Emotional Awareness Gratitude Living Present Spiritual Disciplines

How to Stay Positive When Things Don’t Go As Planned

Rewriting The Script When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Sometimes I’m not so great with unexpected interruptions. How about you?

I mean, sure. 

I am a HUGE supporter of the belief that challenges are opportunities for growth. 

I stand by the fact that pain, struggle, and difficult circumstances can be the best things for us: tools God uses to help work things OUT of us so that better things can grow IN us and flow THROUGH us. 

But in lived out, real life? 

Let’s be honest: unwanted circumstances and challenges can suuuuuuuck.

Confession time: this girl doesn’t like it when things don’t go her way. And I could stand to work on my relationship with control. 

God knows this about me and wants better for me. 

So in this season, He’s been patiently teaching me to surrender to His plans (and timing) and release my grip on my own preconceived plans of how things should go in my life.

In fact, just last week, He presented me with yet another “opportunity” to help me learn to embrace the unexpected.

The teaching mechanism? 

An unexpected power outage.

So, there I was, booted up at my kitchen table, ready to tackle my work for the day, when suddenly, POOF! Out when the lights. 

Now, at first, it didn’t faze me. 

I mean, this kind of stuff happens all the time here in SF. The Edwardian and Victorian architecture sure is charming. But the plumbing and wiring? Well, let’s just say, they leave a whole heck of a lot to be desired.

Figuring our neighbors had simply blown a fuse, I shrugged off the whole “no power” thing, and kept on plowing on through on battery life. 

Until, that is, the little red warning sign in the upper right hand corner of my computer began to scream, “Give me power NOW or I’ll give you death.”  

But the problem was, there was still no power. And after looking into the issue, we discovered there wouldn’t be power for several, several hours.

Now, I’d like to be able to say I embraced the unwanted and unplanned situation with grace. 

I wish I could say I breathed through my frustration, surrendered the situation over to God, and embraced “what was” (something that was completely out of my control). 

But unfortunately, that’s not how things went down. 

Instead, it sounded a little more like this:

Ahhhhh! Really? REALLY? TODAY has to be the day when my computer failed to charge overnight? Seriously, what the heck, God? You KNOW I have so much to get done. I keep trying my best to do the work you called me to do, but I keep on running into roadblocks like these. Why is this HAPPENING to me? I’ll never get ahead!

Now, I’ll spare you the play-by-play. (It went on like for this a bit. It was ugly, filled with words I won’t repeat, and by far not my finest moment.)

But in sum, here’s what my outburst helped reveal: 

My mind was set to “victim mindset” mode. And it needed a readjustment.

Life Happens FOR Us, Not TO Us

When things don’t play out as we’d hoped, it’s easy to fall into victim mode. 

It’s completely natural to want to throw a fit, point fingers, or lash out in frustration with a, “This is so typical” or “Why me?” or “This kind of stuff always happen to me!”

But this kind of mindset is dangerous, Friend. It sets us up for defeat.

Because what we choose to focus on affects our lives.

If we choose to focus on what’s going wrong, we tend to zoom in on all the ugly. When our minds are set on the bad, we start to expect the worst and discount the good.

In my own example (with the power outage), my mindset was set on how unfair and frustrating it was. I let the situation cloud my mindset, so in the moments that followed, I tended to respond in the negative. 

  • I stubbed my toe? Gah! This is so typical.
  • The check-out person was rude to me? Sheesh, people are the worst!
  • My phone died (and still, no power). Seriously? What else can go wrong?

See the thread? 

When we’re focused on the negative, our circumstances tend to serve up supporting evidence to prove our shady perspective. 

The good news is, the contrary is also true. 

When we purposefully practice gratitude and choose to focus on the GOOD, our thoughts and actions usually follow suit. 

Not only do we begin to notice and appreciate all the good things that make their way to us. 

But even as we’re confronted with challenges, we’re able to see them as opportunities to see God work. Because God is in the business of weaving all things (even pain and problems) together for good. 

Picture of two hands holding pink lollipops

Let’s Put This Into Practice

This week, let’s start paying attention to those times when we feel our moods shift toward the negative. 

Rather than following our emotions down the path of blaming, shaming, or complaining, let’s push pause, bring God into the situation, and ask Him for a fresh perspective. 

Instead of asking, “Why is this happening?” let’s begin asking questions that sound more like:

  • “What can I learn about you in this situation, God?”
  • “What is it that you may be trying to teach me through this?”
  • “God where are you in all of this? Help me see You.”

Let’s begin seeing every situation as something that God can use FOR us, Friend. Because He is for us, Friend. Even when our emotions and circumstances try to convince us otherwise.

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