Adversity, Are You Fighting It or Are You Fighting Through It?
We all face adversity at varying points in our lives, to varying degrees. Some face more adversity and obstacles than others, and we often ask “why me?” In facing adversities, we can even get buried by them shifting the course of our lives forever. The worst adversities I have experienced or seen others experience that can have the most profound effects are things like the loss of a child, a divorce, loss of a parent, dissolving a partnership, failing in leadership, a child making a bad mistake that changes their life, or a child or anyone on the receiving end of a bad decision by someone else that changes their lives forever. There are many adversities to life and many obstacles that show up in our way most often when we least expect, and how we handle those times in our life often predict our acute futures and even long term futures.
Many of you know about my son’s accident, and being accidentally shot by his little buddy with a 22 rifle, and this experience showed up at about 3:30 pm on August 7th unexpectedly like a very vivid nightmare that began to unfold truly not knowing if our son would live or die in that very moment. Today is September 27, and I am sitting here in Madonna rehabilitation hospital, finished up with some stretches with Nash, and typing away as he waits for my Sunday therapy sessions since he has no “real PT or OT” today.
Over the short, almost two months of this journey, my wife and I have learned a lot, been through a lot, cried many tears until there were known left, asked “why” a good number of times. We've seen our son experience an almost insurmountable pain that left us in almost despair at times but has fought like hell to make some very intentional decisions and actions to get to where we are today. The following are some key aspects of fighting through adversity and winning in adversity!
As you read this, please think back through your challenges and what you can learn from them. Because we must expect obstacles and adversities in life, don’t be surprised when they show up! When those obstacles show up, we must get up, dress up, and show up to destroy them!
It was about 4 or 430 that Friday afternoon and the pilot and nurses were getting ready to load Nash and me up to head to Wichita. And Nash’s life was in their hands, but I knew I had to be there, and be a “force” for Nash. My mind was racing, but I knew I had to get my mind right to help fight with Nash and help him and his mindset along the way. When I hopped on that helicopter, packed tight as heck, with my son Nash, that is where my mental mindset began to go! There was no choice but to fight like hell!
That was just the beginning of the mental mindset work, as it carries on today and will continue to do so. When you are in Nash’s shoes, where you want your legs to be normal and you wish you could change “the event” most days, mental mindset and facing each day is extremely important in how it is done. We must get our mental mindset right. We must have a relentless attitude, a winning spirit, the heart of a warrior, the courage of a lion, and the perseverance of God.
Attitude is everything, and you can change your life with the right mindset mentality. And in order to do that, we must exercise our mental mindset muscle. We do that through daily pushing of our mind by believing in ourselves, never giving up, never giving in to external human or other physical forces, and making sure our hearts and minds consume books, stories, articles, podcasts, emails, or other sources to build our heart and mind so we can withstand the next obstacle of life.
Believing, believing builds authenticity, authenticity builds relationships, relationships build trust. Trust builds a team of support for you!!! Death and life are in the power of the heart and mind.
Allow yourself to mourn
For Nash and his family, we have embraced this by knowing it is what we needed to do and the help of our Pastor. And for us, we have two rules, allow ourselves to mourn and to cry, but we do it and move forward. We do it for as long as we need to in those moments and as hard as we need to be it in hard crying, loud screaming out, or whatever you may need, but we don’t stay in that mental place after. We don’t dwell in those thoughts or places.
One of our biggest mistakes in adversity is not allowing ourselves to mourn because we think we can’t. We think we have to be tough, and we then bury the feelings, which those in turn often lead us to succumb to our vices, such as drinking, drugs, or some other not so healthy addiction. These things are understandable, as we often don’t want to face the issue and we are guilty of burying our head in the sand on the adversity or the issue. But not allowing ourselves to mourn, and being the tough guy is not the answer. We all typically know this, but we often don’t practice it! For me, my mourning often occurs in my pickup away from others. We often want to be strong in front of our families or our people, and that is ok, just find your place, your space to mourn. Get it out! Otherwise, you may succumb to your vices!
