I would be surprised to meet someone who has not felt depressed or unhappy at some point in his or her life. How about you? Some fall prey to depression and discouragement worse than others, true enough, and if we went through our lives never expecting to have problems, we would certainly be disappointed. But does knowing this really help? Why is it that the proverbial “Could be worse!” more often feels like salt on an open wound?
It takes more than resignation or acceptance that “life is hard” to truly overcome discouragement and trouble. “Expect the worst and you’ll never be disappointed” as the saying goes, or someone might say, “No matter how bad your troubles, there’s always someone worse off than you.”
Not very helpful, right? Few trials seem small while you are going through them, and there are plenty of us who know this by hard experience. Pain is pain, whether it comes from the “little things” or from life-changing—even life-threatening—events.
Many problems we face in our lives really do not compare to many others, in the grand scheme of things. But all suffering, great or small, has the potential to shape the life of the sufferer. That is just the truth of the matter—it is how we respond that makes the difference.
We lose our strength and suffer depression in the face of trials when we lose our incentive to press forward. And, the greater the struggle, the greater the incentive must be to overcome it.
What gives you the incentive to press forward? I know of few people who accomplish more when their feelings are crushed or depressed than when they take a positive outlook, whatever their troubles. So how do you change your perspective and avoid falling into the vicious cycle of worrying or indulging negative feelings, which in turn wastes time, clouds judgment and leads to more worry?
One of the best ways to do this is to have a higher goal in life. And there is a goal that is higher than any other you can find in life. What is this goal?
Quite simply, you will find it in the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the good news message of hope, forgiveness and eternal life in God’s Kingdom (John 3:14–16; Luke 12:32; Isaiah 9:7).
The Apostle Paul spoke of this goal when he wrote these words: “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12–14).
Paul was well acquainted with grief; he had been beaten, stoned, ostracized, slandered, imprisoned, starved, shipwrecked and more. He described these trials frankly in 2 Corinthians 11:23–29, and he was hardly the only Christian of his time to be subjected to such extreme persecution and suffering. And yet, as an imperfect man in an imperfect world, Paul never gave up.
God rewards those who “diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6) and He equips them with the strength and knowledge they need to control their feelings and overcome any trial (2 Corinthians 10:4–5; 2 Timothy 1:7; 3:16–17). God’s way is a provable, successful way of life—if one is willing to test it and find out (Malachi 3:10).
Just as the cycle of worry and depression leads only to greater loss and inability to cope with future trials, a continual application to God’s word and His “upward call” through Jesus Christ reverses the tide of negative feelings that can so easily ensnare us. At the same time, God’s word, when properly understood, gives us a perspective that sees beyond any human struggle great or small, reasonable, unforeseen—or self-inflicted.
This is the path to happiness, positivity and success in this life and beyond.