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Facing adversity, overcoming it makes life more fulfilling

Nov. 18, 1998

Not too long ago I wrote to one of my friends about the tumultuous time I was going through in my life because of various circumstances, and although in her reply she said she was sorry for me and that she would be praying for me, her emphatic message to me was, 'Count it joy.'

It was an odd thing for me to hear considering what I was going through, but I thought I had heard that expression somewhere before, so I consulted my Bible and found that James 1:2-4 conveys the same concept: 'Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.'

Although I have heard this message all of my life, mostly in the form of repetitive lectures from my parents whose favorite expression seems to be, 'It'll build character,' I have only really begun to take it to heart this year. Once I made up my mind to change my attitude and start thinking more positively, I began to realize (with some reluctance) that my parents were right after all. The more open I have become to taking life as it comes and making the most of it, the more I have been able to grow from my experiences, whether good or bad.

One of the main principles of the Chinese martial art Tai Chi Chuan is 'to divert the attacks of our opponent in such a way as to turn his own force against him,' according to an article on the Practical Tai Chi Chuan International website by instructors Cheng Tin-hung and Dan Docherty. Therefore, instead of lunging fiercely at your opponent, you defeat him simply by anticipating his next move and then using his expended energy for your own advantage by counteracting his attack.

This is how I try to handle difficulties and hard times in my life now. I have discovered that when I react to unpleasant situations with angry resistance, throwing pity parties for myself and asking God 'Why me?' I don't leave myself with any strength to learn and grow from those experiences. As soon as I stopped fighting so hard against all the hurt and misfortune my trials were giving me, I was able to let go of the negative aspects, and I began to see how my trials could help me become a stronger person.

Now I finally understand how it is possible to be joyful in the midst of persecution and stress and change. Of course I don't feel happy when something bad happens to me, but later I rejoice that I have learned from it and developed more perseverance.

Just think about the story of Job in the Bible. If anyone's faith was tested, his certainly was. He loved the Lord and wanted to do his will, but he still fell short when he was subjected to so many hardships. He began to have a lot of doubts and he questioned God relentlessly,. But when Job learned to stop asking 'Why?' and put his complete trust in God, he freed himself from wasting his energy on resentment and self-pity and allowed himself to be swept through life's currents, no matter how tumultuous, with the realization that he would eventually see the calm after the storm and be more appreciative of the sunshine.

Facing adversity with a positive outlook and a determination to build character from it doesn't make life easier or guarantee permanent happiness, but it does make your life so much more fulfilling circumstances are a lot harder to look at optimistically than others, and it may be a long time before you can find anything beneficial from difficulties in your life that you are experiencing. But if you have the drive to persevere no matter what happens, you will eventually come out of your trials stronger than you were and better equipped to face the hard times that lie ahead.

(Alyson Wagner is a junior journalism major from Austin.)

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