How to Find the Upside When Life Lets You Down

It can take immense work and strength to find anything remotely positive in an awful situation. Years ago, my dad and brothers planned a wild adventure: a hunting trip in one of the most inaccessible parts of Alaska . . .

The Downside

While my idea of bonding is shopping for fabulous shoes or choosing plants for my garden, the guys prefer bonding while tracking down wild beasts that could eat them as an afternoon snack.

Male bonding at its finest . . . or so they thought.

They planned and packed, putting together every kind of survival knick-knack for the wild frontier. The day came.

They loaded up a small plane that plopped them in the middle of a blustery, remote Alaskan forest. Three guys, five days, and the last frontier.

Before the sun had set, they realized something was missing . . . and it wasn’t just a “little something.” In all their excitement, the box of ammunition was left on the plane.

Yep, the plane that left them in the forest for five days had flown away with the ammo box still on board.

The good news is that no one died. Fabulous! The bad news is obvious . . . no one in their right mind hunts wild beasts without buckets of ammunition.

And because their location was so remote, they couldn’t just whip out a cell phone and call for back-up. Three guys, five days, wild beasts, and NO AMMO . . . may I suggest again shoes and flowers!

If I had been on that trip, I would have labeled it a total loss when the ammo box went missing. My attitude would have been appalling for sure—steaming about the overlooked ammo box and complaining about how dreadful it was to be stuck out in “no-man’s land.”

Finding the Upside

Notice the quiet shift? What began as an anticipated, exciting trip to God’s glorious Alaskan landscape became an intolerable test in the middle of nowhere . . . all because of a forgotten ammo box.

We consistently believe that life cannot go on without the ammo box. We stew over what isn’t in our control feeling vulnerable, lost, alone, and isolated. Change always puts our emotions into a tailspin.

If you really want to live fully and accept all of God’s best gifts, you have to take your focus off the missing ammo box. Focusing on the past will bring up regret, and focusing on the future opens the door for worry and fear to take hold. Finding contentment in present circumstances allows us to see God’s goodness.

When life appears upside down, getting up means we first shift our focus; we must move from an earthly perspective to an eternal one. As Christians, the truth of God’s Word “reframes” everything. Applying its truths reveals so much in us that God is working on.

The hunting trip to Alaska was planned as bonding time between father and sons. They expected to hunt—which would have been exciting—but that option was no longer available. Could they still bond?

Absolutely. In the midst of God’s creation, there was silence, peace, few distractions, time to be still. Bonding conditions at their best. Altering our perspective allows us to see God’s gifts emerge from what we first considered a disaster (James 1:17).

camping tent lit up on a peaceful night full of stars
(Image from Unsplash)

Strategies to Reframe

I close with three strategies to help you reframe the circumstances that have you down.

  1. Look Up: We must first look up to the One who created all things, knows all things, and has a purpose behind all circumstances. Sometimes He reveals to us the why and other times He chooses not to.
    • Deuteronomy 8:2 tells us why He allowed the Israelites to wander the wilderness for 40 years.
    • Second Corinthians 1:3–11 teaches there is purpose in painful times if we persevere.
    • Job was never provided with God’s reason for his suffering, and God illustrated Job’s limited understanding by asking questions only He could answer.
  2. Lean In: When feelings surface during seasons of change, we need to lean into God’s Word and safe people. God’s Word is our foundation, and fellow believers help us stand on that foundation. They offer viewpoints and truths we may not notice otherwise. Safe people provide practical help as well as personal encouragement. Additionally, leaning in means we borrow others’ faith and hope when ours has bottomed out.
  3. Let Go: Releasing our wants can be the hardest part of reframing undesirable circumstances but also the most freeing. Of course we want the marriage to last, the job to provide, the move to be painless, and loved ones to remain loyal. When our desires or expectations are left unmet, we must relinquish our wishes and embrace truth. We don’t control our mates, our bosses, painful accidents, or the attitudes and actions of others. We docontrol how we respond. Opening our hands may hurt, but it allows us to see God work in us and to embrace what He plans for us.

Let Me Hear from You

When their Alaska trip was done, the guys returned with incredible stories . . . they bonded! During those five days, they shared laughter, listened better, and loved deeper; the trip was a total success because they reframed their bonding adventure.

Now it’s your turn. What situation are you facing that has you flustered? Have you examined your expectations? Have you let go of your wishes? Or are you sitting in discomfort not knowing where to turn?

Please connect with me this week. Look up to God, let me lean in with you, and let’s get through this together.

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