Sometimes life doesn’t always go the way we think it should. Many times it goes in the exact opposite direction.
Like you were planning on going to the Bahamas and ended up in Alaska opposite direction. Like you thought you were going to have a house, kids, perfect job and a drop-dead gorgeous spouse, but instead, you are still living with your parents, can’t keep a goldfish alive, trying to find a job, and going on dates that feel more like Catfish opposite direction
Like you…never mind, I think you get the point.
Our lives are a mix of ups and downs, twists and turns, and the occasional loopty-loop thrown in for good measure.
One thing I know (I guess three things I know), there are some steps we can take to understand better where we are and get back on track.
You have to recognize where you are for what it is. Understand the place you are at and why you feel the way you feel. You have to take a look with clear eyes at what is going on around you.
Catch this: Your vision is directly related to your perception, and your perception is directly related to your prescription.
You can only see what you can see. You can only know what you know. Your perception dictates your field of view. Your field of view is dictated by your prescription.
I wear glasses. In fact, I am very blind. I can’t see more than a few shapes and blobs on the other side of my living room without my glasses. I can’t see without the proper prescription to shift my perception (or field of view), so I can have a clear vision for tomorrow.
Today may feel really fuzzy because you have the wrong prescription and are looking at your life through the wrong lens.
Your current circumstance doesn’t determine your future condition. You have to recognize today as what it is.
I have found that there are generally 3 ways to end up where you don’t want to end up:
- Externally Inflicted
Sometimes, we end up in places because we put ourselves there. Occasionally, we end up in positions because others put us there. Sometimes, we end up in places because of both.
Maybe you did take a wrong turn.
Maybe you did make a mistake.
Maybe you did fail.
Maybe you did (fill in the blank).
Only you can ask yourself how you got where you are. This tends to be the most painful part. You have to brutally honest with yourself. A lot of times, the first step is most uncomfortable, but it is worth it. You have to recognize, but not dwell. This is not a time for paralysis by analysis.
What part of your situation is a self-induced consequence?
What part of your situation is externally induced?
What part of your situation is a mixture of both?
So, now that we have recognized where we are, how do we respond?
After you have recognized where you are, what did you self-induce, what came from external sources, and what was a mixture, you have to reframe.
Remember what I said about perspective? It means everything. Sometimes we have to reframe our perspective to be able to move forward from where we are, and a lot of that boils down to our feelings.
There are a lot of things we tell ourselves that only perpetuate the problem.
I’m (fill in the blank).
Step one to reframing is changing our verbiage. When you say, “I am (fill in the blank),” you are identifying yourself as that thing. Lost. Confused. Broken. You begin to take on the identity of that and perpetuate the cycle. It works a lot like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead of saying, “I am (fill in the blank),” say, “I feel (fill in the blank).” There is a lot of power in that simple shift of a word. No longer are you identifying as that feeling, but you are correctly reframing that feeling and naming it as a valid feeling.
Why is this important? Because feelings are valid, but they are not facts.
Feelings are valid, but not facts.
You may feel lost right now, but that does not mean you are. Regardless of how real it feels, …it is probably not true. Look around you. Do you know where you are? Ok. You aren’t lost. You are only looking for where to go next. It isn’t trivializing. It is putting feelings in their proper place.
And that is Step Two to Reframing. Putting your feelings in the proper place
Think about it like this:
Thoughts lead to Feelings
Feelings lead to Actions
Actions lead to…
If your life is not where you thought it would be, then there is a breakdown in the Results portion, which probably means your actions aren’t supporting your desired outcome. This probably means you are letting your Feelings control your Thoughts and not the other way around.
Here it is in practice:
“I know I feel lost right now. That feeling is valid, but I am not lost. I am seen. I am known. I know where I am, and I am looking for the next step on where to go.”
Letting your thoughts guide your feelings allows you to become more emotionally and spiritually mature.
It is part of being emotionally and spiritually mature. Peter Scazzero says it beautifully in his book, The Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: “Emotional health and spiritual maturity cannot be separated. It is impossible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.”
Being aware and accurately defining your feelings and emotions is a part of growing in maturity, both emotionally and spiritually.
It is important to note that God is not a God of anxiety, depression or confusion. Still, instead, Scripture says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Instead of looking at your emotions and calling them anxiety, stress or frustration, name them what God intends for them to be: growth, stretching and pushing.
The moment we reframe the situation, according to God, our hearts and minds change and are reoriented to His heart and mind.
One caveat, if you are in abusive or dangerous situations or relationships, there is no reframing. Get out.
We have recognized what is happening, reframed it and now we have to release it.
God is crystal clear, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
He has given you the dreams you have buried deep in your heart for a reason. He WILL see it through. Release it to the God of the universe. He slung the planets into orbit, breathed, and life began and created you in your mother’s womb.
He sees you where you are.
He understands where you are.
He is with you where you are.
He can handle financial worries, relationship chaos, broken family, crippling anxiety and messed up situations! Even if you have made a mistake and find yourself sitting in the consequences of your misjudgment, He is still there. Let’s make one thing clear: His promises that He will strengthen you and uphold you are not contingent on your performance. Ever. Period.
His promise that He will strengthen you and uphold you is not contingent on your performance!
You can’t change the past. You can’t control what you can’t control. You have to release those things instead of succumbing to paralysis by analysis. You have to release and move forward.
Here is a cheat sheet list of things you CAN’T control:
- The Past
- Other People
- Outside Circumstances
- Other People’s Responses
Here is a cheat sheet list of things you CAN control:
- Your Response.
You have to take ownership of where you are and simultaneously forgive yourself for your part and others for their role. Without forgiving both yourself and others, you cannot move forward. The beautiful thing? It is so much brighter on the other side.
Grant J. Reynolds is an innovator, pastor, writer, sought-after conference speaker and dreamer living in Norfolk, VA. Before writing, preaching, and pastoring, Grant's claim to fame was preaching from a tree stump, at 5-years-old, to a packed out playground (yeah...he's a little weird). You can find him on Instagram @grantjreynolds and at Grantjreynolds.com.