It was midnight that Friday night. Nash was laying there in bed is so much pain he couldn’t get enough morphine in his body. He as allowed morphine every 3 hours and it lasted about 2 hours. So that last hour between doses, he lay there, arms in the air, squeezing his hands in pain, moaning and there was not one darn thing I could do. Or so I thought….Until he looked at me one time and said, “Daddy, let’s pray.” So the prayers began! And in between when I laid down, my mind always wandered to “why”, “why in the hell did this happen”, “why in the hell did this happen to one of the best young men on the planet!” And it was in those moments, for several nights, the only sleep I got came through laying there and beginning to go to God in prayer. That is the only way I got any sleep was by falling to sleep in prayer.
Times of adversity often go hand in hand with times of uncertainty and many unknowns. Uncertainty and not knowing what the future holds creates space in our mind for wondering and questioning. Those things than often lead to doubt, feeling afraid, anxieties, and depression. As believers, we also often are angry with God in letting this happen to us, but it is in those very moments we have to let go of that anger and go to God. I have never lived by the saying any stronger than the last 2 months of our lives of “letting go and let God”! But, as I got the call from Karen, “Nels, Nash is alive but has been shot!” at 3:30 pm that Friday, I let go of Nash, and placed him at God’s feet for God’s plan for Nash. Not knowing if it was life or death, but I let go and let God. And he gave us Nash!
The Bible verse Matthew 6:32-33 says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
Anxiety, stress, and fear can often fill our souls, but faith and talking to our God roots anxiety, stress, and fear out. Anxiety is the process of experience failure before it ever happens and is often created in an idle mind. And an idle mind is the devil’s playground! One must take an obvious and vocal stand against the devil! Adversity and obstacles cause us to worry. And worry has more questions than answers, takes more work than energy, and thinks often about giving up. Max Lucado teaches us you can dedicate a decade of anxious thought to the brevity of life and the unknown and the uncertain, and not extend life by one minute. Worry accomplishes nothing.
You cannot dwell on the negative, on the story, on the past, on the event, whatever the start of the adversity was from! You must seek first the kingdom of God so that you can experience his daily presence in your time of need to root out your anxiety, stress, and fear of the unknowns. He is begging us to lean into him! He is yearning for us to talk to him!
Prove them wrong
So we arrived at Madonna determined with Nash’s goal of walking again. The first full day was a day of assessments, and the following day his case manager came in to review the goals they set for him for when he left. And none of them included walking…..! The look of devastation was clear and obvious on his face. It was after she left, I began to remind him, “we let no one, no doctor, no one, predict our future! And we are here to prove them wrong!” And so that journey began!! And within two weeks, guess what, they added the goal of walking to their list of goals for him! That wasn’t because of them, that was because of Nash’s mental mindset of proving them wrong, and that he was determined to walk and no one would stop him, including a bunch of doctors!
Many people set goals for us, and many people think they can dictate our future or our being, but they can’t. It’s all you. Two of the greatest football coaches of all time had people tell them they weren’t good enough and asked them to move on. Bill Belichick was the head coach for the Cleveland Browns, and Nick Saban was his defensive coordinator. And they both were fired! But they didn’t allow the Cleveland Browns to “write their story”. They proved them wrong!
In Major League Baseball, there was a team that got rid of their three best players in the same year. That team was projected to lose the next year and to lose badly. Did you know that the team that won the most baseball games in a season is the 2001 Seattle Mariners? And it was the year after they traded 3 of baseball’s greatest players ever, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., and Randy Johnson! That team proved the naysayers wrong!
As we face our obstacles of life, our adversities, we must be determined to keep moving forward and achieving our goals. We may think the world is against us. And that is ok, but we don’t dwell on that one single second. We dwell on our goals, on our determination to move forward and win every single day relentlessly with true grit and perseverance. People with grit are finishers in life!
The bravest weapon in history is your heart! Use it to prove the naysayers wrong! Don’t accept limitations from anyone!! Your inner voice better be saying, “Prove them wrong!”
Do people know your story? Are you contacting people that could help you or have been through what you are going through? We are often too scared to be transparent, but transparency and openness will open doors you have never even approached before. People want to know your story. Telling your story builds your authenticity, which builds relationships, which in turn opens those doors you have never even seen before! People may reach out to you, so talk to them, don’t ignore them and tell them you are busy. Talk to them, they are reaching out and extend a hand to help you.
