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Don't Unpack Your Bags

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

2 Timothy 1:7

It’s hard to believe we’re into September already! I love summer and am always sad when the days get shorter and the temperatures become colder. Although I hate to see summer end, it’s also a good reminder that sometimes we just need to move on and prepare for the inevitable.

Fall marks the end of vacation season, too. As much as I would like to live somewhere warm, I know I can visit, but I can’t live there. Speaking of moving on . . .

Why is it that, in this era of tremendous prosperity, so many individuals struggle with anxiety-related issues? An estimated one in three Americans will struggle with anxiety at some point in their lives, with hardest hit demographic being women ages eighteen to twenty-nine.[i]

Our stress related to work, school, relationships, and even world events seems to be increasing exponentially. This is a phenomenon for which there is no good explanation.

But there’s good news.

If there’s one characteristic that could guarantee that we would excel in this life, it would be RESILIENCE. Resiliency is defined by Webster as “the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens.” This trait is often credited with guarding against depression and anxiety and can enable one to overcome trauma and grief even in extreme circumstances. This ability is not limited by one’s age, race, or social status.

One point that I often stressed to my players during my ten years coaching high school and college soccer was the need to “play the ball, and not let the ball play you.” It was important to know what play you would make before the ball even came near your zone. Do you need to get into position to be able to receive the ball? Do you have an open player down field? Is a defender quickly approaching from behind? Or, do you have time to control the ball and allow your team to push forward?

Simply reacting to the ball is not only ineffective—it can be dangerous. Not being prepared to receive the ball could leave a player in a vulnerable position. Skilled, competent players are those who can anticipate the play and act decisively when the opportunity comes.

Your ability to be resilient and control the narrative in your life works in a similar way. The thoughts you think and choices you make before you hit rough waters will determine the course you ultimately chart for yourself.

Picture this scenario: two young men try out for the high school football team, and both players are cut. Player A and player B trained equally hard all summer with the team, and they had the expectation that they would be on the field come Friday night. Player A and player B are both crushed because of being cut from the squad. They feel humiliated, left out, and angry. They may trash-talk the coaches to their teammates as they leave the locker room. Once home, they slam the bedroom door and refuse to come down for dinner that night.

Here’s where the difference becomes evident: Player A may still be angry and frustrated, but he goes to the game the following Friday. He has to find a new group of friends since most of his friends are on the field. He may even volunteer to keep statistics in order to stay involved and increase his chances of making the team next year. Player B, however, spends that Friday night locked in his room. He posts angry comments on social media and blames the coaches, players, or other kids’ parents. He may even make threats. This behavior goes on for weeks and even months. Player B eventually gives up football all together and refuses to join any other teams or clubs. Player A showed great resiliency but player B chose to hold onto his anger and not move forward.

Know this: it’s ok to be frustrated, disappointed, and even angry. It’s ok to feel ripped off, because sometimes—let’s face it—we are. It’s ok to feel hurt, betrayed, or backstabbed. We don’t deserve to be treated that way. It’s ok to feel sad, devastated, and alone after experiencing a gut-wrenching loss. But here’s the thing…

Don’t unpack your bags because you can visit, but you can’t live there.

Notes [i] NIMH, “Any Anxiety Disorder” (2017), [ii] Kristen Proby, Easy Love (Chicago: Ampersand Publishing, 2015).

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