Dear Lauren,

It seems like life is so hard, and then you die. I just feel like I get thrown difficulty after difficulty after difficulty, and I’m so overwhelmed and anxious and stressed out by it! Argggghhhh! Help!

Lauren Roth

Lauren Roth's Answer

This morning I wanted to put on calming music. At a fine arts show, we had found a booth with a very chilled-out old wizened guy with long white hair and a leather, fringed vest who carves his own wood flutes, composes calming music, plays the music, and sells CDs of his pieces. So I gently put in the CD of “Comfort in the Night” by Werner John and Alana Woods and pressed “play.” No sound. I pressed “play” again. Still no sound. So I smacked the CD player a couple of times, pressed “play,” and the soothing sounds emerged! My kids thought that was hilarious. Hit the CD player to get your peaceful tones?!

Life can be like that. God sometimes jostles us to get us to a peaceful place. He throws us into challenges, big and small, so we can come out stronger and better.

My client agreed that I could share her story with all of you. She was smacked by her tough military father growing up, married a motorcycle man (he was even part of a cool Jewish motorcycle group), had a tumultuous relationship with him, then he died while riding his motorcycle, leaving her with a child and lots of debt. Now her house is in the midst of possible foreclosure, her father just passed away, her partner is verbally abusive, and her child is exhibiting cutting behaviors. On top of all that, her beloved dog is old and sick. So she sat there in my office thoroughly overwhelmed and asked me: “WHY?”

I can’t know God’s mind, but I told her what I thought maybe could be one of His reasons for throwing all this difficulty at her. To break her open. To force her to find the soft, gentle, positive side of her, and shine that out to the world in the face of all the darkness and pain. I don’t know why God sent the difficulties, but I can see clearly how strong it makes her when she counters fog and misery with light and brightness and right-doing.

I heard a heroin addict interviewed the other day. She said she understands that if she starts shooting heroin again, she will die. That’s how bad her addiction is. What keeps her from giving in to that screaming urge to use? “Reaching out my hand to others,” she said. She has pain and cravings and a horrific disease. And what keeps her on the right track, clean and sober and sane, is: giving to others. Her pain is so great that her need to give is commensurate. It’s the pain that pushes her to give, more than she would have without it.

I don’t know why God’s world works that way; I just know that it does. Pain causes us to grow and to be better.

But we have to do our part. We have to be tenacious and not give up. All the time, my clients kind of droop, throw out their arms, and declare: “I can’t!” And I always, always tell them, “You don’t WANT to. But you CAN.” Tenacity. Perseverance. Stay strong. You can do this life thing.

Should I tell you a story about perseverance? It’s got a lovely soundtrack to go with it: Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. It’s a divine piece of classical music in which each group of instruments and also each instrument is introduced, one by one, so that young people can hear the different parts of the orchestra. I was showing it to my kids, and we realized: to be able to play music beautifully, skillfully, perfectly, you have to persevere. You have to practice and practice and not give up. You have to give it your heart and your soul and your life. And then you create glorious sound.

Don’t despair. Life’s tough sometimes, yes. And then we die, yes. But there is much beauty to be made along the way, by playing the tough pieces with perseverance, tenacity, and by exuding a positive energy throughout.