A little while back, I wrote an article about how I'm not a fan of using the word "damaged". And I'm not; not when it applies to people, anyway. If you're wondering what my issue is with that word, you can check it out here. Anyway, as I was engaging in a conversation with someone not too long ago about life's disappointments, I realized that there's another word that I'm not too fond of either—setback.
What's my issue with it? It's not that I don't believe that setbacks are real; it's just that, I think that we give them way too much power. To actually experience something that makes us feel like it's totally preventing us from making progress? Maybe it's just me, but that sounds more like a choice than the direct result of any situation or circumstance.
A blindside? Sure. A challenge or obstacle? Absolutely. But any time something happens as we're trying to move forward in life, that catches us off guard, hurts our feelings or even potentially devastates us, there are a few things to keep in mind before completely throwing in the towel and actually ruling it a bonafide setback.
It All Ultimately Serves a Profound Purpose
It was just 2016 when our own EIC Necole Kane was going through a major life test and challenge. Social media outlets everywhere were talking about how broke she was and how much of a mess her life was in. Interestingly enough, it was right around the time when she was making the transition from being Necole Bitchie to becoming xoNecole (check out "Necole Bitchie Opens Up on Pain, Success & New Beginnings" when you get a chance). I'm pretty sure that even though some hope was just a few months (in the form of a couple of years) up the road, that that was probably one of the bleakest moments of Necole's life.
And then, at the top of 2018, the media started telling a different tale—"Will Packer Media Acquires Women's Lifestyle Site xoNecole". Just this past April, she was featured in Essence and, as they say, the rest is history!
It may not feel like it now, but if things are super difficult, it's only getting you ready for something else. Not just "else" but better. Transition can be uncomfortable, but if you're committed to the process, it always—ALWAYS—serves a purpose. Typically, a mind-blowing one at that.
Some Things Are Simply “Labor Pains”
I'm a doula (which is basically a birthing assistant) and, let me tell you what—it is right when the pregnant mom is at her most painful point in labor (which is usually when she's around 7 dilated cm, by the way) when she is like, "You know what? I'm done!" Yet it's also around that time when she is closer than ever to seeing the little miracle that she carried for (technically) 10 months.
Speaking of labor pains, there's a Message version of Scripture that I really like and appreciate during the hard times: "All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it's not only around us; it's within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We're also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don't see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along." (Romans 8:22-26) According to this, waiting makes us larger and eventually gives us more joy.
Challenges can feel like real delays. When the delays are really trying you, remember my all-time favorite quote by a pastor by the name of John Piper—"God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them." The pain is not for naught, sis. It too has some sort of miracle attached to it. Push on and push through.
Negativity Only Makes Things Worse
If it feels like you're going through a major life hurdle, it's important that you protect your energy at all costs. One of the ways to do that is by minimizing the amount of negativity that you are around—negative people, trollers on social media, draining news and gossip, you get the gist. When you're going through a season like this (and it is just a season; more on that in just a sec) the last thing you need is to make matters worse with complaining and pessimism. And yes, negativity definitely makes things worse (articles like "Why Negative People Are Literally Killing You (and How to Protect Your Positivity)", "This Is What Negativity Does to Your Immune System, and It's Not Pretty" and "Scientific Proof That Negative Beliefs Harm Your Health" all co-sign on where I'm coming from).
You already know how I feel about the word "setback", but I will say this about it. If you decide (and it is indeed a choice) to feed yourself with negativity, that is a surefire way to end up having one. Real talk.
Everything Has Its Season
Something that I dig about the Bible is, whether we want to accept it or not, it addresses just about everything we're wondering about; it prepares us too. Even though it tells us that "it rains on the just and the unjust" (Matthew 5:44-45), when difficult times come our way, we tend to think there is some personal attacking going on; like it's automatically about us not doing something right or, it's the direct result of doing something wrong.
The Bible does also tell us that we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7-10), so sometimes our struggles may be consequences-related. But there is something else to consider too. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NKJV) says, "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven...a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance..." It goes on and on. My point? Everything uncomfortable is not some conspiracy to ruin your life. Some of us love summer and hate winter; others of us feel the opposite. Guess what? Summer's here and winter is coming. Seasons change. Soon enough. So will this one for you. Also, summer and winter both have a purpose in getting nature and us to other stages in life, so does what you're going through.
You’ll Be Stronger on the Other Side
This time last year, I had one of the biggest heartbreaks ever (I mean, EVER). I also lost one of my main writing gigs, so I was just about spent. Literally. All I kept hearing the Holy Spirit say to me is, "You are giving birth to yourself." You know what's a plum trip about that? My middle name is Renee' and it means "reborn". Anyway, fast forward to this year and, somebody please cue in Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle's "A Whole New World"! The things I've learned about myself. The toxicity that I've released. The standards that I've set. I'm not just stronger, I'm better. Yes, even reborn!
The things we don't like or want to do are the things that stretch and evolve us more than just about anything else. Just like working out doesn't feel good, this probably doesn't either. Guess what, though? It really is true that what doesn't kill you will make you stronger. Strength is what sustains us. Let this mere moment in time do its job. It's not for naught.
You’re Not the First or the Last to Have One
I get it. It's a fair assumption that the last thing you want to hear when you're going through a tough time is that you're not the only one. I didn't say that to dismiss what you are going through; I said it so that you won't isolate yourself and feel that the entire world doesn't get it or is somehow against you. I also said it so that you'll be willing to open up and share your feelings with someone that you trust.
Sometimes, one of the best remedies for life's challenges, obstacles and hard times is to receive words of comfort or even testimonies from others who've experienced something similar. The comfort can reassure you and the testimonies can remind that that there are more chapters in your story to be written. (Spoiler alert—when this is over, it'll probably only feel like a page or two in your book of life; if that much.)
This Too Shall Pass
Contrary to popular belief—and/or poor biblical teaching—"this too shall pass" is not a verse in biblical Scripture (neither is "money is the root of all evil", "the Lord works in mysterious ways" or "cleanliness is next to godliness"). From what I've researched, it's actually a Muslim proverb (or a verse from a Persian poet). Nonetheless, it is still is a powerful thing to always keep in mind because, as I once heard an actor say on television, "Like all things, even despair, exhausts itself."
If you need something to get you through in the meantime, let me take you to praise and worship for just a moment. I'm pretty sure you all are familiar with Yolanda Adams, but what y'all know about Crystal Lewis (she's a sangin' white girl, boy!)? Many years ago, Yolanda and Crystal did a duet entitled, yep…you guessed it—"This Too Shall Pass". Listen. Cry. Scream. Throw something (light and soft) if you need to. But remember that this thing you're going through won't be forever. Then hold close that, by enduring it, you will come out on the other side, so much better for it.
I've been there. This not a setback. This is a life-altering-for-the-better moment. Endure it. Better is coming. It really is.
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Originally published on June 29, 2019
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