Truth #1 – Life is hard
Let’s start with a reality check. We have it pretty easy. These are times of air conditioning, central heat, trains, planes, and automobiles. Medicine has improved health, lengthened lifespans, removed a lot of pain and suffering, and increased the quality of life.
Entertainment is everywhere and is accessible to everyone. Hard labor is something few of us experience. Being overweight is common due to our abundance. If you feel hungry in the United States, there is food within reach. Or at the next exit. Due to these luxuries, we have come to expect that life should be easy. We are irritated when the internet service doesn’t work on the plane, and outraged when traffic backs up.
Our ancestors lived lives that were brutal and short. They would often talk about life as a “vale of tears.” They understood that suffering is just part of life. But when we suffer, our first instinct is to file a lawsuit. Suffering seems unreasonable, hard work, and something that we should just not have to tolerate. We often experience turmoil and torment at the very threat of suffering.
This truth reminds us that suffering and difficulty are part of life. They are to be expected. Accepting suffering does not mean that we like it. Of course not. That would make us psychotic. But acceptance of the fact that life can be hard at times means that we get less angry and anxious when it does come. We do not lose our serenity. Accepting that suffering is inevitable brings a strange sort of peace.
We are freed from unrealistic expectations that merely breed resentments. We also become more grateful for the joys we do experience. Accepting that life can be hard is a truth that sets us free.
Truth #2 – Your life is not about you
We often think that we should just be able to do whatever we want and maximize our “self-actualization.” However, we do not decide alone what course our life will take. In our age of “nobody tells me what to do” it is important to be reminded that our true happiness does not come from getting what we want – but from what God wants. True contentment isn’t to follow our star but to follow God.
True peace comes from careful discernment of God’s will for us. Few people today talk to God about important things like careers, marriage, taking on a large project. We just go off and do what we please and expect God to bail us out if it doesn’t work out.
You and I do not exist merely for our own desires. We have a place in God’s plan. Our peace is greater when we prayerfully discern that place and humbly seek God’s will. Accepting the fact that we are not merely masters of our own destiny and captains of our own ship gives us greater peace and usually saves us a lot of mileage. Humbly accepting the truth that my life is not simply about me and what I want is a truth that sets me free.
This is true because we often don’t get what we want. If we can allow life to unfold more and not demand that everything be simply what I want I am more serene and free.
Truth #3 – You are not in control
Control is something of an illusion. You and I can make plans for tomorrow but there are many things between now and tomorrow over which we have no control.
I cannot even control or guarantee the next beat of my heart. Therefore, I may think I have tomorrow under control, but tomorrow is not promised and may never come. Because we think we control a few things we then believe we can control many things. Not so much!
Our attempts to control and manipulate outcomes are comical if not hurtful. Thinking that we can control many things leads us to think that we must control them. This in turn leads to great anxiety and often anger. We usually think that if we are in control we will be less anxious. This is not true. The more we think we can control the more we try to control and thus the greater our burdens and anxiety.
In the end, we get angry because we discover there many things and people we cannot control. This causes frustration and fear. We would be freer and less anxious if we would simply accept the fact that there are many things – most things – over which we have no control.
Our expectation of controlling everything is unrealistic. Life comes at you fast. Obsessing over unpredictable things and uncontrollable matters is bondage. Simply accepting that we are often not in control is freeing.
Truth #4 – You are not that important
Stay with me. I know this one really hurts. I know you would never say out loud that you believe that the world revolves around. But you do. You thought it was only your feelings that mattered and your well-being that was important.
The truth is that we are deeply loved by God. But that does not over rule the fact that we must often yield to others who are also deeply loved by God. The truth is that other people are important as well. You might even be called on to give your life so that others may live.
We must often yield to others. The world doesn’t exist just for me and what I want. There is great peace and freedom in coming to accept this. We are often made so anxious if we are not recognized or if our feelings and preferences are not everyone’s priority.
Accepting the truth that we are not more important than others allows us to relax and enjoy caring about other people.
Truth #5 – You are going to die
How is that for a cheery thought!
It is a hard truth but it is also very freeing. We get all worked up about the troubles of this world. But take a walk in a cemetery. At one time those people were all worked up too. Now their struggles are over. And if they were faithful – they are with God. Trouble doesn’t last.
This truth also helps to define our priorities for how we will live our lives. We have a finite number of days on earth. Being aware of this encourages us to live out our values. This helps us to thoughtfully and intentionally order our days.
It also causes us to do one of the most important things: get ready to meet God. So many people spend their lives as if they are never going to die. The statistics are overwhelming: the death rate is 100%. One out of one persons die. One of our most urgent priorities is to prepare to meet God.
In the end, this is freeing because we are liberated from the many, excessive and contrary demands of the world. Then we can concentrate on doing that which is necessary. Life becomes simple and we don’t have to take this world too seriously because we are passing through it.
If we embrace these truths we will experience true peace.