Trust – 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–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 giving 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) can also remember going through an uncertain time in my life and struggling to find a sense of direction. There was a time when I couldn’t find a job and at every turn it seemed like another roadblock was standing in my way from helping me find one. In those moments, I remember questioning and wondering if things would ever work out for my benefit—questioning and wondering if life in general was all it is cracked up to be: Would life always be this difficult? Will the road I am on ever smooth out? Will I ever be able to see clearly again?
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 all of that steals our joy in the moment and throughout life. Often it is only in retrospect, 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 have shone 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 helps us to connect the dots and ultimately enables us to trust again.