Strength and Purpose from Our Trials

The topic on my mind this week might be considered a delicate topic by some.  It’s something that I ponder often.  So much so that I suppose it’s no surprise that it compliments a previous post I wrote almost a year ago entitled Finding Happiness Amongst Trials.  I genuinely appreciate trials.  Perhaps not in the midst of the trial itself, but I do strive to find the silver lining even in the moment.  However, today I wanted to speak about finding purpose in the aftermath of our trials.

I was recently writing a piece about my battle with depression and Bi-Polar Type II.  A friend was proofing my work and questioned one of my remarks.  My sentence read, “Thankfully, I’ve learned that each high and low I have faced has strengthened me and equipped me for a healthier future.”  Her comment in the margins was, “Is this honest?  Sounds a bit too good to be true.”  I can answer without hesitation that it is 100% honest.  I abhor the lows of my Bi-Polar Type II.  That is how intensely painful those moments feel to me.  I feel legitimately check-me-in-to-a-mental-facility crazy in my times of darkness.  BUT, when I am able to come up for air and see clearly again, I find I am stronger.  Even more rewarding than seeing those moments through until I am back in the light, is the level of empathy it has provided me.  Prior to this personal struggle of mine, I had zero understanding of the pain and heartache that depression and mental illness can bring upon an individual.  It was not until I was able to experience extreme highs and lows in a short period of time that I was truly able to see how deceiving such an illness can be.  Deceiving in the sense that you will come across someone who seems perfectly happy and fine, but struggles silently with unseen darkness within.  This is why I find it so crucial that we Have a Merciful Heart.  It probably does sound too good to be true that I am able to find the good in such pain.  I didn’t always feel that way.  It’s taken time for me to understand that all of these trials are for my betterment AND that enduring these trials has afforded me the opportunity to be there for others who have or are suffering similarly.

The ability to be there for others is one of the greatest blessings that has come from all of my trials, whether they be big or small.  I just don’t see how enduring through our trials should be an isolated event.  When appropriate, I find that sharing our trials and how we “survived” them helps alleviate others who are going through similar difficult times.  I know I am grateful for the men and women who have been courageous enough to share their trials and tales of perseverance with me.  They have strengthened me.  The one that comes to my mind right now, probably because I am at the tail end of my pregnancy, is a friend of mine who shared her story of being on bed rest.  With my past two pregnancies, I was sentenced to bed rest.  I say “sentenced” because my personality does not thrive in such situations.  My husband always jokes about the irony of how women are more likely to be ordered on bed rest and how they seem to detest it.  He assures me that a man ordered to bed rest would gladly embrace day after day of watching TV and playing video games.  Alas, I digress.  When struggling with being on bed rest, my friend shared her experiences on bed rest.  She had to be flat on her back in a hospital for multiple weeks.  She was not allowed to sit up at all.  She told me that the first meal brought to her hospital room was spaghetti.  “How am I supposed to eat spaghetti laying down?!,” she said laughing.  Then she shared with me how her sister came and shaved her legs while she was bedridden.  She spoke of all the numerous services that were performed on her behalf that she struggled with accepting.  She spoke to my inner struggle at the time.  She encouraged me to graciously accept all the acts of service that I was receiving and not feel guilty about them, as I had been.  How grateful I was for her sharing her trial with me and confirming that I would get through it and soon I would laugh about it all.  And, of course, she was right.  That is just one of countless stories that has brought me peace and hope during a trial.  My prayer is that I have been able to lift another similarly by sharing my own struggles with them.  If for no other reason than lifting another in their time of need, I am grateful for the trials I have endured.

I want to share one last story with you on this matter.  It is the story that I read this week that inspired this topic in the first place.  This is the story of Antoinette Tuff, a 47-year-old bookkeeper at an elementary school in Georgia, and Michael B. Hill, a 20-year-old armed with an AK-47 who entered that same elementary school on August 20, 2013.  Hill encountered Tuff inside the school and Tuff quickly learned that Hill had stopped taking his medications and no longer wanted to live.  Tuff calmly responded to Hill saying, “I thought the same thing.  I tried to commit suicide last year after my husband left me, but look at my now.  I’m working and everything is OK.”  Tuff’s remarks soothed Hill and he relinquished his weapon and not a single person was injured that day.  If you want to read more about Tuff’s story, she wrote a book called Prepared for a Purpose. I have not read the book myself, I read about this story in the February 2014 Costco Connection magazine.  In the magazine article it states that, “Now when Tuff looks back, she sees the struggles of her past in a new and more meaningful light.”

I share her feelings.  It’s not that I enjoy the trials when I’m in the middle of them.  It’s that I’ve learned to appreciate their purpose in my life and perhaps in the lives of those around me.  I have become fully aware of their strengthening powers.  I love how Steve Maraboli puts it in his book Life, the Truth, and Being Free, “Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient.”  How true that statement is and how grateful I am for a stronger and more resilient me.

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