I don’t know about you but 2019 was my toughest year yet. 2012, the year my Dad passed, was holding the record before now but last year smashed the record to pieces. I know your ears are probably itching to hear what happened last year that made me tag it my toughest year. Well, I wouldn’t mind sharing but if I do it will run into volumes and one blog post will not be enough to capture it all. So I’m not here to narrate my ordeal, I’m only here to say I survived, I didn’t die, I didn’t do anything regrettable, I’m still standing.
It’s funny because I’ve always been the hope-guy. My friend Aminu would say I am unrealistically too optimistic. Hope forms part of the theme of this blog. But last year I had my hopes shattered so badly that I was literally hanging on a balance. I was just managing to get by daily. This was why the last time you heard from me was since August 2019. I just didn’t have any hope for myself not to talk of the one to give anyone. I’m too old to come here and pretend like everything is okie dokie or be sharing things I haven’t deeply felt.
Someone once said when you go through a mess, you get a message. I’ve been through a mess this past year and I’m here to share the message. I’m eager to share it at the start of the new year because I’d really love you to arm yourself with some of the “tool kit” I’m about to share. I don’t know what 2020 holds for you reading this, I don’t know how your 2019 was but I believe if you apply these tips you can beat any tough time.
Caveat: I am not promising that these tips will make everything alright, I’m not promising it will fix what’s broken, I’m also not promising it will recover what’s lost but one thing I can guarantee is that you will have your sanity intact. As simple as that may sound, it’s very critical and can be the key to your survival and recovery.
1. Surround yourself with the right friends
Who is a friend? Simply put, a friend is someone that will walk in on you when the world walks out on you. Please take note, I mean a friend not a judge or therapist, I don’t even mean an adviser or counselor (we’ll get there in a bit). Maybe all they can do is listen to you share your litany of woes or simply check up on you. One of the ways you can identify your friend is that you feel a huge weight lifted off your shoulder when you are done speaking with them. I recall reluctantly sharing with a ‘friend’ and I felt the exact opposite as if my weight was increased. You don’t need that. You don’t even need too many of this kind of friend, if you have one, you are blessed.
2. Be careful who you listen to
While there is safety in the multitude of counselors, there’s danger in the multitude of wrong counselors. I’ve noticed that when you are going through stuff, everyone tries to counsel you and they have good motive for doing so but the onus lies on you to filter what you hear. A very senior friend said to me recently, not every pastor is a good counselor. Hard to take for some of you, right? But it’s very true. My elder brother said to me in one of my lowest points last year, “Don’t be too downcast, I sense that your misery days are about to end. Nothing in this life continues perpetually on a destructive path. It must get to a climax and then begin to anticlimax. I think this is the climax.” Profound right? For me it was the right word in the right season. It gave me hope.
3. Don’t worry if you can’t pray elaborately
Yes, you read that right, don’t worry if you can’t pray elaborately. If all you say is “God help”, it’s fine. God heard you very clearly. Far be it from me to encourage prayerlessness or lukewarmness in any way but I (we) cannot shy away from the fact that there are things we go through in life that makes your heart too heavy for your mouth to speak much words. In fact, more than speaking to God in prayer, you need to listen to God in prayer because one word/instruction from Him can change your situation. “God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer.” – Mother Teresa
4. Refuse to be bitter and vindictive
Most of the challenges we go through in life will have something to do with a human being and if you’re not careful, you can become bitter and very vindictive. That’s a recipe for disaster, don’t be like that. I hear you say; “this guy doesn’t know what so and so did”. True, but becoming bitter is very counterproductive. It will neither contribute to your peace or personal well-being. Matshona Dhliwayo said “Bitterness is how we punish ourselves for other people’s sins.” He also noted that “Bitterness is venom that consumes its host.” Instead of being bitter, choose to be grateful for those who have been good to you.
5. Expect a miracle
In my case I wasn’t even expecting one but it happened all the same so I kind of figured there’s no harm in expecting a miracle. Whether it’s a health challenge, financial problem or a marital situation, expect a miracle. I had a loan I had projected to pay back over the first 6 months of 2020. I had my plans and projections laid out but a miracle happened, instead of becoming debt-free by June 30, 2020 as I projected, a windfall came and I cleared all my debts on the very last day of the year stepping into the new year owing no man nothing but love. Lol. I like to plan, I like to project, I like to calculate so if I am telling you to expect a miracle, please believe me. God can and will show up for you.
This year I recorded some significant accomplishments as well as setbacks. I could choose to dwell on the setbacks and mourn over what I lost or what didn’t go the way I wanted but instead I choose to be grateful for the good that happened. I am not living the next five years or even the next month at a time, I’m living everyday at a time. Every fresh day is a gift and I’ll treasure it as such. I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes from one of the best books I’ve ever read, “Every day is an important day, and every second is a growth opportunity to develop character, to demonstrate love, or to depend on God.” – Rick Warren (The Purpose Driven Life). I choose to do these three things daily and I invite you to do the same.
Have a great year 2020!