Facing Trials By Embracing Optimism

These past few years have been a season of waiting and stress for our family. My husband has struggled to find a permanent job, which has left us with no real sense of where we will settle down and start to build a life. The uncertainty of the situation has produced insurmountable fear, due mainly to the possibility of losing health insurance. As a person living with bipolar disorder, it has kicked my anxiety into full gear. Both my inherent personality as well as the presentation of my mental illness cause me to constantly worry about how we can secure our future and ensure my health.

In a recent study, researchers found that a tendency to repeatedly think about a negative situation and continuously worry about the outcome is a key behavior in initiating anxiety. When reflecting on how I react to unfortunate circumstances, I have realized that I have a low tolerance for uncertainty and a great fear of the unknown. I also appreciate having closure in my life, and like to definitively shut one door before opening another instead of having many irons in the fire, like we do currently. According to the study results, a low tolerance for uncertainty and high need for closure can increase negative experiences while enduring a trial. It was discovered that people with an optimistic disposition have decreased levels of anxiety. This was due to spending less time ruminating and more time assuming that everything will work out eventually. These people have higher levels of hope for a positive outcome because they are not continuously bracing themselves for bad news. I long to be filled with hope, but time and time again I’m overwhelmed by feelings of frustration, impatience, and apprehension. I have often wondered, what can people do to let go of a pessimistic nature, and develop the capability to handle seasons of uncertainty with a positive outlook? I am learning that the following ideas may help.

1. Let go of the “all or nothing” mentality

Just because something in your life is not going as planned, do not let yourself believe that everything is ruined. Instead of ruminating on a certain unfortunate circumstance, we should focus on people and events that we enjoy and bring us satisfaction. Work to develop an attitude of gratitude and concentrate on simple pleasures you have been blessed with today.

2. Acknowledge pain but decide to be happy anyway

We do not have to minimize the suffering we are experiencing, but circumstances should not determine our ability to live with joy. Choose to let go of your anxiety about the future, and decide to be happy today, in all things.

3. View challenges as opportunities

Instead of spending all of our time trying to fix a bad situation, we need to work to turn this into an opportunity to have an exciting adventure and try something new. Even if there is a less than ideal outcome, look at this season as a time to increase your patience, learn how to manage stress, improve problem solving skills, and grow in maturity and resourcefulness. It will benefit you in future trials.

4. Surround yourself with optimistic people

Let yourself be influenced by others who consistently look on the bright side. Allow peers to share their experiences and how they overcame negative situations. Let positive people come alongside you in this difficult time and encourage you as you seek a solution the problem.

5. For me, in my life, the main way that I handle these types of situations is my Christian faith

While I admit to emotional pain, I trust that God is in control and sovereign over this journey. I try to remember that God has a purpose in this situation, and that He is using it to refine my character, as well as to produce spiritual maturity. He has not said that in this life we will not experience trials, but He says to fear not because He has overcome the world.

My mother would always tell me “wherever you are be fully present.” I realize now that when I spend so much energy worrying about the future, my present life is passing me by. The situation will not improve by agonizing over a negative outcome, so let’s all decide to stop assuming the worst, and start believing that things will eventually work out for the best. It may not happen as quickly as we would like, or in the way that we planned, but as we choose to bravely accept the circumstances we will begin to realize that this journey is perfecting our ability to endure all of life’s challenges. We need to strengthen our ability to persevere by anticipating blessings and choosing hope along the way. By courageously embracing optimism, (and in my belief a strong faith in Jesus and His perfect plan), we will enable ourselves to ride the waves with powerful resilience.

Read more of Sarah’s posts here.

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