When I lost my job I was forced to face some poor habits (working too many hours to the detriment of my health and well-being.) The job I loved became my idol.
Six months on, I can share this: Because I was no longer working in that job that I was open to the possibility of other careers. God opened the door for me to use my gifts and abilities in a new way that will also be beneficial to a broader group.
Thank-you, God. Thank-you, God. Thank-you, God.
[Featured image from http://axcy.deviantart.com/art/Let-Down-61653572]