The journey of life can feature mountain peaks of happiness and valleys of suffering. Unfortunately the moments of happiness tend to be fleeting and the moments of suffering seem to go on for forever. Did you know that it is possible to find happiness through suffering without having to look up at the next mountain peak you’re trying to climb? The key to finding happiness through suffering is to actively seek out contentment.
Being content in difficult times can be extremely hard to do. How is it possible to give thanks in the darkest of times? Here are some methods that have been proven to work.
#1. Stop comparing your life to the lives of others around you. When you’re in a deep valley and you see someone up at the summit of a mountain experiencing joy, it can hurt. A lot. You want to be on that summit of joy as well, right? The problem is that in looking at the lives of others, we’re missing the perfect moments that are surrounding us right now. By actively seeking the extraordinary when we feel like we are having an ordinary day, it becomes easier to be content in any circumstance that is faced.
#2. Strength is created through overcoming adversity. One common phrase we like to tell each other in the dark times is that “What doesn’t kill us will make us stronger.” Although that’s a hollow platitude when we’re in our darkest hours, there is some truth to those words.
Parents who have lost children to cancer become strong enough to help other parents in a similar situation.
Widows can console other widows.
Bullied children can become a counseling resource for kids who feel like they don’t fit in.
The experience of adversity is what creates the strength, especially when we find a way to blaze a trail through it.
#3. Little things are still able to bring you some joy. Imagine being in a dark room for longer than you remember. You’re hungry, tired, thirsty, and ready for the physical suffering to end. Loneliness, confusion, and perhaps anger are present as well, creating the circumstances of emotional suffering. Just a drop of water, a bite to eat, or some sunshine on your face will grant a respite and that brings joy. Even on the worst of worst days, if you can bring yourself toward something that you love, then a moment of joy can relieve the suffering. Those perfect moments eventually add up and bring you one step closer to the next mountain summit.
#4. Fate isn’t in control of your life. When we are encountering a valley of suffering, the typical question asked is this: Why? There really is no good answer to that question. We all ask it because we want a tangible explanation for our circumstances. If we get facts, then we can get out of the valley more quickly – at least that’s the theory. In reality, it is you who are in control of how you feel and what you want to do. External factors can try to affect your joy, but you either choose to allow those factors to influence you or to ignore them. Happiness is a choice that you can always make.
#5. Sometimes a fresh start is the only thing that is needed. Ask anyone who plays video games about the benefits of a complete restart. Do you have to begin at the very beginning again? Sure. You’ve also learned from your past experiences and this allows you to take the best out of the last journey so that it can be applied to the next one. It’s some added work, there’s no doubt about that, but it is work that can help you experience greater happiness every day if you manage it correctly.
#6. There is always something to learn from the experience. One of the most common versions of suffering is what would be best described as “educational” suffering. Some might call this type of suffering a “challenge.” It’s how we are able to take a look inward to see how we are maturing on an inner, perhaps spiritual way. Situations that seem to be beyond us at first become clear educational opportunities for us to work on the inner being so that it can be a massive force to help others. Sometimes recognizing a challenge and standing up to it, even though it might be difficult to do, is enough to bring the light of happiness back into life.
#7. Suffering is the #1 way to develop emotional endurance. Stamina is required in everything that we do. To become physically strong, we must exercise, do some weight training, and maybe even change some eating habits. To develop emotional endurance, we must encounter suffering so that we can run the entire race of life. Ever wonder why some leaders can go through seemingly impossible times to find success on the other side? It’s because they’ve recognized suffering as a positive tool for development. Happiness can be found in that recognition as well.
#8. Sacrifices bring joy to the lives of others. A mother suffers a lot for her children. She sacrifices her needs for the needs of her children so they can experience joy. Those times can be tough, especially if it seems like the mother is losing herself in the quest to meet her child’s needs. In the midst of that suffering, life can be difficult, bleak, and almost hopeless. At the sight of her child’s smile or the success her child experiences because of her sacrifices, however, all of that bleakness is instantly replaced with a happiness that can only come from serving others.
Suffering is a tool that can be used to your advantage. It can be easy to get lost in those dark valleys or be envious of those who seem like they’re always on a mountain peak, but you are in control. You can choose happiness. That’s how happiness can be found in suffering… because you choose to have it with you.