Struggling Is a Landmark, Not a Roadblock.

Alex Sanfilippo

Every human being goes through seasons of struggling in their lives; it is something that we all have in common. Difficult times will look different for each of us. We are all in 1 of these 3 categories: In a difficult season, about to be in one, or just coming out of one. Super negative, right? From the world’s perspective, it sure is! But what about God’s perspective?

In my early twenties, my tendency was to give up and go a different direction when a difficult situation would present itself. When there was a ‘struggle’ I’d search for another way. However, as I grew in my relationship with God, I learned to persevere through these times of difficulty. Once I started persevering and refusing to just give up, I realized that I experience the growth in my life during my struggles. You cannot get where you need to be without going through the trials of today.

God has taught me over the last few years that my struggles are not roadblocks, they are actually landmarks. These struggles are things that I need to face in order to become who I am supposed to be in Him. Once I really started to understand that the struggles were a necessity for growth, two things happened:

1. I found myself deciding that I had to face them head on and remain positive in doing so.
2. After the victory, I found myself saying things like this: “That was the moment when change and growth started. That is what taught me the skills I needed in order to be where I am today.”

Since this principle has become part of who I am, I have grown so much! God has started using me to help others who are going through similar situations. All of this is possible only because instead of just giving up or turning a different direction, I trusted God and stayed faithful to Him. I continued to walk the way that He has called me to walk during those seasons.R

My perspective on difficult situations has been forever changed! I can’t begin to explain the amount of growth that I have experienced because of this.

I write this post today not to boast about being able to get through difficult situations, but instead to encourage you to do the same; press on! Start viewing struggling as a landmark, not a roadblock! James 1:2-4 has been a foundational verse for me on this topic:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2-4

I encourage you today, no matter what you are struggling with, remember that it truly is a landmark, one day you will look back and say: “That was the situation that God used to grow me.” Pray for God to give you the grace to persevere through whatever it is that you may be going through. Remember that He loves and cares for you and will help you as long as you remain faithful to Him.

Struggling is a landmark, not a roadblock. Press on through the time of testing and gain the testimony that will enable you to help others in the future!

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Getting Sucked into Comparing Yourself to Societies Norms

Have you ever observed people or yourself feeling taunted by social norms?

I’ve noticed the history of this for myself, spanning back to childhood, and I’ve noticed it time and time again for others I encounter in my work, where people have fallen into the hole of comparing themselves to others and comparing themselves to socially accepted norms and measures of ‘success’. Granted, it’s a pretty darn big hole, so actually, it’s not that hard to fall into! When I’ve witnessed this Comparison Conundrum as I like to call it, it’s like hearing a cry echoing from deep within the hole, which sounds a bit like this:

  • Everyone else is married now, and I’m not. Something’s wrong.
  • Everyone else is buying houses now, I guess I should too.
  • I’ve got this job but it’s not really a career like other people have.
  • They’ve found their passion, I still don’t know what mine is.
  • I’m falling behind.
  • I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.
  • I want to ‘switch lanes’ in life but I don’t want to go backward. It’s too risky.
  • They are successful and did it that way; I should do it that way too.
  • They are thinner/more attractive/more fashionable/more successful/braver/stronger than me. I’m not enough. I’ll never be enough.
  • I’m not capable like them, I guess I’m just not destined to have a life like them.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

This hole is so easy to fall into because often we’re invited into the hole, with our mind reinforcing that we’re falling behind via negative thoughts, supported by well-meaning people telling us that we should do this and that. So, of course, we’d then end up in the hole when everything points that way. Our mind reinforces what we see and hear, telling us it is true and if only we could figure out what we need to be and do in order to be like everyone else, then everything would be fine, right?

Except, you’re not everyone else. You’re you. No one is like you. No one. You make your own decisions about what you need and want, and when it feels good to you. If you want a house right now, buy one. If you don’t, don’t. If you want to travel, travel. If you want a big career, have it. If you want to do volunteer work, do it. If you want to be single, be single. If you want kids, have them. If you don’t, don’t. Do what feels good to you, not what others tell you that you should feel good about. And when I say others, I primarily include in that all the advertising, all the propaganda and all the mass media messaging we see day to day that conditions us in a way that we don’t even consciously realize. Start listening to the one thing you can trust – your soul. Your soul is your true self, below any rampant negative thoughts that are leading you astray.

And you might say, “I can’t hear my soul. I don’t know what it’s telling me!”

To which I would suggest that you be still and quiet as often as possible. Listen without fear of what rises up from within you. You do know what you want and need. You do know what makes you feel good. And, let your signals guide you home.

Listening to the advice of others, proffered from their own paradigm, will never triumph over your inner knowing and divine guidance.

  • Do you compare yourself to others?
  • Do you compare your situation and status to that of others?
  • What prompts you to do that?
  • How does that make you feel?

If you’re feeling sad, alone, disconnected, lacking, not enough or plain old exhausted from it, then give it up. Chose to let it go and be open to exploring who you are and what is important and meaningful to the real you – that is, you below any negative thoughts, and conditioning and any fear. We all have negative thoughts, we have all been conditioned and we all have fear. If you are alive, then you have experienced all of this, it is impossible not to. But now you are awake, and you have the choice to either be defined by these things or to break free.

