Some people are successful in mastering life while others permit life to master to them.
Jack Dempsey, said, “A champion is one who gets up when he can’t.” As a great boxer coming from tough circumstances, he knew what he was talking about.
For 30 years, I have researched the topic of peak performance and what it takes to become a champion. And as a reader of my “Tuesday Tips,” you know that I’m constantly giving you more and more psychological, interpersonal, and organizational tools to achieve more than ever before.
Last week, however, I said there are four times when spiritual strengthening is needed — when you’re stressed, down, confused, or weak. There are times when communication strategies just aren’t enough. So I wrote about how you might get some spiritual strengthening when you’re stressed or down.
Of course, a couple of people sent me e-mails saying they didn’t want to hear about anything “spiritual.” That’s fine. As I said, just skip over last week or this week’s “Tuesday Tip.” But lots of you wrote appreciative comments for the practical, non-threatening way in which I outlined the process of spiritual strengthening.
So let me address the other two times when such strengthening is needed — when you’re confused or weak. And that may be more often than you’d like. After all, we cannot see very far ahead. So we must take each step with all the wisdom and strength we can muster.
Let’s take on confusion. Confusion is rampant. Harding’s Homily says, “It’s hard to be nostalgic when you can’t remember anything.” I even saw a T-shirt that read, “The older I get the better I was.”
Of course, we expect — or at least we hope — that our elected officials and authority figures are free of confusion. The daily news suggests otherwise. When the police arrested the con man for selling eternal youth pills, they discovered he was a repeat offender. He’d been arrested on the same charge in 1492, 1735, and 1914.
Seriously, there’s way too much unnecessary confusion in people. Most people are split. They’re split between the part of them that knows what it should do and the part of them that does what it feels like doing.
TO OVERCOME CONFUSION, SEEK ILLUMINATION. Gladys Aylward, one of the most famous missionaries of recent generations, based her whole life on this approach. She said there are five ways in which illumination comes or five ways in which you get God’s guidance.
First, there is a strong connection or a deep inner feeling of certainty. Second, there are “opening doors,” as she called them. This occurs when unlikely, unrealistic opportunities suddenly open up for you.
On the other hand, there are “closing doors,” where your progress is inexplicably blocked. The fourth is an inner awareness of God speaking, not as you hear the voice of a human, but through the illumination of your thoughts. And finally, there is God’s written Word.
Does this approach work? Dr. Norman Vincent Peale says, “Yes.” As the author of The Power of Positive Thinking, he wrote: “There isn’t anyone with a problem who cannot by this means find an answer. It may not come quickly, but it will come. By and by, like the great hills emerging out of the valley mists, comes a steady conviction as to what one should do.”
Peale went on to say this “illumination” requires a lot of reflective time. In other words, spend some time in prayer, in meditation, in reading the Word, by letting go and letting God take over.
Don’t hurry. Don’t become anxious. Just let your thoughts mature, believing all the while you are receiving God’s guidance. Empty your mind of all preconceived notions so God can fill it with wisdom.
Of course this is easier said than done. Most people are so busy that they don’t take time to reflect. But if you want to overcome confusion, you must set aside time to reflect on where you are, where you have traveled, and where you want to spend your life in the years ahead.
One of the greatest tragedies in life is charging through your career without giving it much thought. I see it all the time in my coaching clients. They think they’ve finally made it to the top, and then they look back and wonder whether the trip was worth the price. They climbed ladders propped against the wrong walls — all because they didn’t take time to clear up the confusion and seek illumination.
So that’s the third of four times when spiritual strengthening is needed. The fourth time is when you’re weak. We all feel that on occasion. And, it’s no wonder. Competition is eternal. There is no end to the game. Even if we compete and win today, we must compete and win tomorrow. It’s tiring, and feeling weak can be a natural side effect.
And some people mistakenly think that “portrayed” weakness is a good thing. Not at all. Nelson Mandela, the great liberator of South Africa, said, “You are a child of God. You’re playing small doesn’t serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to manifest the glory of God within us.”
Mandela is right. We don’t need any more people saying, “If I could, I would.” We need everyone to say, “If I can, I will.”
One way to do that, one way to get such spiritual strengthening, is to AFFIRM YOUR TRUST IN GOD when you’re weak. Think it and speak it.
Over the years I’ve spoken to several groups in the coal mining industry. One man in one of my audiences told me how he learned this approach.
He said as a child he asked his father if he could go down into one of the mines with him. His father said “yes,” but as the elevator descended deeper and deeper into the earth, the boy was filled with fear.
When they reached the bottom and began walking, the boy was struck with overwhelming claustrophobia. He threw his arms out until he felt the warmth of his father’s hands.
“Son,” his father said, “Someday you won’t be able to hold my hand. But there is a greater Father than I, and He will always be with you. Learn to trust Him, and you will never be afraid.”
One way to develop this kind of trust, one way to overcome this weakness, is through affirmation prayer. Instead of asking, you affirm. Instead of saying, “Please God, take away my fear and weakness,” affirm the fact that He’s already doing it. You will be strengthened. You will be tapping into a higher source of energy when you do this.
I’ve found, however, that people fall into two types of categories when it comes to affirmation. Some people get up in the morning with a positive affirmation as they say, “Good morning, God.” But the other type gets up and says, “Good God, morning.” There’s a big difference.
You might try the affirmation process. Affirm your trust in God. Affirm strength instead of weakness. And affirm energy instead of lethargy.
I remember one man who kept thinking he was getting old and running out of steam. In fact, he constantly talked about it after he retired. And as a result, he started to take on the characteristics of an old man.
Then he went to a meeting and learned he could be rejuvenated. He learned an affirmation that he began to say three times a day: “The life force, created and empowered by Almighty God, is passing into my mind and into my body.” He ceased being an “old man” and became amazingly active for another 30 years.
You may be feeling a bit down, stressed, confused or weak. If so, those are times when spiritual strengthening works very well. You might want to give it a try.
Action: Select an area of confusion in your life or in your career. Then set aside five minutes a day for two weeks to SEEK ILLUMINATION. Try the methods I outlined, and I know you’ll have greater clarity, if not conviction, in two weeks.