Will 2022 be different from the last two years? That’s the big question we’re asking these days. It’s human nature to look back and relive “the good old days,” to desire to go back to the way things were.
Have you met the high school jocks continually reliving that state championship? Or the pageant queen who spends thousands on maintaining her flawless skin and figure? Somehow life stopped for them. It’s as if they believe nothing in the present carries as much joy or credibility as their past.
However, we don’t live abundantly by looking in the rearview mirror.
Abundant life is lived forward.
Maybe you’re stuck in the abuse from your past. You may have escaped from your abuser, but your actions and relationships reveal the open heart wound still festers. Learning to recognize and resolve this pain takes intentional, persistent work with a trained professional. A survivor works hard to overcome the damage of the past. Each survivor I meet is courageous.
My friend, Shari Rickenbach, beautifully relates her persevering journey of healing from abuse to living an abundant life in her book Echoing Silence from the Child Within. Through the years, I’ve watched Shari emerge one step at a time. That’s the best way I know to describe her transformation. Where she rarely smiled or spoke before, today, Shari boldly and joyfully brings hope and healing to other trafficking victims.
Surfer and survivor Bethany Hamilton says she didn’t need easy; she just needed possible. You can check out her story in Soul Surfer and Unstoppable. Bethany’s passion for surfing didn’t end the day the tiger shark took her arm. Most people thought she was done surfing. She’d already built quite a reputation as a surfer and could have let the dream die. But she loves the ocean. “It’s where I can be me,” Bethany admits. With the help of her family and friends, Bethany continues to follow her passion, to be who God created her to be. She refuses to be defined by what many consider a tragedy or handicap. Her life is abundant and forward-thinking.
We marvel at stories like these, often putting people on a pedestal. But one thing I love in both these stories is the absolute realness of Shari and Bethany. Both are people like you and me who decided to trust God and persevere in life. They quit focusing on the past.
Abundant life worth living challenges us regularly.
Perseverance involves more than gritting your teeth, putting your head down, and barreling through whatever is in your way. It means you understand the obstacles are the way.
If I’ve learned anything the past couple of years, it’s that life changes quickly and doesn’t ask my permission. When Dave and I worked through the recovery from his porn addiction and my suicidal depression, we had to change our minds about our life. We couldn’t look back at the “good old days” because they got us where we were. Much of our habits, behaviors, and choices had to change. And that’s part of viewing the obstacle as the way. I couldn’t change Dave, nor could he change me. As a control freak, I discovered there is not much I can control but myself and how I respond to life circumstances. I can look at the obstacle and quit. Or I can look at the obstacle as an opportunity. Understanding the obstacle as an opportunity allows me to pursue abundant or forward living.
Here are three ways to live abundantly forward:
1. Look up.
It’s too easy to get myopic about life. When you and I encounter obstacles (and we will), God tells us we will have many trials and struggles on earth. Therefore, why should we be surprised? And in this passage in John 16, Jesus went on to encourage His disciples that He overcomes every struggle. Being human means dealing with conflict. But it’s the struggle that develops our character.
2. Rise up.
Something happens when we transition from childhood to adulthood — we lose our “I can do this” drive. If a child learning to walk gave up the first time they fell, they’d never discover the joy of running and exploring. As adults, we need to regain our “I can do this” attitude. Will we struggle? Absolutely. God tells us that in each struggle, He provides the way through it. We can overcome any obstacle with God’s help. I had to believe this truth to recover from addiction, betrayal, and depression. God isn’t surprised by our obstacles. They didn’t slip by Him. God promises to walk with us every step of the way if we turn to Him, trust Him, and submit to His plan.
3. Give up.
No, I don’t mean to sit down and believe life is over. ☺ When we give up our desire to control everything, we find freedom through trusting God. In Matthew 28, in The Message translation, we read:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
I love that God tells us we learn to live freely and lightly (abundantly) when we keep company with Him. God’s way of life brings adventure, excitement, and wonder. We’re free to be who He created us to be. Even if that doesn’t look like you thought it might.
As you move into this new year, what obstacles have you been avoiding?
Where are you stuck? Do you spend your time looking in the rearview mirror?
Let me encourage you to look up, rise up, and give up. Bring your pain to God. He alone knows exactly what you need. Once I realized I could do nothing to make sense of the mess we were in and allowed God to begin His work in me, life changed. That’s when I found hope and healing. If you’re not sure you can move beyond the obstacle, reach out for help. I promise to hear you and help you discover a healing path forward.