By Kenneth Justice
~ On a recent trip to the East Coast I was sitting at coffee and noticed a late 20ish young woman sitting nearby who was raining a torrential downpour of tears. She was sitting with an older woman that I presumed was her mother and for the better part of an hour bits and pieces of their conversation kept flowing over towards my table,
—) “I thought we were gonna be together forever”
—) “How could he do this to me?”
—) “He’s such a damn self-centered pig”
—) “I’ll never trust another man in my life”
I’ve had my share of disappointments in life and I can totally relate to someone who is in the midst of a major life thunderstorm. At times it has felt that every time I turn around another massive catastrophe is right around the corner and I can remember wondering to myself, “will my life ever be good again or am I doomed to nothing more than an existence of sorrow?”
The human experience is filled with so much pain and suffering at times; death, divorce, cheating, rebellion, hatred, malice, war, the list is endless. I can’t imagine what it must be like to grow up in places like the Middle East or war-torn Northern Africa where war and famine are always lurking around the corner. Yet just because you and I may not have to face a pipe bomb going off at our neighborhood café, the struggles we go through are nonetheless just as relevant and worthy of attention as the circumstances of people across the globe.
When I was younger I bought into the idea that life is supposed to be a fairy tale. Maybe it was one too many Disney films or all of the happy ending fairy tale books I read as a child, yet somewhere between nine and nineteen I developed an unrealistic idea that in order for my life to be good, everything needs to always turn out the way I expect it to turn out. Sadly, that belief has filled much of my life with unneeded sorrow.
—) I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety at times and felt that my life was awful because of those emotions that pulsated through my veins
—) I’ve had to deal with tremendous amounts of sorrow when various relatives betrayed me
—) I’ve had to struggle with disappointment when major life goals of mine evaporated into thin air
More often than not life has not been picture perfect for me, but rather it’s been filled with one thunderstorm after another….but that is okay. In recent years I’ve begun whistling a different tune and I’ve come to some startling realizations; it’s in the midst of life’s thunderstorms that we find the greatest measures of peace.
In the Tanakh there’s a story about a dude named Elijah who is instructed to climb a mountain in order to hear the voice of God,
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
While I don’t possess a PhD in biblical literacy, I believe there’s a simple truth that flows through the story; it’s once we’ve endure the earthquakes, storms, and fires of life that we are able to hear the gentle whispers.
Perhaps I am wrong, but I no longer believe that life is supposed to be peachy keen. I no longer believe that when tragedy strikes it’s the end of our life as we know it. Whether it be a fractured relationship, the death of a loved one, or being fired from a job, each of us has a choice before us; we can allow the thunderstorms of life to swallow us up, or we can endure the earthquakes with patience and resolve and when the fire dissipates I truly believe it is then that we will hear the gentle whisper that comes afterward.
Too often we end up focusing on the storms and it leads us to mental exhaustion. Perhaps we are lonely, sad, depressed, sick or something else. In the midst of life’s thunderstorms it’s easy to lose track of the things we are thankful for, it’s easy to become swallowed up by earthquakes and fires. Yet it is in the midst of what we believe to be tragedy that we must look up toward the mountain, to take those small steps forward and slowly climb the treacherous slope, because the gentle whisper only comes once we’ve navigate to the top of the mountain.
Have faith….the best is yet to come.
Just a few thoughts as I sipped my coffee this morning,
Categories: Culture & Society
I love this post, Kenneth. I especially appreciate your showing more of yourself to us. Thank you, as always.
Thank you so much as usual… much appreciated 🙂
Indeed, the best is always yet to come if we let it. One way to help ourselves in the middle of times like those you focus on today is to write about what we want things to be like in a couple of years. I did that in the worst time of my life, and it really helped. And what I visualized on paper did happen, not in the exact way I expected but better. It helps to know that empty hands can better receive.
Right on Mrs. Slocum, writing has definitely helped me. In the midst of so many tragedies in my past I always kept a journal and wrote down all my thoughts, even though I rarely reread them, I know that writing them down helped me to let go of a lot of the emotion and anxiety that I was carrying
Visualizing what you would like your life to be like and being quite detailed about it has helped me as well but it can be done when you’re doing okay too.
