“I hate it when life gives you something that you never wanted, and when you are really attached to it, it doesn’t just take it, it snatches it from you.” – Philon Alexius
“Just when I think I have learned the way to live, life changes.” – Hugh Prather
“Sleep doesn’t help if it’s your soul that’s tired.” – Binyamin Mughal
I am old enough (unfortunately) to remember being read a variety of fairytales growing up – all with the inevitable ending of “And they lived happily ever after.” I wonder sometimes if that predictable end to the story tainted my view of what living life meant and all the realities that surface as we journey here in this world.
In many ways, my life is no where near what I imagined it to be like – far from my dreams and aspirations. What makes it worse are those turns in the road that came about outside of my own choices and decisions – detached from my personal ability to avoid them or control the outcome. When you constantly live with and stare at the unalterable devastation and loss, there is an underlying depression that never fades or goes away. You realize you are living a life you never wanted and there is no way possible to retrieve the old one, to reclaim the dream, or to salvage all you desired it to be.
The truth is many of us are not living “happily ever after.”
Our profession is far from our dream job. We go to it every day to pay the bills – not because we are doing work we enjoy and find fulfilling. Our spouse is far from Prince Charming or Cinderella. Our marriage takes more work than we ever thought necessary.
The illness has brought about disabilities that have altered life, limiting what we can do – especially those things we found pleasurable. The lack of finances (especially today) makes it hard to accomplish dreams and live with a sense of freedom. The death of a loved one has brought about a crushing loneliness – forcing us to live a life that isn’t anywhere near what we wanted or desired.
Can you relate to any of these scenarios? What events have caused your own life to be far from what you desire? More importantly, how can you recapture it or reclaim it – turning an unwanted life into one that is fulfilling and meaningful again?
When I’ve asked my friends and colleagues for solutions to this dilemma, they tend to spout off all the common cliches and platitudes connected to this issue:
“Life is simply what you make of it”
“You need to think more positively!”
“You can’t live in the past! Forget it and move on!”
“Just go out and make it happen!”
“You’re responsible to turn your own life around.”
Many of these statements are true, but they seem to inject a form of simplicity into a very complex problem.
Positivity cannot change or reverse a debilitating illness. Often it becomes difficult to “go out and make it happen” in an impoverished state with no funds or lack of resources. Try to tell someone who is missing and grieving the loss of a loved one to “stop living in the past”. Have everything you’ve worked to acquire for decades taken from you in a divorce and be told it’s your own responsibility to turn your life around.
So…. What can we do in a practical, realistic and useful fashion each day when dealing with an unwanted, undesirable life? Here are some things to think about – things that have helped me begin to turn things in the right direction:
TAKE A PROACTIVE, REGIMENTED APPROACH TO GRATITUDE
When life has you in a place that is far from what you desire, it becomes even more important to aggressively and proactively look for things that ignite gratitude. I’m not talking about simply thinking positive. I am talking about actively looking for, writing down, and reciting out loud those things that bring joy to your life – not occasionally or every now and then, but routinely every day.
I do this during my quiet time each evening – actively recalling moments from the day that brought me joy. My work might not be fulfilling, but I can relish in the friendships and interactions I have with my coworkers. I might be lonely, but I can be thankful for the freedoms that living by oneself can bring. You could be devasted by the death that changed everything but choose to actively look for and recall the moments in time you spent together that were life-changing for you both. You could look for all the reasons you fell in love with your spouse instead of seeing all the faults and imperfections.
But you have to be diligent, regimented, and proactive in your approach to gratitude for it to change an unwanted life into one that is worth living again 😊
“Whatever happens, give thanks, because it is God’s will in Christ Jesus that you do this.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (GOD’S WORD translation)
CONNECT WITH YOUR HIGHER PURPOSE
The things that bring us joy in life, that highlight our talents, that put a spring in our step and fill our hearts with delight are connected to our higher purpose. They are linked to and associated with the reason we are here – a part of our predestined pathway.
When we are walking this pathway, we are in sync with God’s purposes for us. When you think about it, divine purpose is the meaning of life itself – regardless of the circumstances that accompany them.
If your life isn’t what you want it to be, how are the circumstances surrounding it pointing you toward your purpose? How are they preparing you, changing the way you think, or guiding you in a new direction?
My writing is a great example. I wouldn’t be doing it had my life turned out as I desired. Now, it brings me joy to research, to write, and to share with others. I know deep in my heart it is connected to why I am here.
As well, the unwanted aspects of my life brought me to Utah where the grandness of nature has settled my soul in ways that are hard to explain. I feel like a different person in the backcountry and love sharing what I see and experience through photography. It’s a passion I’ve developed along the road of an unexpected, unwanted turn in my life.
No matter where you are along your own path, look for and develop a connection to your passions. They are ALWAYS a part of your higher purpose – the reason you are here in this world.
“And we know for those that love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28 ESV
FEED YOUR SPIRIT EVERY DAY
Just as we need water and food to survive every day, we need to feed our spiritual nature – that invisible part of us that defines who we truly are.
When we pray, read Scriptures, and actively seek a relationship with God daily, we look at the unwanted aspects of life differently.
We don’t see fate or chance driving our life, but a loving, sovereign God who is actively and directly involved in the details as they unfold. We see pain and suffering as temporary, not permanent. We look at life as an evolving journey, not a temporal, limited experience. We see and connect with the deeper purposes in all circumstances instead of relying on surface emotions and events to bring us happiness.
This physical world has a way of distracting us from our spiritual nature – a reason why we must be driven daily to feed it and keep it alive.
When you think about it, an unwanted, undesirable life is singularly centered in a worldly viewpoint. We see it as all we will ever have – with limited time and opportunities.
A spiritual viewpoint sees that justice will ultimately play out, that life isn’t a final destination but an unending journey, and that every event and circumstance is pointing us toward our destiny and purpose 😊
“You cause me to know the path of life; in your presence is joyful abundance, at your right hand there are pleasures forever.” – Psalm 16:11 ISV
If life isn’t all you want it to be right now my friend, try to focus on just these three things I mentioned – three concrete, tangible actions you can take that will help you face a life that doesn’t seem worth living in the moment.
Diligently and with a regimental attitude – seek those things you are grateful for – nurturing a thankful heart each day. Get involved in what drives your passions. When you do, you will find your higher purpose – the reason you were created – providing a deeper meaning to life regardless of your current circumstances. Feed your spiritual nature daily – helping you to see life through the lens of God’s wisdom and discernment – a life that is far from temporal, but an eternal, unending journey 😊
My God bless you now and forever my friend!