3 Choices to Make When Life Doesn’t Look as You Imagined

June 12, 2018

Let’s be honest. For a lot of us life isn’t playing out the way thought it would.

Consider what you pictured life to look like when you were xx years old and most likely it is nothing as you imagined (and definitely for the better on many counts).

So you find yourself, like most of us, living in the tension of dreams unmet and hopes still delayed.

And in that place it can be tempting to swing one of two ways. The first is to decide you are powerless to change anything so you may as well ride life out as a passive pawn. You don’t do much pushing or wrestling, but a lot of letting things be and waiting for change to come when, how, and if it will.

Or you determine you will do everything possible to fix yourself out of the tension, essentially trying to force the intersection of your reality with dreams and desires. You may strive or hustle as hard as possible to change whatever hurts most right now in an effort to eject yourself out of pain or disappointment. Or you may abruptly change everything — job, location, and community — in hopes that a self-induced transition will bring breakthrough with it.

But there’s another choice available. To engage with our frustration, disappointment, or dissatisfaction with life as it is right now. To leverage it as a means to grow our character and become who we are created to be in the middle of the process.

Because the answer is not merely to disregard today or do all we can to fix our way out of it. But instead to be changed in the midst of it. To live in the tension of longings unrealized. To stay awake and alive where callings and dreams haven’t yet met reality. And there to move from needing to fix frustrations and disappointments to learning from them.

Because what isn’t is one of the most powerful teachers for us to grow and become right where we are.

And if we decide to remain in the tension of what is yet to be, there are 3 choices we can make:

1. To make peace with life as it is.

It’s a good practice for us to come to an honest (and frequent) place of making peace with today, especially when it is not everything we want it to be. A habit of gratitude mandates we look at what is before us, accept that it is not all we wish or want, and still receive it for what it is. I’m pretty convinced this is integral to maturity. Because to a certain extent, what frustrates us today is something we must simply get over by remaining thankful for what is — especially when it is not everything we desire it to be.

2. To realign ourselves.

When we take time to consider what is most dissatisfying, it uncovers areas of fear, control, or where we’re off course. So we must dig deeper into why we are so frustrated with where we find ourselves.

Are we anxious to move ahead because we are afraid we will be forgotten, overlooked, or bypassed?

Are we unwilling to allow God to unfold his process in his timing because we are determined to have things look a specific way?

Is God’s leading or nudging being overshadowed by what we (or others) think we should give our time, talents, or attention to?

Taking time to sit in the reality of what is and ask ourselves pointed questions reveals where we need to realign ourselves.

3. To reignite with fresh conviction to become right where we are. When stewarded well, the tension can fuel us with passion again. Because we can resolve that even still it is worth it for us to stay and believe that here God will move. We change and become when we refuse to allow frustrations to detract us from faithfully stewarding today or from believing for what God will do ahead. Pressure causes us to grow. Tension forces us to strengthen. So frustration can refocus and reignite us to give ourselves to what matters most.

The ultimate choice we can make is to decide that no matter when, how, or if we see those dreams come to be in our lives, we keep engaging. We keep believing and growing right where we are. Because the possibility for what God can do in and through us is worth the present tension, and it requires us to live well what is today.

Right here and right now is where we can tap into a faith that is not determined by what we see with our eyes or how we feel in the moment, but by God who is with us in all of it.

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