I was reading an article today about a man who was bodysurfing one day when he hit his head on a rock and became a paraplegic. (See Disabled author chooses to laugh, Author: Carma Wadley, Source: Deseret News, 11 October 2010 11:30am.)
At first, he thought his life was pretty much over because he could never be happy again or do anything important. But then he decided that if he was alive, he was going to be really alive. He was married and had children, so he went back to being a father and a husband. He even wrote a book.
His son was sixteen when the accident happened and was bodysurfing with his father when the accident happened. His life changed a lot too that day and many teens in his situation would probably think their life was pretty unfair now, too. He had to spend a lot of time taking care of his father. Probably there wasn’t as much money in the house either. Instead of whining though, he worked at getting really good at taking care of his dad and then decided to use those new skills by choosing to become a doctor working in emergency rooms. He noticed that his dad was willing to work hard and have a good attitude during trials, so when he faced trials of his own, he would remind himself to do the same.
How do you handle the hard stuff in your own life? Do you whine and feel sorry for yourself or do you look for a way to get something good out of it? I think most of us whine sometimes, but if that’s all we ever do, we’re really going to waste a great life. Mormon beliefs teach that God created us to have joy. That’s easy on the great days, but no one has great days all the time. The real test of how much we trust God to help us be joyful is on the bad days.
Would you be joyful if you knew you’d never be able to move again? What if you had to spend your teen years taking care of a disabled parent? What if you had to cope with a learning disability, or being poor, or losing a parent? None of those things are easy and it’s natural to be sad or even angry for a while about all those things. That’s called the grieving process and it’s important. But it’s also important that eventually, you move on and go back to being joyful, even if your circumstances don’t change.
The scriptures are full of stories of people, including teenagers, who had hard lives and went on to do great things. Sometimes having trials gives us that extra courage, strength, and motivation to do things we never thought we could, if we decide that’s what we’re going to let the trials do for us. Reading those stories and the stories of modern people with trials can give us examples to follow. Sometimes, when life is really too hard, we need to talk to a responsible adult, like a parent, church leader, or school counselor. Some problems really require some extra help.
Try it today. Whether your trials are big or small, choose one of them. Ask yourself what you could learn from the trial to make you a better person. Ask yourself if there is something in that trial that you can use to help others. (The author I mentioned wrote a book to help people like him and his son became a doctor to help people like his dad.)
Now decide how your attitude about your trial is going to have to change. For instance, I have learning disabilities. Instead of saying, “Oh, I have dysgraphia so I can’t do much,” I say, “I have dysgraphia. I can do anything other people do, but I might have to do it differently and work harder at it. But that’s fine. It will help me learn to find creative ways to solve problems and to learn not to give up when things are hard.”
Can you see how that attitude can change the way you attack your life? Attack it with joy and a great attitude and you’ll be surprised how much more fun it is to get up every morning.