Being someone you are not, in an attempt to live up to social norms, means that signals will eventually intervene to help you. As Marianne Williamson says, “The universe is self-organising and self-correcting”. If you are not aligned to who you really are, your true self, the natural order of the world in which we live will eventually assist you to see this. Intervening signals are not always pleasant, but they are signposts to help us head in a new, better, healthier, more beneficial direction. When things in your life ‘turn to custard’, it could well be because you are not in your flow, you might have accidentally swum into someone else’s flow. So, get out of their river and get in your own

Here is my final word on this subject, and when I say it to you, know that whatever I write is really a message to myself as much as it is to you. For in saying it to you I am reminding us both:

  • NEVER compare yourself to others. EVER.
  • NEVER try to be someone else. EVER.
  • You were born extraordinary and unique.
  • Any time you compare yourself to others, trying to be something else or like someone else, you deny the beautiful individuality that you were gifted when your soul chose to come into this life.

Create your own norms in life. The norms of society have no bearing on you unless you choose them. At all times, be yourself. There is nothing more magical, perfect and beautiful than you being you.

Photo credit: Pinterest

Life Isn’t About Waiting For The Storm To Pass, It’s Learning To Dance In The Rain.

By: CHARLES HAMRICK

I read a quote in a friends email today that you have heard, but I am going to steal and share in this post.  It read, “Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain.”

As I do with most things I related this to sports.  Golf and Football come to mind when I think of sports that you have to know how to play in the rain.  They only stop when there is lighting and thus there needs to be practice for how to compete in these conditions.  For football, I know that teams use “wet ball” drills and make it a point to practice when it is actually raining outside.  In golf, it is being prepared with the right equipment (rain gear, gloves, etc).

In both cases, it is a very different way of playing the game that you may have learned in perfect or near perfect conditions.  While I don’t prefer playing in the rain, understand that sometimes it just has to be done.

God calls us to “dance in the rain” through the storms of life.  Being a follower of Christ is not always Sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows (random Leslie Gore reference).  But just because it isn’t perfect weather, doesn’t mean that we need to run inside and not continue to play this game that we love (Following Christ).  Satan wants to push you inside and have you not share the love of Jesus with others.  I promise you that storms will come in your life, and there will be times that you don’t feel like being a Christ Follower.  Maybe that’s right now.  But in those moments, I encourage you to remember that Jesus came before us, and gave us a great road map of how to dance in the rain and make it through the storms and struggles we encounter.  The more you do this the stronger you will get and you will begin to welcome the storms in your life.

 James 1:2-4
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

The Pace Of Endurance

People exercising at fitness gym

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with ENDURANCE the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne (Hebrews 12: 1-2 NLT).

I was going for a jog on the treadmill the other day. It was the first time that I had been running in a couple of weeks, so my stamina wasn’t quite where I would have liked it to be. Foolishly, I still tried to complete my workout as if I had been consistently training. Needless to say, this was a mistake. About halfway through the workout, I began to get tired and cramp up. Just as I was about to jump off the treadmill and give up, something rose up within me and I began to speak God’s word over myself. I began repeating over and over, “Greater is he that is within me, than he that is in the world.”

I had to slow down the treadmill a little bit and run at a slower pace, but that encouragement was enough to keep my legs moving. For the rest of the workout, I felt the Holy Spirit guiding me. He told me when to slow the treadmill down, and at what point I could speed it up again. He knew exactly how much I could take and for how long if I was going to reach my goal at the end of the workout. When it was all said and done, I experienced a little more pain that I would have hoped, but I completed my goal for distance in pretty good time. God knew exactly what pace I needed to run at in order to run with the endurance to reach the finish line. This is exactly what he promises to do in our race of faith.

Running this race of faith can be downright confusing and difficult sometimes. When we hand over our lives to Christ, we are making the commitment to trust Him no matter how we feel or what the circumstances look like. We are putting faith in His sovereignty, and believing that all things will eventually come together for good, even when it doesn’t make worldly sense. But it is so awesome that we serve a God who didn’t just come and say, “Here is the goal. I want you to run 1,000 miles over the next 40 years at a pace of 8 minutes per mile. Good luck!” Thankfully, we serve a God who says that He will not only run with us every step of the way, but He will even order our steps (Psalm 37:23 & Proverbs 16:9).

The fact of the matter is that God can see so much more than we can see in our limited understanding. His ways are so much higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9). He knows more about our race of faith that we could ever conceive. He knows exactly where we are. He knows when it is time for us to speed up and when it is time to slow down. He knows the exact pace at which we can run if we are going to run with the endurance necessary to fulfill the plans He has laid before us.

What does that look like in our lives? Sometimes, it may take the form of a tremendous obstacle or hardship that God is using to send a message that it is time to slow down and connect with Him. It could be that He is allowing that obstacle to redirect our path in order to protect us from an even more difficult obstacle down the road. It could be the exact opposite. We could be in a season where it seems like nothing can get in our way. He may be blessing us with a mighty capacity to run far and fast because He knows that we are currently in a place where we can sustain that pace and not lose sight of Him.

No matter what your present situation is, God knows exactly where you are and exactly what you need. He knows if it is time to speed up or slow down. Your only job is to relinquish control of the process and trust Him. Not only can He see your finish line, but He ordained it. He designed you to run at a certain pace for a specified period of time. The more we submit to that design, the less painful the process and the greater our endurance. Lean into God today, ask Him if it is time to speed up or slow down. Give Him control, and let Him establish your pace of endurance.