Hard Road Journey – Part 7

In this month (on April 9th and 23rd), I will be summarizing the key points of chapter four of Mark Atteberry’s book “Walking With God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel“.  To view the other articles that have preceded this, click on the blog Category Hard Road Journey.  For those who have asked where they could get this book, click here and you will go to a site that will help you obtain a copy of it.

Of all the chapters in this book, I think this is certainly one that I can really identify with.  Life is tough!  There is no disputing this fact.  People can disappoint; circumstances can change for the worst; crises, disasters and emergencies can occur without any warning.  What are we to do?  How do we face these challenges?  How do we even have the courage and the energy to even get out of bed the next morning and face these difficulties of life?

Atteberry’s advice in chapter four is to “Stay Positive!”  And that is exactly what I try to do.  In fact, you can call me “Mr. Optimist”.  : ) When something bad happens, one of the first things I try to do is to see if I can find something positive in the situation.   Perhaps there is a different angle or perspective to look at that will help me get through whatever difficulty I find myself in.

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Actually, there is a funny little story that kind of highlights this.  Shortly after Jill and I had started dating, we told my dear old grandma about it.  She smiled and joined our hands together and then said something profound to us.  She said to Jill, “That’s good.  Because my little Norman usually walks about three feet off the ground and you walk about three feet under ground.  But as long as you two keep on holding on to each other, you will be fine.”

And over the years, I have seen this to be true.  But that does not mean that there have been no hard road journeys for me.  You can’t say that life has been easy for me, and so naturally I walk with a lighter stride and have a smile on my face.  In fact, I believe the exact opposite has been true in my life.

Not even going back to look at my childhood period of my life, since Jill and I got married in 1984, it seems that life or people have thrown us into one crisis after the other.  In no specific order, I have faced the following challenges, each of which could probably be, and might be, a story in and of itself:

  • Dealing with the loss of Jill’s first pregnancy at 29 weeks, and being thousands of miles away from our family and friends.
  • When Jill was pregnant the second time,  I had an illness that was complicated by some drug allergies and I really thought I was going to die.
  • I experienced a loss of a job, which caused a delay in becoming accepted with a mission group.
  • Our finances seemed to be bad enough that I thought we might have to consider the option of bankruptcy.  (If not for the help of my parents, we may have had to.)
  • My son had leukemia which led our family on a 3 year cancer treatment journey.
  • I now have a muscle disease that causes extreme levels of fatigue and high levels of pain.

There is more that I could add here to the list of challenges we have faced over the years.  But you know, I think most people can sit down and write their own long list of hard-road-journey experiences.  The reason I have shared my list is to let my readers know that I can identify with someone who says, “I’m going through a rough period right now.”

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The question then is not, “Will I experience difficulties in life, or not?”, but rather, “What do I do when I encounter difficulties in life?”  Actually, I think Atteberry has it right when he labels difficulties as “battles”.  And he hit the nail on the head when he says, “There will be many tough battles you’ll have to fight as you travel your hard road, but none will be tougher then the battle to stay positive.”  (pg. 41)

Now let me pause and ask a related question.  If we find it too difficult to stay positive, then what is the other option left to us?  And every answer I come up with is negative.  We could get angry, or we could get depressed, or we could try to run away and avoid the problem.  There are lots of things that we could do, most of which are not very helpful.  But perhaps the most common reaction for people, including me, is that we will grumble and complain about our “lot in life”.

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This is part of what Atteberry focuses on in the first half of chapter four as he examines the difficult journey that the Israelites experienced during their period of wandering in the desert.  Again and again they found themselves in extreme situations, and what was their reaction?  Grumble and complain.  At first it looks like they were complaining against Moses, but in reality they were complaining against God.

And this is the danger of not having a positive attitude in life.  Ultimately we are shaking our fist at God, and again I think Atteberry has it right when he says, “Nothing will drive a wedge between you and God, nothing will stem the flow of His blessings into your life, like a complaining spirit.”  (pg. 42)

These are very challenging words from the author.  But do not let this discourage you, his words are meant as a loving plea and a warning.  He moves on to give us some excellent advice on how to stay positive in the second part of chapter four.  So stay tuned, in two weeks I have some great thoughts to share with you.

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