So true. Just had Rhan Wilson on as our guest last night for the podcast and he talked quite a bit about focusing on the positive rather than the negative and that in visualizing positive things it can have a direct effect on positive things happening in our life 🙂
Worked for me. 😀 😀
This is great! Thanks for this piece of writing. I’m torn between keeping a job and motherhood which leads me to ‘mental exhaustion’ and mood swings! You inspire me!
Wow, sounds like a tough decision before you to say the least.
What a beautiful post! Your words reflect great wisdom and I see truth in your interpretation. I’m not sure if we each have to have our own experience and epiphany to come to this realization or if it is something that can be taught to others. I know when I began looking at my life difficulties as “new adventures”, life suddenly became interesting to me…bring it on, baby! If children can be taught that life will throw curve balls all the time, and their job is to ride it out and find the lessons along the way…it will make you stronger. Maybe we would have a happier society.
“bring it on baby”
I love that Mrs. P 🙂
I think your right, every person doesn’t need to have that ‘Aha moment’ but it definitely does help. Take yourself for instance, all that you have shared I know firsthand that it was going through all of those struggles that made you the person you are today and that’s really what I’ve been thinking about lately; that we shouldn’t be afraid of the tough times, we shouldn’t be afraid of life ‘going bad’…. there is hope at the end.
A great passage. Teaches me that God is often not in the obvious places where we think He might be hiding, but rather only when we have the patience to look and listen does He come.
Thank you…. yea, I think a lot of us have this concept that everything should always be hunky dorey, but just like in that passage; its in the midst of all those storms and earthquakes that we are able to finally hear the gentle whisper.
Amen…I have learned from riding my boogie board during massive tropical storms.One, when you get pulled under, relax..you will come up again if you do not fight it, and two, the most amazing rides are during the storm. Great post!
Man, boogie board and tropical storms…I like that!! And amazing rides is so true!
The 11 foot waves during TS Faye were insane, as were the four or five of us that were out there. I got slammed really good a few times, but would not have missed it! I am not a “boogie boarder” in the xtreme sense, but I love to jump on a good wave and just ride..amazing.
Dude, you got more guts than me! Holy cow, I wasn’t sure if you were using boogie boards as a metaphor… but now I realize you really meant it! Wow, you must have been born with nerves of steel
LOL..Not sure about the “nerves of steel”, but I did call hubby on the road to tell him, “If I don’t come home, I went off of East Beach”…It was fun, if not a bit painful.
kudo’s to you…..I wish I had the guts to boogie board in the midst of a storm… wow!
I couldn’t resist…11 footers don’t happen often here. It was nuts, but I would rather die doing something that is so exciting that get shot sitting in some McDonald’s you know? We live once.
I really enjoyed the post and applaud your ‘biblical literacy’ (I think the real degree comes from the reading and the hearing) but I think it is not that the best is yet to come, that assumes that he best may have been; rather the best is, each and every moment. Even when we hurt, we’re alive and feeling.
“even when we hurt, we’re alive and feeling”
I like that a lot… so true. Pain definitely does hurt like hell but your right; it means we’re alive and feeling.
I won a music box in a raffle that sings “When you walk through a storm hold your head up high
And don’r be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm there’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark”
Thoughtful post, Kenneth. It offers positive reflections for those in hard times. I will share it with someone.
btw…in your podcast with Kylie, you made some disparaging remarks about the non-Chicago part of IL. I grew up there. I disagree. Rural life is far from boring. Perhaps you meant to say something different? 🙂
Jim, nah, it was just a little playful Chicago-egotism from a kid that was born in Chicago….i love the country actually. I’ve camped out in southern Illinois many a time and there are many beautiful parts and some pretty cool little towns…. but being a city kid I’ve got a bit of a playful streak in me that will always defend Chicago as the most meaningful place in the Midwest… nothing personal though 😉
I know. Just felt like pulling your chain a bit. I put Chicago up there at the top of my list.
It matters more when you come to Washington state. I get the drift that people think Seattle is the be all, end all, and where I live is just Nukieland… yeah, whatever. No, serious. Come out here. See that the contrast is like way starker compared to the average.
Then again, if DOE-Hanford didn’t exist, my hometown (and the neighboring cities) would be another little farming bump-in-the-road ’til you got to Spokane and the university towns further north. Yakima is a slightly different story– my wife’s hometown, and I enjoyed my time living there well enough.
