Here’s an oldie-but-a-goodie from Organizing for the Spirit, reprinted here by request from a reader:

Using Trust as a Life Preserver
Several years ago, a series of unexpected events tossed me out of Life Cruise mode, and into the cold rapids of Uncharted Reality. A good friend counseled me to grab onto the only thing I could–my faith that things would work out the way they were supposed to–and just hang on. In other words, use trust as my life preserver.

I’ve never forgotten this advice, and fortunately haven’t had to use it too often. But every time I do, I’m both amazed at and comforted by its power to get me through whatever requires navigation.

Crises test our beliefs, and I’m pretty sure that they occur when they do as a way of showing us what we’re made of; they make us walk our talk and demonstrate how far we’ve come since the last time our foundation was shaken. We’d much rather do without them, of course, but handled correctly, they can lift us to the next level of our growth.

Crises can range from small, unpleasant surprises to (literally) earth-shattering events. We may just be knocked off-balance, or thrown to the ground. But in every case, our feelings of security are at least momentarily derailed. And that’s what can prove to be so terrifying.

“This isn’t supposed to be happening,” we tell ourselves. “I didn’t bargain for this; I didn’t plan for it. I did everything I was supposed to do and knew how to do. It isn’t fair.” We’ve all experienced the shock and disbelief of events occurring, big or little, for which we don’t feel prepared. Our first reaction probably is to fight the unwelcome reality, but our success in dealing with it will, in large part, depend on how quickly we can move to the next stage–acknowledgement.

With acknowledgement comes the acceptance that yes, the event has indeed occurred. We are no longer on the boat; we are in the rapids. And we have a choice: we can resist by frantically attempting to swim backwards, or we can flow with the current and see what our options are. And to flow or float, we need a life preserver.

By accepting trust as that life preserver, we’ve enabling ourselves to relax and assess the situation without wasting all of our energy flailing about. We need that energy, and all of our wits about us, because sometimes we’re tossed overboard for a reason that’s not immediately apparent. Very often there’s something hidden in the depths that can be of use to us, but when we refuse to accept that a change or reversal has happened, we limit our ability to learn or develop or benefit from the knowledge we gain.

If you can trust that things do often happen for a reason, you’re in a position to see things from a different perspective, and look for whatever messages there might be for you.

I’ve found that many times we settle for what we think we can get, instead of going after what we really want. Or we underestimate our talents, or value, and don’t utilize those assets that would be so helpful to others. Or we assume that we know how things are supposed to work out, and ignore messages to the contrary. And, therefore we need to be tossed into the river from time to time in order to shake up our perceptions, and ultimately move forward.

Sometimes the message is that we should be doing things differently. Maybe we need to appreciate certain things more. Or certain people. Maybe we’re being told that our timing is not right. Maybe we have to learn the value of patience, or honesty, or kindness, self-love or humor. Maybe we just have to learn to weather adversity with dignity and faith.

We’re all here to learn our own special lessons and we can do so, much more easily and with more grace, if we heed those messages. At the very least, we should “look” for positive information in whatever form it might come. Not every cloud has that silver lining, but we’ll never find what could be there if we don’t seek it out.

Having trust doesn’t mean that everything will necessarily work out the way you want it to. Having trust means that you know that you are being supported through your ordeal, and that if you are patient and perceptive, you’ll find a way to persevere. You’ll come out stronger, maybe wiser, and hopefully with a greater sense of peace.

5 Responses to "Trust"

  1. colleen

    April 30, 2008

    The hardest things I’ve gone through have also been the the things that have caused the most growth, making me a better person in the long run.

  2. sunny

    October 28, 2008

    I couldn’t agree more. 🙂

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  4. Donald K. Sanders

    May 27, 2010

    I find your column of finely written sentences has brought me to tears as thoughtfull writing often does. It would seem that I have been grasping for life preservers throughout my entire life so I fully understand what is so obviously coming from your heart. I would like to add something, if you do not mind, that has troubled me for many years, yet I cannot release this preserver or I am lost.
    Sometimes when all is lost, someone that loves you, will grab you tightly and fight with all of their might to hold your head above water. You can beg them to let go but they will not listen, they cannot. I liken it to the swirl of a whirlpool that is beautiful in it’s own right but it is dark and your eyes cannot peirce the shadows.
    To put it simply, the preserver, while keeping your head above the waves, have essencially placed themselves in harms way. This is my situation and it has been this way for many years. I may want to release the preserver so it can go on to better places and live a normal life but it would seem that it loves me more than I love myself and visa versa.
    I bring this up only for the appreciation and respect that people risking everything for someone else is due. I have found out the hard way that to an elite few, love is all powerful and when it comes to their love they will not give an inch. I am so unbelievably unlucky and unbelievably lucky at the same time. I am talking about my wife of course and she has held on to me for so long that we have become as one.
    Thank you for letting me put in my two cents.

  5. Sunny

    June 7, 2010

    Donald — thank you so much for your kind words.
    You write beautifully, yourself, and come across as an extremely sensitive and caring man.
    Your wife is with you for a reason that her soul knows, even if you do not. You’re lucky, and so is she.

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