This is an excerpt from an upcoming book I’m involved with from Pastor Sam Moore titled Restart: Getting Your Life Back on Track after a Setback. I’d like to get some thoughts on the content …
If we’re totally honest with ourselves, this is a question that every one of us has asked at various times in our lives; regardless of, and most often because of, our life circumstances.
Why did this happen to me? What did I do to deserve this? What could I have done differently to prevent it?
All of these are manifestations of the same question. And all of them have their roots in a similar, often misguided, mindset: I am a good person. I have done everything I could, and all the right things, up to this point. I did not deserve this thing happening to me.
The frustrating irony found in all of this is: You’re right. On all three counts, you may very well be dead on. You are a good person. You have done everything right, and/or everything you possibly could. You don’t deserve this.
And yet, it happened anyway.
Often, the questions that lead to this way of thinking are the most gut-wrenching, and most especially relevant, when the cause seems unjust, even cruel. The loss of a home and cherished, often irreplaceable, possessions to natural disaster. The slow decay of a loved one to cancer or other disease. The death of a child.
There are no answers. None, anyway, that bring solace or satisfaction in any manner. It’s easy, and often our default reaction, to wallow in anger, bitterness and resentment. To lash out at the world. To rage at whatever it is that, at least in our own mind, may have caused the tragedy. To turn our embittered backs on God.
Why I call this mindset “misguided” is not that the reasoning is unsound. I don’t for an instant mean to say that you are not a good person, or that you did deserve this. I say it is misguided for very similar reasons to what I was talking about in the previous chapter: wherever you find yourself, and whatever situation has currently set you back, regardless of whether you deserved it or not, here you are.
The mindset that says, “Why did this have to happen to me??!!” is the same mindset that potentially turns you into this jaded, cynical and negative influence on yourself, your life and to all of those potentially helpful people surrounding you.
We all go through anger. We all feel resentment. These feelings and a myriad of others are natural, and may not even be unfounded. The difference lies in how long you choose to visit that particular exit on the highway of your life. It sounds simplistic to say it, yet the fundamental truth still stands: if that is where you choose to live, that is all the farther you will ever go.
Choosing to deal with whatever setback you find yourself in, regardless of how you got there, what type of person you are, and whether or not you deserved it, is the first step in ensuring that your current situation doesn’t get the best of you; doesn’t slash your tires at that particular exit, forcing you into a stay within that negative mindset, longer than you would have ever imagined or planned for yourself.
Think about this biblical passage for a moment. It’s from the Gospel of John, chapter nine, verses 1-3:
As he [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. —John 9:1-3
Although not totally debilitating, nor a life-ending tragedy, being blind can certainly be seen as a “bad” thing. But what is it that Jesus is saying to his disciples about why this bad thing happened to this, in all likelihood, good man?
“So that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
But, what does that even mean? And how, even if you’re not a Christ-follower, can you apply that to your life, and your situation?
Let’s turn it sideways a little. If you let the setbacks in your life get the best of you, how does that make you feel? How does that pit of resentment fester itself inside you? How does that look to others? What kind of example does your attitude, your reactions and the outward manifestation of your feelings, set for anyone else who may find themselves in a similar predicament?
But you say, “I don’t care, nor do I want, to be an example to others!” Well, then you might as well put this book down now, and walk away. You’re already defeated by your lot in life. Or, when tragedy strikes, and it surely will, you will already have succumbed to the negative point of view that clearly permeates your outlook on life.
There’s nothing I, nor anyone else, can say that will be of any help or use to you. At least, not until you’re ready to hear it, to listen, to understand what is truly being said to you and to apply it to your current circumstances.
On the flipside, if you make the choices to get the best of your situation, you become the type of example “that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Even if you have yet to cross the line of faith and embrace the claims of Christ, the example you set still stands.
For, what exactly are the “works of God”? Wouldn’t these works include helping the poor, the downtrodden and the less fortunate that are placed in our paths? Wouldn’t “downtrodden and less fortunate” be an apt description of yourself and your feelings during that time when you were in the midst of your own setback? After all, this is the essence of what Christ meant. Being the type of example that makes other people want to do better for themselves and others beyond them … paying it forward, if you will.
Why do bad things sometimes happen to good people? So that those good people will be able to show other good people how to overcome whatever bad things have happened within their own lives. No matter, and quite possibly even because of, how tragic the circumstance they themselves have had to overcome. And so on. And so on.