Mastering life’s circumstances
Written by Jenny Huthnance
We all have times when we feel overwhelmed. There are times when we feel we have failed in a situation only to find, in hindsight, how much God helped us overcome the difficult circumstance. These are times I remind myself of situations where God helped me overcome with His grace.
One of these situations of which I remind myself when facing an obstacle occurred when I had not long turned 18 years old. I had had a new pacemaker inserted due to a complication when I was younger and found myself with incredible energy. I felt like I could “conquer the world.” I was so excited to go on a hike up Half Dome in Yosemite, California. I was practically running during the hike. Three people who were on the hike with me couldn’t keep up. I felt so strong and capable, and excited with my newfound energy from the pacemaker correcting the heart issue.
We had reached halfway along the track when I had to stop. An incredible pain went up the back of my spine into my head and I sat down shaking -- in extreme pain and dizziness. Meanwhile, one particular person on the hike, while waiting for the others to go fill up their water bottles, told me how they really felt. As I sat in extreme pain trying to catch my breath this one hiker explained how useless I was. They never wanted me to come on the hike and how my stop was holding them back from making it down the mountain by sundown.
They didn’t think I could make the hike due to the recent surgery and let me know how unwelcome I was. I was trying to deal with this terrible physical pain and, to make matters worse, I was being verbally abused. This certainly did not help me cope with my distress. After a few minutes the pain went away but I was met with extreme exhaustion. I was no longer running; I was barely walking.
Meanwhile, this particular person just kept telling me (when the others were out of earshot) how they wished I had not come and how I was a burden on all of them. As I went down the last part of the hike -- large, wet, stony steps beside a waterfall -- my legs gave way out of pain and I cried for the next hour straight climbing down those steps. It was difficult to get my body to move and I needed two of the other hikers to hold me up as I walked. If they could have left me there, I would have begged them to.
Towards the end the hiker who had no empathy didn’t hide their attitude towards me, this time being open with how I had caused such trouble. I apologised through the sobs. We finally finished a little past nightfall and I cried silent tears in the back seat on the drive back. I had not only felt like a physical failure but I had one person on the trip who’s words were in my head telling me how burdensome I was and that I should never have come. I felt so miserable about myself. I felt shamed and a failure for several weeks as those negative words I heard wouldn’t leave me alone.
It wasn’t until I went to my doctor for my pacemaker check-up that they were able to see that the pacemaker recorded that I went into ventricular tachycardia on the hike. The doctor asked me, “Didn’t you feel any pain in the back of your neck?” Well, yes. “Didn’t you feel exhausted afterward?” Yes.
I was then asked “Do you know how lucky you are?” I frowned. What are you saying? “You could have gone into cardiac arrest; you were at the top of that mountain; no one would have gotten to you in time; you wouldn’t have had a chance.” Then she continued, “Wow! You are one tough woman to keep hiking after that. A tachycardia episode like that can put you in bed for days with exhaustion.”
I had suddenly been made aware how God saved me that day. I wasn’t just “slow” or “burdensome” as it was almost unheard of for someone to deal with an episode like that and keep walking for miles. I had not been a failure as the pacemaker record showed just how much I had really accomplished. But I could have never accomplished it had God not only saved me from going into cardiac arrest, but given me the will and just enough energy to get to the end.
I would have never known what those symptoms were had my pacemaker not recorded the episode, nor would I have known that it was God who helped me come through the ordeal. My perspective completely changed. My thoughts were definitely not God’s thoughts (Isaiah 55:8), and I had not seen what He did for me until weeks later.
Part of helping me approach a spiritual obstacle is that I know God supported me on a literal mountain hike with one of the worst of physical circumstances. If He can do that then He can also walk with me when climbing spiritual mountains too.
I definitely haven’t achieved mastery over life’s circumstances. However, I do know God has helped me master previous challenges even if in my human heart I thought I had failed. I reflect on times where I think, “How did I get through that? Where did I get the strength to do that?” There is only one answer in my head -- our great merciful God in heaven.
I could think, “Why has God allowed me to go through these hard times?” Or I can choose to remember, “Wow! Look at how God helped me through all those hard times.”
One of the characteristics needed in order to feel a sense of mastery over life’s circumstances is resilience. But, while resilience is a fine character trait, remembering and reflecting on how God has helped us through difficult times keep us going when new challenges arise in our lives.
To be able to “master life’s circumstances” is to remember our relationship with God and how He mercifully deals with us even when we don’t deserve it. He is a God that remembers us (Is 49:15). As Paul writes in Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
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