We can’t control what life throws at us, but we can control what we do about it.
If you are a human being, you will experience pain. You will have several bad things happen to you, and sometimes, they will happen all at once. These tragedies are the sour lemons of life.
I’m in the midst of several tragedies. In my frustration, I’ve found that when everything goes wrong, you have two options.
The first is to let it ruin you, to stay in bed and sulk for the rest of your life and refuse to hope for anything anymore because the world is an awful place (this is where I’ve been for the most part, if we are being honest).
The second is to use the bad situation as an opportunity for good.
In the last three months, I’ve lost almost all my security – relationships have ended, my home base is shaky, and people have left my life. Death, family tragedy and a loss of control have struck me down to my knees. Hit after hit after hit, and all of a sudden, I find myself in an unfamiliar place that is now my life.
As one bad thing led to another, I wanted to throw in the towel. The storm looked like it was going to suck me in, and it seemed that I would not be strong enough to handle the pain and the loss and the confusion all at once. Meltdowns at stoplights were a frequent occurrence. I am a pretty sensitive person, and I’ve questioned my ability to get out of bed, be a human, and put on anything other than sweatpants (jeans are just so uncomfortable in times like these).
I have been questioning the goodness of God a whole lot lately. Why would a kind God allow all the sucky stuff happen all at once? Couldn’t he space it out and give me a little breathing room and time to get my life together?
But nope. Boom, boom, boom. One after another, and with each blow, hope grows dimmer and I’m left in fear that it will never get better.
You can imagine the pity party I was throwing for myself. I invited all of the sad and dramatic songs, along with Big Little Lies, which made me feel not as bad about my life for 45 minutes at a time.
Speaking of good TV, the other night, I started the show This Is Us. I mainly started this because I’ve heard the best things about it, and my entire Journalism class gave me a whole speech on all the reasons why I should dedicate my time to this series.
In the first episode, a tragedy strikes the main character. He is distraught, probably questioning everything about this curious thing called life. It is in his despair when a doctor pulls him aside and encourages him with these words: “There’s no lemon so sour that you can’t make something resembling lemonade.”
I started bawling, of course, because I had been thrown a lot of sour lemons. And I thought that’s all I had, and my life was now a dark hole, and nothing good would ever happen again. But there is always more to the story, and if there is darkness, there is certainly light.
If you bite into a lemon, you will most likely hate it. No one is doing that for enjoyment purposes or for a little afternoon snack.
But then we see those sexy Lemonade Shake-Ups at the fair, and all of our thoughts are now fixated on the refreshing taste of these glorious creations. We slurp them up in minutes with a big smile on our faces, and our taste buds are grinning too.
So how can something so sour turn into something so yummy, so refreshing, so good?
I realized I had a choice. To look at my lemons as the end of my life or to look at them as an opportunity for growth, learning and a deeper character.
But you see, Lemon Shake-Ups don’t just plop out of nowhere. Someone has to put effort into this. Someone has to consciously think, I am going to make good out of these sour lemons. If you focus on the good, you will see good.
At the end of the day, we have a choice.
Everything bad that happens to you can be used for good. In my case, since I’m losing a lot of people, I can enjoy the relationships God has given me now, the ones still standing. I can make sure when I am blessed with a special gift of life, to cultivate it, appreciate it, and to not let it pass me by.
I can see death as a way to live a fuller life. To not get so distraught about the little things, to enjoy the sun on my face, to enjoy a good steak and a sweet conversation with a friend.
I can see the storm as a way to draw nearer to God, to find my stability and security in him, and to actually know my creator. I truly believe that we don’t know Jesus until he is all we have left. When we go through deep waters, we have the opportunity to experience the deep love of Christ.
“Deep calls to deep, in the roar of your waterfalls. All your waves and breakers have swept over me.” Psalm 42:7
We can use the bad for good.
And we also know that even if we don’t feel strong enough to make those lemons into lemonade, God has the power to. He says he will use everything sucky in our lives for good. He doesn’t necessarily cause all the bad things in our lives, but he promises to use our pain to create something beautiful.
“For we know that God works for the good of those who love him, for those who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
You don’t need to keep biting into those sour lemons. Instead, you can look at them in a different light: these lemons are in the process of a wonderful story, a hopeful creation. Maybe one day we will look back and just see how those sour lemons created even something better than before. And just maybe, this new creation could be the most rejuvenating, refreshing gift you’ve ever received.