Overcoming Darkness: Shift Your Focus to Turn on the Light

This February, I’ve been writing about different kinds of adversity. And regardless of what type of adversity you face, it is hard. It can make you feel depressed and discouraged and turn your mood dark. 

I know this because, as I write these words, I am struggling with a persistent sinus infection and an even more persistent headache. Meanwhile, my sister just emailed me, letting me know that her good friend is losing her battle with cancer. I find myself feeling sad, discouraged, and on the verge of an epic pity party. Maybe my daughter has room on the couch to watch Disney movies? 

Despite this, I got up when my alarm went off this morning. I dragged myself to the gym in the dark and finished what I had started. Now I am at work facing my biggest question of the day: Where is my focus going to be? 

Is my focus going to be on the difficulty of my situation? 

Or, is my focus going to be external to me? 

Will You Choose Darkness or Light?

This question is a choice. I can choose to spend my time analyzing my sinus discomfort, wondering why the antibiotics don’t seem to be working, and even Googling potential alternative treatment options courtesy of random bloggers — we’ve all done it! I can let my sadness about the awfulness of cancer drag me down into a pit of despair. There is something comforting about wallowing there because it is socially acceptable. It’s justified. It’s allowed. 

But I have another choice available: I can choose to get outside of my head. I can start this by surrendering what I cannot control to God. To some, that might sound like a bumper sticker — but I’m not talking about any cliches or quick answers. I am talking about understanding reality. 

And in reality, there is little I can control. I can’t control the pace at which my body heals. I cannot control the brokenness of humanity and the sad reality of disease. I can’t control much much of anything, so I surrender. 

I found myself praying this prayer on the way from the gym to work: “Lord, let your will be done. Even if it is contrary to mine. Especially if it is contrary to mine.” 

Now my head may still be pounding, but I am free to turn the light back on. And the only way I know how to do this — when it is dark inside me — is to focus that light externally on others. 

This sounds cheesy, I know. 

But it’s how it works. 

An Indescribable Transformation

When I stop focusing on all the junk inside me and start focusing on being a light to others, something indescribable happens. My emotions are uplifted. My life is refocused. My purpose is reestablished. 

All of this is true, although my circumstances have not yet changed. But what has changed is my mindset. Instead of a wallowing, discouraged, and semi-depressed person, I am transformed into an others-focused, encouraged, light-sharing person. 

I have purpose, passion, and a renewed identity. 

In the moment, this is hard to do. But as I say regularly on this blog, the things worth doing in life are always hard. The easy path is wide and leads to where most people end up. The hard path is narrow, and it leads to abundance. Choose wisely. 

Please hear me when I tell you that this is a constant struggle for me. My self-absorption sometimes takes over and I wallow in self-pity. That darkness can run deep. 

But I recognize that I am at my best when I turn on the light let it shine for others. It is in those moments that I am someone worth following.