Connecting the Dots
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
Lately we have had many conversations with individuals who are struggling to find meaning and purpose and direction for their lives–and they are having a difficult time trusting–whether it be from an illness, job loss, job dissatisfaction, or relationship turmoil. In almost all of these conversations, we have tried to provide hope by sharing a message which says:
What you are going through is only a season and it isn’t forever and that things will work out for your greater good.
We know this to be true from our own lives.
I (Michael) remember my first semester of college. It was the first time I was away from home. It was a big university and I felt lost, alone, and as if I didn’t belong there. I was not making friends quickly. I was definitely out of my comfort zone. And I felt that it was my first real challenge as I entered my young adult years. For the first time I was exposed to people who were very different than me, perhaps because of religion or cultural backgrounds. Growing up in an area that was very homogenous, conservative, and often insular, I was not equipped at first to accept and deal with all the newness with which I was confronted. Coming from a small high school, where I knew everyone and everyone knew me, where I was involved in every activity they offered, where I felt that I was somebody, suddenly I was thrust back to the bottom of the totem pole where I felt like a nobody. I would have given ANYTHING to go home or to reset my life back to where I was in high school. But I couldn’t. And I didn’t. And looking back, that was good. I got through that first semester, as difficult as it was, by realizing that I needed to reach out, open up, and make friends. And ultimately, I did. In fact, it is the place where I met my wife. But it was a very dark season before I did.
I (Tom) remember going through a dark season in grad school. I was halfway through my second semester and my wife and I were nearly out of money. Earlier in the year we had committed to paying off the rest of my schooling without taking any more student loans. Even though this added some stress, we knew it would test our faith because we thought that would be best for our growing family. It was the day before a $300 payment was due and we didn’t have the money to cover the amount. For most of the evening, we spent time reflecting and recounting all of the provision we had received in the past but also
Like Steve Jobs, we have had many instances in our lives where the dark seasons cause us to doubt–where it is virtually impossible to see a better day ahead–to see the goodness while we are in the midst of the struggle–to trust that things will work out for our best interest–and it steals our joy in the moment and throughout life. It isn’t necessarily what we WANT, but what we NEED. And often and it is only in retrospect of looking back that we can see how those dark seasons tempered us and strengthened us and enabled us to grow. In the midst of the situation, our human tendency is to question and to doubt and to think of the worst case scenario. We easily spiral down into a pit of darkness and despair. And we can see no good way out. But when we find ourselves in those places, we find that what works best is stopping and reflecting on past dark situations where light and goodness has shined through and how those situations enabled growth in our lives–how they generated wisdom and maturity and patience–and how they brought about, in the end, a greater good. That reflection enables us to trust.