Monday, 6 July 2009

Our World

It seems to me there are two ways to look at our world.
1) What a wonderful place and what a marvellous, miraculous adventure life is.
2) Life is so unfair. Why do I have so many problems?

It is a similar situation to the two men in the story who looked out from behind prison bars. One saw mud and the other saw stars. It all depends upon the way you look at things, literally your point of view! Do you look up at the heavens or do you look down at the ground?

How we choose to approach our life on earth is just that – a matter of choice. Many think their lives are determined by circumstance and heredity. Although both factors influence us, it is a matter of personal choice whether we allow them to dominate. Everyone suffers from adversity, even though many of us think our particular adversity is the worst, it is frequently not so. What differentiates people is our individual reaction to adversity.

Do we see it as a challenge and an opportunity, something to battle against and overcome, whilst learning valuable lessons in the process? Or do we give up? It is a great temptation to wallow in self-pity when things go wrong in our lives. Whilst it is perfectly natural to be discouraged by adversity initially, to continue to feel sorry for one’s self is to waste the opportunity adversity presents us with. There is another aspect to self-pity too. Give in to it and we find everything begins to go wrong, even our friends eventually become tired of it and no longer seek our company. Nothing goes right; it is as though the world is against us. The world of course is not against us, we have turned against ourselves.

Those self-same friends, who become tired of our self-pity and come to see us less often, can be a wonderful support and encouragement if we look at the positive aspects of the problem. “Into every life a little rain must fall,” is an old adage but nonetheless true because of that. Problems are God’s way of challenging us to look at our lives afresh. Look around you with the clear eyes of reason and you will see that change and conflict of one kind or another are the norm. That it is so illustrates the great wisdom inherent in the design of all creation. Let me tell you a story:

“A young man was told by his father that he was grown enough now to begin climbing the local mountains. He was taken to the foot of one of them and his father said, “Off you go then, I’ll meet you at the top.” “Aren’t you coming with me?” “No, this you must do on your own but don’t worry, I will be waiting for you.”
The young man began climbing and soon his legs were aching, occasionally he would lose his footing and cut himself on a sharp rock. His progress was slow and by nightfall he was still only halfway up the mountain. He managed to find a ledge on which to shelter for the night, although he didn’t sleep much because he was so cold and miserable. Next day he forced himself to climb again because he knew his father would be waiting for him. His legs ached terribly, he was cut in several places and under his breath he was cursing his father for forcing him to do this. Gradually he got closer to the summit and eventually, tired almost to the point of exhaustion, he reached it. His father was there and said “Well done my boy but it took you a long time.” “It was so steep and hard to climb Dad, that’s why I took so long. I thought my legs would give out several times.” “You have done well and tomorrow it’s time to tackle that next mountain over there,” he said, pointing at an even steeper mountain.
“But Dad, I need to rest, I can’t climb anymore.” His father would not relent and forced the boy to climb again. It was the same story as yesterday, if anything he fell and cut himself even more this time, but he was determined to show his father that he wasn’t weak. He forced his aching muscles to climb and he reached the summit this time before nightfall. Again his father was waiting and congratulated him on climbing this one quicker. “Can I go home and rest now Dad?” “Not yet son: See that other mountain over there? That is your next challenge.” “But Dad I’m so tired, even by tomorrow morning I’ll still be exhausted, please let me rest longer.” “No son, sleep in the cave at the foot of this mountain, then in the morning off you go again. I’ll be waiting.”
The young man found that this mountain was not as steep as the others and he progressed quickly, didn’t stumble once and was even able to admire the view as he climbed. It was early afternoon when he reached the summit and when his father appeared he thanked him for taking pity on him and choosing an easier mountain for him to climb this time.
“No son, this mountain was even harder to climb than the others. The reason it felt easier was that you had grown stronger in climbing the other two.”

All the challenges we face, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, strengthen us and enable us to meet the next challenge and overcome it more easily. If we can retain a positive attitude, they won’t even seem like challenges, they will appear as they really are; part and parcel of this marvellous, miraculous life we are privileged to live, on this beautiful Earth.

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