I sense balance, recuperation, energy, love. The deep depth of a very quiet whisper. A thunderstorm abated. Good on you KJ – this post sounds contented. And if I sense correctly … you have been making some very good decisions. 🙂
It’s not a terrible thing that we feel fear when faced with the unknown. It is part of being alive, something we all share.
I’m in the midst life’s thunderstorm myself. If I’d payed more attention to the whisper of my life, wouldn’t have to deal with the screams now, but who said life will be easy or peachy-keen.
Summer is here and I’m happy to be living not just existing.
Hope you enjoy your summer w/more sun and less thunderstorms.:)
Thank you for sharing this Kenneth. I just wrote something similar last night because I was inspired by a phrase I saw on a wall plaque at the beach. “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”
Hey, life is not “supposed to be” anything. It is what it is. Having said that, people seem to have a set point for misery, which is to a large extent independent of circumstances. It can be reset, but not without much groaning and gnashing of teeth.
Your step back is giving you more time for reflection and analysis 🙂
Without adversity, we, in my opinion, remain shadows of what we could be. Refinement of character does not come through being spoon-fed, but rather, from facing challenges that stretch our understanding of ourselves and others – and through those challenges we have the opportunity to develop the necessary human things: compassion, empathy, patience, forgiveness and tolerance. It takes heat to bend strong substances, so if you look at life as a refining fire, heating up to bend you into a more beautiful shape, all of those experiences become valid, if not always enjoyable.
Cheers and a coffee cup toast to you and your new path!
Enduring the storms allows us to hear God’s voice. That’s a powerful truth!
Thank you again….
Life has never been skipping through the tulips….but through every storm..I have seen vast knowledge..and made me a healthier person…who will endure…and always love….
Missed your words….
Kenneth: I enjoyed this post – it reminded me of a blog post of mine (although not as eloquent as yours), entitled: “Crap Floating in Your Basement on Christmas Eve” – posted on thanksbs.wordpress.com. Thanks for sharing – I enjoy your writing.
What a delightful post. I have finally learned to love storms. There is beauty to be found even in the ashes. It’s a really tough lesson to learn, but we are not our circumstances and perception is not always reality. What we can’t fix, we can change our attitude about. Or not. We’re always free to have a fit about it, which I do occasionally indulge in.
This probably sounds crazy, but life really is a fairytale. The thing is, it’s not the mediated reality fairytale like Disney presents, it’s the old fashioned kind, where there are evil woodsmen instructed to do away with you, wicked witches feeding you nasty apples, and mean step mothers trying to keep you from going to the ball. Fairytales have a very dark side to them and that’s what makes the happily ever after stand out in such contrast. Nobody ever gets their prince until they’ve fallen into a coma or been locked in a tower for a few hundred years.
Thank you for sharing. I, too, was that woman last summer, thinking it was the end of the world over a relationship not meant to be. As of late, I’ve become aware that I’ve struggled with social anxiety which has limited me to braving the most ridiculous of social situations. And I really liked the way you stated this: More often than not life has not been picture perfect for me, but rather it’s been filled with one thunderstorm after another….but that is okay.
Your post was what I needed to read today!
Your post reminds me of an old episode of Teen Titans in the early millennium. One episode featured these twins who saw the future. One saw only misfortune and the other saw only happy events. The one who always had premonitions of misfortune was a happy-go-lucky girl who always had a smile on her face while the one who saw only happy things wore nothing but black and always seemed depressed. The first girl acted the way she did because every happy moment was a precious commodity to her, something her twin could never understand since she only ever saw happy things.
We always chase happiness, but I think true, long lasting happiness, requires struggle. It is through struggle that we achieve a feeling of accomplishment. It’s why I always worry about couples who marry before ever having a real big make-it-or-break-it fight. While the point of a relationship may be to find happiness in that union, what solidifies the relationship as long lasting is how the couple overcomes adversity.
Thanks for this post. You are right, thunderstorms are sometimes necessary to bring us to reality. I thought I had a fairy tale life until my marriage of 34 years came crashing to a halt with my ex husband’s affair with a fellow office worker. On and off for two years, I took him back, he broke off with her and then went back over and over. Finally, I decided on divorce. Seven years later, I have never been happier, I found the person who is my soul mate and true love, and I have a new career.
I really appreciate this post. I’ve dedicated the month of June to the concept of gratitude and my goal is to get to the end of it and be able to get through my day without uttering a single complaint. My life has definitely had its share of thunderstorms but I have weathered them all and each one just makes me stronger. If we can change our perspective we can change the weather of our life. Thank you.
