Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "Faith is the opening of all sides and every level of one's life to the divine inflow."
When we have an illness, we are frequently challenged by the reality of our daily lives -- the fact that things will never be the way we want them to be.
It takes faith to help us realize that our opinions, desires, and beliefs about the way things ought to be are not necessarily what will work out for the best in the bigger picture. One of the great lessons we must learn is that what we perceive as disorder may be only a small portion of a bigger order we simply do not have the capacity to see.
Faith is trusting in this higher order -- putting aside our personal agendas, our shoulds, musts, opinions, and beliefs -- and moving into the flow of what is actually happening right now. When we have that kind of faith, it won't take away fear. But faith gives us the power to take risks and have experiences in defiance of those fears.
Many years ago, I accepted an amazing opportunity to travel to Israel and to Egypt, where I took the long trip down the Nile for three weeks with my husband, Michael. I was in my manual wheelchair. Given my physical limitations, I had never even considered this adventure as a possibility. Naturally, in the planning stages, I felt incredibly anxious about this trip. I had no idea what problems we might encounter, especially given the scarcity of wheelchair accessibility and of handicap-friendly bathrooms in the Middle East. I had so many reservations! My loud, internal dialogue sounded something like, "What will they think of me?" "What if I fail?" "What if this is all a mistake?"
To embark on this journey, I needed to deal head-on with those fears and concerns. I reminded myself of what Franklin D. Roosevelt had said, famously, in his first inaugural address in 1933, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!" So I asked myself, "Where is this fear coming from?" And the answer that came to me was: "I am creating it."
Would I allow that fear to become a reason not to participate or perform in this world?
I couldn't "overcome" my fears. They were real emotions. What I could do, I realized, was trust in a higher order. I could have faith. Going on this trip meant that I had to put my life in spirit's hands.
The experience I had on that trip was not perfect. There were challenges. But I can honestly say that about 95 percent of the things I'd been afraid of never happened. My world never fell apart.
The real feeling of imagined fear never disappeared. But I recognized that the fear was my creation. And I let it go -- making room for the surprising experience of each tomorrow that took me into my future
It may not always look this easy, but with faith, I assure you, everything that is happening, is happening just the way it must in order for all of us to have the opportunity to create the experiences we desire in order to grow, to heal, to learn, to love. Take a few moments to answer these questions:
- What are the fears that are holding you back?
- How would tomorrow be different if you acted on faith instead of fear?
- What do you want in your own life -- to be forced to say, "I wish I had!" or to be able to say, "I'm glad I did!"?
The idea behind this exercise is to give you a chance to look at what is possible if you have faith. With faith, we let go of our own limited beliefs and judgments and put our lives in spirit's hands.
During my journey through Egypt and Israel, it occurred to me that the role of faith in our lives is very clearly described in the Bible. Jesus said that if we have faith that is even as small as a mustard seed, we can move mountains. That's so important. You don't have to have an all-encompassing faith. Start small. Even if faith begins as a tiny seed, that is enough to begin with. In time, and with experience, that single seed of faith is sure to grow.
At one point in our trip, some men from the ship volunteered to carry me over the dunes in the desert. It was an experience beyond anything I could possibly have imagined before the trip began -- and a memory I will hold onto for the rest of my life. None of it would have been possible had I not embraced my single seed of faith.
That was when I truly discovered the power of choice and transformation that every illness or adversity offers us. When we choose to be peaceful inside, regardless of what is happening outside, we become creators of our own lives rather than victims of our fears.
I would love to hear from you! Please leave a comment here or drop me an email if you want spiritual and wellness counseling at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life around illness or any adversity by applying a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download my book, You Are Not Your Illness: Seven Principles for Meeting the Challenge. You'll be glad you did!
Linda Noble Topf is an advocate for disability rights, a professional speaker, and author dedicated to assisting others in seeing that illness, injury, or any kind of adversity in any stage of life, can be viewed as a spiritual awakening and an opportunity for personal growth. You can learn more about her work by visiting her website: www.lindanobletopf.com.
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