My first job out of college was in a fancy department store where I was quickly promoted to Buyer—but then my career stalled. For years I languished in the same dead-end job and soon my confidence ebbed away until I could no longer see a way out of my rut.
I had originally thought being a fashion buyer would be glamorous, but it didn’t take long to realize the position was nothing but a dog’s breakfast of whatever junk Headquarters didn’t want on their plate. I was a glorified clerk with a paycheck that ranked alongside those in poverty.
I hated my circumstances so much that I contemplated suicide. Even that seemed a loser’s way out—the walls of my life had crumbled and I was left with the ruins.
When life gets really tough, my go-to book is the Old Testament text of the Bible.
These folks understood hardship! There I found a compelling story of a Jewish man named Nehemiah who was cup-bearer to the King of Persia almost five hundred years before the birth of Christ.
After learning that the walls of Jerusalem had broken down, Nehemiah asked for permission to return and rebuild them. So the King sent Nehemiah back as governor to complete this mission.
As I read these verses, I realized and Nehemiah was an expert on rebuilding. He was also an expert in mental toughness.
Here are 5 things I learned from Nehemiah about what to do when things go wrong:
1. GIVE YOURSELF PERMISION TO SHED A FEW TEARS
The first thing Nehemiah did when the desolation of Jerusalem came to his attention was to grieve. He “weeps and prays for days” showing his intense concern.
Do you have a problem worthy of your attention and energy? Pay close attention to where your heart is broken so you can start doing something positive and constructive to change it.
You will never rebuild the walls of your life until you give yourself permission to properly grieve for what you have lost.
Remember that there are two kinds of pain: pain that hurts and pain that changes you.
When you roll with life, instead of resisting it, both kinds help you grow.
2. TAKE A LONG, HARD LOOK AT THE MESS YOU’RE STANDING IN
Nehemiah took a long, hard look at the rubble that surrounded him. You will never build the walls of your life until you have first truly noticed the ruins. Have you ever taken a good look at what has gone wrong in your own situation?
If you are mentally tough, you can look at the ruins and see where to pick up the pieces and move on. Once you do, you will see not only the devastation but the possibilities as well.
This could mean spending time in solitude, but solitude makes great things possible because it gives you the space you need to focus on your potential.
If things are good right now, enjoy it; it won’t last forever. If things are bad, don’t worry; it won’t last forever either.
3. THAT FIRST STEP CAN BE A KILLER
When Nehemiah comes back to Jerusalem he doesn’t rush out and get everyone excited about the new project. Instead, he rose at night when no one else was around and surveyed the ruins.
He made an accurate assessment of the situation and then began to make plans for a comeback. He spent time preparing both his head and heart. You need to do the same:
- Be cautious and start slow
- Take an honest survey of the situation
- Take note on what needs to be done.
- Develop a strategy before you start.
4. STOP COVERING WOUNDS WITH BANDAIDS AND START HEALING INSTEAD
As a child, I loved to show my scars to whomever was interested in learning about my exploits. I was proud of them because the adventure that produced the wound had usually been fun and always fulfilling.
Scars are not injuries; they are wounds that have healed.
Even as a kid I knew that scabs need to be left uncovered so they could get better. Keeping them hidden underneath a bandaid was only a temporary fix.
At some point, we become ashamed of scars and wounds because they represent hurts and failures that overshadow the thrill of pushing our boundaries and taking a risk. Nehemiah was confronted with hostility and assaults as he began rebuilding, but he wore his scars like the tattoo of a warrior who has been inside the ring and lived to tell the tale.
Be proud of your scars because you emerged even stronger than you were before. They indicate you have experienced pain, conquered it, learned a lesson, and moved on when things went wrong.
5. GET VERY CLEAR ON WHAT YOU REALLY WANT
Nehemiah had a clear plan; it only took fifty-two days to rebuild the walls surrounding Jerusalem!
When things go wrong it is merely an opportunity to test your determination on how much you want something. It doesn’t take a lot of mental toughness to pursue the easy stuff that falls your way, but if you really want something, despite failure and rejection, chances are good your heart is in it as well.
This is a fact of life: struggles are not found along life’s path; they are life’s path. The sooner you come to peace with this, the better. Once you find that path, however, there is no better feeling in the world than following the journey of your heart.
Do not be afraid to get back up when things go wrong—keep trying, and eventually you will find a path that leads toward your goals. It may not be the path you originally envisioned, but it will take you where you need to go.
What does it mean to rebuild the walls of your life? What’s something positive you try to keep in mind when everything seems to be going wrong?
© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.
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