The internet whispers. That’s one thing I like about it.
Thanks, Kenneth. I could use a nudge like this once in a while.
I couldn’t agree more. I also have depression at times and have had some difficult things going on in my life, but positive creates positive and it’s important to focus on the good things we DO have once in awhile. 😀
Great post and so true. I know it’s true, yet I still struggle to be quiet and still long enough to hear that beautiful still small voice. One of life’s many great challenges
I totally concur! I think it’s when those thunderstorms last for such long periods of time when people start struggling and lose site of the positive that can come from it.
Good reflective post. When I was younger I had ideas about how life was going to be and how it would all turn out, and it was going to be that way or else…later on I learned to roll with the flow a bit more. If there’s a raging storm outside, it may be best to find a place by the fire to sit, dry out your socks and wait for things to calm a bit before rushing outside.
good to see you back Kenneth!
On May 25th I stated a blog series on The Art of Surrender. Your blog today ties in so perfectly with what I have learned so far in my life. I suffered great tragedies, as we all do, and walked away from them a stronger, more stable, passionate person. Because of the trials I learned the value of surrender.
I am going to reblog this on my site because this post compliments my Surrender series perfectly.
Great blog, once again!
Reblogged this on HUMPTY DUMPTY MURAL MAGIC and commented:
This post is a great compliment to my Art of Surrender series, So I had to share it with my readers.
Even in the midst of our concrete desert. the cracks give a change for new life to bring forth a bright coloured flower.
The smiles of people cheer you on to be kind and do good.
And if you want to look up and see it dark and gloomy.
be the sun shine on those cloudiest of days. and help life around you grow with you
Two thumbs up on this one.
“somewhere between nine and nineteen I developed an unrealistic idea that in order for my life to be good, everything needs to always turn out the way I expect it to turn out.”
–You know Kenneth, this is something that really plagues western culture. I only recently discovered that myself, being that I’m married to a Brazilian that wasn’t handed everything on a silver platter, and didn’t have parents that sugar-coated everything. He told me once that if everything wasn’t going perfectly, the way I planned it out, then it wasn’t any good and all is lost. Thinking about what he said – and noticing my cultural upbringing and background as one being out of it for over a decade – I really think that a lot of what we’re seeing now-a-day with depression, anxiety disorder and other mental illnesses can be because that mentality. We have alway said to our children, “you can’t always get what you want”. And were trying not to sugar-coat things. I think it’s so important that we teach our children responsibility and what’s real.
I don’t know if this all made sense. I tried to get my thoughts out on to the computer screen. I could go on and write a 10,000 word paper on this.
“we can allow the thunderstorms of life to swallow us up, or we can endure the earthquakes with patience and resolve and when the fire dissipates I truly believe it is then that we will hear the gentle whisper that comes afterward.”
–Here here to that. Pain is part of life. I just recently wrote a poem and post about pain and the good that come from it. I know you’re a very busy person, but if you get the chance (and of course if you want) you can read it here. http://stacilys.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/dance-me/
So much truth in this post!! Hard times, disappointments, sadness, are a part of everybody’s life sometimes. Focusing on the negatives, say after day, really creates an unhealthy environment for ourselves. Really enjoyed this post. 🙂
Thank you Kristina….I feel so honored when you comment… you being such a famous poet now; and I mean that totally sincerely! I’m so happy for you! 🙂
Well, there is a saying “The night is always the darkest befora the dawn”…
Question usually is: “Are we there yet, is it enough dark now?” 🙂
Maybe, as far I experienced, we need to think differently: “Bring it on, even if I die in it, I will do my best for others!” – this way, if there are no expectations for anything in return, only the pure willingness, all the hardships and sorrows can be turned into good… (and this is not the easiset viewpoint, I know)
oooh! I love that quote; the night is always the darkest before the dawn…. beautiful! And your right, I find myself asking the same thing; are we there yet, is it dark enough now?? Right on.
Awesome post! As I get older and think back on all the “stuff” that reduced me to tears of pain and heartache because it didn’t turn out the way I desperately hoped for at the time, I can now see that 99% of the time I’m so very glad it didn’t!
