Over the last year or so, I have gotten into a routine of listening to audio books on my way to and from work. The books that I have listened to lately have been specifically chosen to help inspire me and teach me new things. I love to listen to gospel authors, but I also like to listen to true stories about how other people have overcome adversity. Listening to this type of book has made me wonder how it is even possible for some people to overcome trials that seem unimaginable. What is it that allowed them to survive and inspire others? I believe it is their high level of resiliency that helps them to overcome such adversity.
As I have listened to various books, I have marveled at how people can be in the middle of a horrendous situation and not only survive, but remain strong. Stories like these fascinate me! They show me that it is possible to overcome the unimaginable. In a way, they give me a blueprint for my life. I know there are hard times ahead for me. After reading stories that are so bleak that they can’t possibly be made up, I have learned some lessons from their lives that will help me not only survive, but come out on top. Through listening to two books: The Hiding Place, and Unbroken, I have learned three important principles in helping to overcome adversity.
One book that I have listened to is The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. It is the true story about Corrie and her family who take in Jewish refugees during World War II. Eventually they get caught and are taken to concentration camps. Corrie tells about how her sister was always so optimistic and grateful. She reminded Corrie of the scripture that says that we should be grateful in all circumstances. At the time, Corrie, her sister, and all the others in the concentration camp were in a shelter that was infested with rats. Corrie had a hard time being grateful for the rats at the time, but then she realized that the guards who were supposed to check on her group every night didn’t want to go in because of the rats. This allowed them to teach the other prisoners and hold Bible study every night. This became something that everyone looked forward to.
- This reminded me that sometimes what may seem to be a trial may actually be a blessing in disguise. The difference is in how you approach the situation.
- I’ve heard it said many times that you will always find what you are looking for.
- If you are looking for the bad, you will find it. You will convince yourself that you are the victim and that life is not fair.
- However, if you choose to look for the good, you can find that as well. Corrie and her sister, Betsy, were very good at finding the good and exercising gratitude in even the most difficult circumstances. That is very inspiring to me.
Another book that I have listened to is Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. It is the true story about Louis Zamperini, also set during World War II. The biggest lesson I learned from this book is to always have hope. Louis was an Olympic runner before the war and had the opportunity to become the first person to run the mile in under four minutes. Then the war began and Louis found himself flying airplanes. While flying over the Pacific Ocean on a rescue mission, his crew’s airplane malfunctioned and crashed into the water. He tells of his 40+ days in a raft while waiting to be found.
Louis was eventually captured by a Japanese crew and taken to a POW camp where he was tortured for more than two years. One of the Japanese officials took a special interest in torturing Louis because he recognized him as an Olympian. Louis survived multiple brutal attacks at the hand of this man nicknamed “The Bird”. In addition to being physically beaten and mentally tortured, Louis and the other prisoners were malnourished. He describes how he went from a normal weight down to less than 80 pounds.
The book inspired a movie of the same name. The movie stops at the time that the war ends, but the book continues to talk about life for Louis after the war. To make a long story short, life for him after the war was even harder than during the war. He lived a life of ruin and hit rock bottom. Eventually he turned his life around and became a motivational speaker and counselor for troubled young men. What helped him turn things around? He remembered a promise that he had made to God that, if He would save him from the raft, that Louis would serve Him the rest of his life. He finally decided to be true to his word.
One of my favorite quotes from Louis is this:
“Yet a part of you still believes you can fight and survive no matter what your mind knows. It’s not so strange. Where there’s still life, there’s still hope. What happens is up to God.”
― Louis Zamperini, Devil at My Heels
To me, this quote sums up the resiliency of the human spirit. Everyone of us deals with something hard. We will all deal with many difficult situations in life. Sometimes those times are so hard that we feel like we might break. The fact that you are reading this means that you haven’t broken yet. Why haven’t you broken? I believe it is because there is still hope. Even if there is just a glimmer of hope, it is still there. That hope keeps us going even when we feel like giving up. Sometimes that hope carries us through just long enough to survive, take a breath, and keep going to the end of the trial.
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” – Corrie Ten Boom
When life got hard for Corrie, she had faith that things would work out. She describes how she felt like Betsy had more faith than her. Betsy was always reminding her to think positively and to be grateful in all things. That is easier said than done. Sometimes it is just too hard to be grateful and faithful. Corrie taught me that it is okay to lean on the faith of others sometimes. We can strengthen our faith as we look to the strong examples of others who have succeeded.
When Louis says there is a hope, I like to think of that as faith. We inherently have a certain level of faith that things will work out. They may not work out exactly as we would like them or with the timing that we would like, but we can trust that all things will work together for our good. As long as we hold on to that thought, we can face whatever trials come our way and come out of it better than we were before.
I know that life is hard. Keeping a proper perspective when things get ugly is not easy by any means. I have felt many times like it was a victory for me to just survive the day. In those times it is hard to maintain a proper perspective. I believe though that, if all you can do is hold on and wait, there will come a moment when things change, even if just slightly. It helps to pray for those moments. When they come, they are beautiful. I have seen so many times in my life when I felt like I was about to break and then my Father blesses me with exactly what I need in just the right way. He knows how to bless us perfectly no matter what our situation.
I believe that our Heavenly Father gives us trials to test us and to teach us, but we must be willing to be taught. My first mission president in Seattle told me once that He doesn’t test us to learn how we will respond. He already knows all things. Rather, He tests us to show us our potential and to prove to ourselves what we are made of. Over time, as we overcome more and more trials, have faith in Him, and give Him the opportunity to bless us, we will develop a level of resiliency that cannot come any other way.