Let’s face it, our lives can get pretty challenging at times. Some seem to have it worse than others, going through things I can’t even fathom. But you can’t live without going through at least a few bitter experiences.
That said, people generally approach their challenges differently. Some people, for instance, ask “why me?” when facing adversity. Others ask themselves “what now?” I will examine how these approaches differ, why the latter approach is healthier, and how we can become Saints who ask the latter question.
The Problem With the “Why Me?” Approach
I know, it can be awfully easy to ask “why me?”. But when you ask “why is this happening to me?” you are really comparing yourself to others. In essence, you are asking why this thing you’re dealing with couldn’t have happened to someone else. You blame God and others for your bad fortune. Envy and jealousy seep in, and you wish ill on others.
But something else happens too when you ask “why me.” Your already tough experience becomes even more unbearable. You allow your moment of adversity to get the better of you, and you become miserably unhappy as a result.
Asking “why me?” does not solve any problems, nor does it lead to personal or spiritual growth. It is an unproductive approach to adversity, and it may even lead to decreased or destroyed faith.
Why Asking “What Now?” Is a Better Approach
How is asking “what now” different from asking “why me?” To put it simply, it demonstrates a different outlook; a more positive attitude.
I learned this principle the hard way in high school. I was playing on the school’s varsity basketball team in a very big game: the game would decide which team won the league. The team we were playing was more talented than we were, but the game was close. At one point in the fourth quarter the game was tied when, remarkably, the ball bounced high off an opposing player’s shoe and fell directly in the basket with a swish.
Now, I have never seen a ball bounce off of a shoe and into the basket before, neither do I think I’ll ever see it happen again. The basket was a fluke, and it happened against us! I could feel that many of the players on our team, including I, began thinking “why us?”. We were so close to beating this team, so why couldn’t we just once get the ball to bounce our way. It seemed as though God was against us. Incidentally, we let that experience dictate the rest of the game and we lost.
If we asked ourselves “what now?” instead of “why me?” we could have had a more positive impact on the game. Instead of focusing on uncontrollable things, we could have said, “okay, something strange just happened, and it hurt us. What can we do on the next play to make things better?”
The “what now?” approach tends to lead to growth. It helps us look to the future instead of letting our past adversities get us down. It helps us take accountability when accountability is needed, and it helps us focus on the things we can control. Most of all, it leads to a happier disposition and can lead to greater faith in God.
The Crucible Principle
A crucible is a metal or ceramic container (pictured above) in which metals can be subjected to intense heat and pressure. In a crucible, metals may be melted and reformed, mixed and strengthened, or purified.
The crucible is often used as an analogy of the personal growth that can occur when one faces extreme adversity. In other words, if people have the right mindset, their faith can become strengthened and purified and they can be broken down so that God can reconstruct them into what He wants them to be.
Consider the crucible principle when you watch the clip below about President Hugh B. Brown’s experience:
President Brown relates how he felt cut down, much like the tearful currant bush, when he was denied a military promotion because of his faith. At first, I’m sure President Brown was thinking “why me?”. But his perspective changed as he remembered that we are sometimes cut down so God can build us up into something better.
How Did Nephi Approach Adversity?
Now, let’s see how this plays out in the Book of Mormon. Nephi, the Book of Mormon prophet-hero, was placed in many similar circumstances as his brothers, Laman and Lemuel. Yet, Nephi spiritually grew from those events while Laman and Lemuel did not. Part of the reason for Nephi’s incredible growth was his positive outlook when facing adversity.
For example, when Nephi broke his bow, “Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael did begin to murmur exceedingly” (1 Nephi 16:20). To be fair, breaking a bow would have been an immense trial. Everyone depended on Nephi’s bow for food, so the company essentially did not know where their next meal would come from. The adversity was so great that even Lehi began to murmur and complain!
But Nephi’s response was different than Laman and Lemuel. Instead of complaining about his bad luck, Nephi looked forward; instead of asking “why is this happening to me?”, Nephi essentially asked, “what can I do now to solve this problem I have?”.
1 Nephi 16:23 tells us that Nephi “did make out of wood a bow, and out of a straight stick, an arrow.” Nephi then asked his father where he should go to obtain food, left to hunt, and was rewarded. He did not allow his circumstance dictate his success, and the moment of adversity helped strengthen his faith in God.
Choose to Be a “What Now?” Person
Elder Marion G. Romney said the following about our choice to grow from the adversities we face:
I have seen the remorse and despair in the lives of men who, in the hour of trial, have cursed God and died spiritually. And I have seen people rise to great heights from what seemed to be unbearable burdens.
Finally, I have sought the Lord in my own extremities and learned for myself that my soul has made its greatest growth as I have been driven to knees by adversity and affliction.
Likewise, Barbara Johnson said, “Pain is inevitable but misery is optional.”
Let us not let our adversities hold us down. Instead, let us allow them to refine, strengthen, and purify us. Let us learn to develop an attitude that allows spiritual and personal growth, even when facing the most bitter and difficult adversity.
For more reading on facing adversity, click below:
- When Adversity knocks
- Overcoming Adversity Isn’t the Point
- The Secret to Happiness in Hard Times
- Come What May, and Love It