So true Rhonda…. oddly enough in my own life even when I think the worst is yet to come…. often I find that the best is yet to come 🙂
I agree with you as usual. 🙂 This reminds me of the little verse from the book of Malachi, that “He is like a refiner’s fire.” Ever since I first heard it, I’ve imagined myself like a piece of silver. Of course everyone wants to be perfected, to be beautiful, to become what God can make us, to be that glittering, bright piece of silver — but it’s painful to have our impurities melted out of us!
Great verse!!! Love it. It is VERY painful to have our impurities melted out of us.
Great reading this positive article! It’s quite rare to find positive content these days. Priorities change with age, and what seemed like the end of the world a few years back, will look like a childish problem later.
Elena, thanks a tone for the kind feedback 🙂 and I love this sentence of yours, “priorities change with age, and what seemed like the end of the world a few years back, will look like a childish problem later“
Reblogged this on elenavolteanu and commented:
Good, positive read.
I don’t have much to say today, Kenneth, because I’m in that thunderstorm right now. Horrid, horrid, pain, and sometimes, the ghosts of abuse.
My prayers go out to you Jak, hopefully a rainbow will come your way soon dude.
when you feel that you have nothing else, you almost have to go with having faith in something even if it is blind faith.
Beautiful and exactly what I needed today.
Thank you for the kind words Nicolette 🙂
With the exception of one topic Kenneth (you know of which I speak LOL), I always love what you have to say but this one, this time – you really hit the mark (more than usual). I suppose maybe I feel extra strong about it because I feel like I’m in the midst of my own storm and have been for a few months. I think for whatever reason I’ve been lucky enough to always know that life wouldn’t be perfect, at least in some respects. I think there’s some part of me that’s always been fairly realistic – now how much of that is because of an unhealthy level of self-doubt I don’t know lol but that’s another conversation. That said – I do think that it is the tough times that shape us. In recent years I’ve become such a strong believer that everything happens for a reason, even if we can’t see that reason immediately, or ever sometimes. I have this allegedly old Chinese proverb (I can’t verify that is really is old or that it’s Chinese lol) written down; it says: “a gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.” I love that. The process sucks but the result is worth it. 🙂
Its so tough for me to stick with the belief that ‘everything happens for a reason” but I do agree with you Jen. Its difficult to see what the point of these though times are…. but we have to cling to the hope that there is a purpose.
It’s easier to see it AFTER the fact; once you’ve gotten through it and you can see how much better you are, how much stronger you are; for me. It hurts that my grandpa is gone and yet I know he was called home because he did his time – it’s hard on us but he did all he could do here on Earth – it was just his time – again everything for a reason.The tough times I’m going through right now is a test – it’s about seeing just how resilient I really am; I worry about failing lol but I know I won’t. Faith in God, faith in self. Keep the faith and keep your chin up 🙂
Very good thoughts as I’m sipping mine.
Thank you!!! :=)
Your post really spoke to me as I have been through many of life’s storms. I especially liked the way you put it in saying that we must patiently endure the storms before we hear the still, small whisper of God in our ears putting things in perspective. Thanks for your thoughts. My most recent blog is about Jesus in the boat with his disciples. Only when they fear they are perishing do they turn to Jesus for help.. We are so much like tthe disciples, aren’t we?
Thank you…..I’ve had my share of hard times and there are a number of things I often turn to and this passage is one of my favorite
I have fibromyalgia…of course it means chronic pain every day of my life, and God has also blessed us with 3 wonderful sons who are on the autism spectrum. So life has not always been perfect, or seemed to give me a fair shake, but I think to myself….I can be bitter, or make it better. I also love what Charles Swindoll says about attitude. Life is about 10% of what happens to us, but 90% how we re-act to it. Am I perfect? No…some days I am tired of being in pain, but you are so right, it is through the storms and hard times that we can appreciate the rainbows. Thanks for your post. You are always so encouraging! 🙂
Kim, what a great attitude and perspective you bring to the table; I used to have a client whose wife also had fibromyalgia and its no joke whatsoever. Many kudos to you for your great attitude :=)
You’re very kind. I just try to put a smile on my face, and realize how very blessed that I am, and that other people have it so much harder than I do. But I enjoy reading your posts. Growing up rigidly, fundamentally Baptist, I so agree with where you are coming from. I have tried to teach our boys tolerance, and that God is love, not some one to be feared. So thanks for sharing and being a source of inspiration.