You must also pick up the phone and be intentional about reaching out to others that have successfully dealt with what you are going through. For us, Dr. Shane reached out to us about Alex McKeirnan, an awesome Angel for Nash who has gone through what Nash has and has a similar injury. We in turn had the courage to reach out to him, someone we didn’t know but knew we needed to talk to him. It has been in those “reaching out” moments that we found one of our biggest resources to help Nash and our journey, but also found an absolutely generous man who has been a warrior for Nash and looking to help Nash succeed. He knows the journey, knows the path, knows the ups and downs, the challenges, and can help our son push through his journey.
One of our challenges is simply having hope and believing in the future, which is a great thing because hope is the beginning of healing. Hope and belief are the beginning of a successful journey. We have to have hope and we have to believe. But hope and belief is not a strategy. We must take action and reach out to others to help us along our journey! When we begin to reach out to others, ask questions, look for others who have successfully dealt with similar adversity, hope builds, belief is nurtured and grows, and leads to confidence to take action!
Courage doesn’t come from deep down inside. It comes from knowing people have your back, they will fight for you, they will push you, they will help you win! Reach out to people to find your people! Reach out to build your tribe that will push you to your innermost greatness!
Celebrate the peaks and survive the valleys
Adversity and obstacles are typically an emotional roller coaster. Some days are great. Some days a terrible. Some days show progress forward, other days show two to two hundred steps backward. Some days may be dark and some the light is shining bright. But we must learn to live them and keep moving forward. Often times the valleys become bigger and longer than the mountain tops, and we get in trouble living on those valleys. We must learn to live another day to survive the valley and keep moving toward the next mountain peak.
We must learn to do two things.
#1. Don’t put the keys of your happiness in anyone else’s pocket! Be it a doctor, a bad spouse, an ex-spouse, a controlling friend, a fear-based approach boss, or anyone else, but your pocket. You hold your own keys that way you remain in control of your own future and destiny!
#2. Don’t live on yesterday, don’t live on tomorrow. Live in today, face today, and celebrate today! It could be a valley day, but find your space to be grateful for what you do have. Gratitude creates contentment. Contentment creates happiness not replicated by any other person, purchase, or thing. It’s hard to be hateful when we are grateful! Celebrate your blessings and say them out loud as you start your day.
Just stand, just keep putting one foot in front of the other, never ever give up.
It was that Friday afternoon, August 7th, Karen and I standing, cause we sure couldn’t sit down, in the ER waiting to hear from anyone….Is Nash alive? Is he dead? Is he dying? I really don’t know how long we waited there, but it was an eternity. And we just stood. Sometimes we just have to keep standing so we can keep moving forward. Standing allows us to put one foot in front of the other. Standing lets our minds think forward because we are looking forward. Standing makes our mind mentally tell our muscles to withstand the static pressure of standing which accomplishes more than not standing.
And if you are Nash, learning to stand all over again, it is painful. Standing is hard. Standing tests his balances, his core, and his musculoskeletal structure to withstand the static nature creating stamina and strength. For him, the level of pain he has endured is far greater than 99% of the 7,500,000,000 people on this planet. And he is enjoying today, smiling, laughing, grateful for his new Airpod Pros, and grateful he is alive! What is your story? What adversity are you in right now? What adversity has you in a dark place right now or has in the past?
Or if you are 1-30 years old, maybe you haven’t faced a real true challenging adversity. That’s ok, and here are some “to do’s” to help weather that storm and come out a victor, a better person, and one achieving your innermost greatness!
Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life. Stop being scared and start slaying your demons. Everything worthwhile is uphill, and your comfort is your enemy to your progress. Quit worrying about your past, your future, your enemies, the white noise, the naysayers, the pessimists. Remembers, the most common answer to the meaning of life by over 1200 nursing home residents was, “I wish I wouldn’t have spent so much time worrying.”
Get to the point where you can crave some form of adversity to stretch your capacity, to raise your lid, and push your limits! The best version of yourself will not be revealed without failure, tragedy, bad decisions, and more failure. God is in your corner longing to help reveal the best version of you! We each have a higher calling in life. We have a huge purpose! When you do hard things and accomplish it, it feels great!!