Learn to Shake It Off

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If I’ve learned anything in my journey of life, it is that in this life, it is certain that at some time or other the struggles, challenges, and situations that we face in every day life will seem like they are about to bury us alive. Regardless of what set backs and curves life throws our way, the most important factor is how we react to the challenge. We can choose to square our shoulders and determine in our minds that we are going to succeed or we can throw in the white flag of surrender, and accept defeat. The choice is and will ALWAYS be ours. Situations in life at times have their way of throwing dirt on us, but we can decide to shake it off and pursue our dreams and destiny. 

I’m reminded of an old story that I had heard told many times as a kid growing up. It is a story that I have heard many preachers and Bible teachers share. If you grew up in the evangelical or charismatic church arena like I did, more than likely you have also heard the story I am about to share. It is old, but never loses it’s ability to illustrate the power of attitude, and our opportunity to choose how we deal with adversity.  

According to the old tale, there was an old farmer who owned a mule. He had owned the mule for a long time, and the farmer had come to love the mule like an old friend. One day the farmer came home to find the mule missing from the barn,so he started searching everywhere for the old mule. He searched and searched, but the mule was nowhere to be found. Suddenly, while walking past an old dried up well, the farmer heard rustling and noise coming from the depths of the well. The farmer leaned over the edge of the dried up well, and to his surprise, there were two eyes looking sadly up at him,  glistening in the darkness of the well. It was his old friend the mule. He had somehow managed to fall into the old dried up well, and was now trapped.

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After pondering for quite some time as to how to get the mule out of the well, the farmer came to a sad decision. The farmer reasoned within himself that he and the mule were both old, and that he did not have the strength to pull the mule out, and the mule possibly could not handle the stress of the ordeal anyway. With that, the farmer reluctantly decided the least he could do was give his old friend a decent burial in the well. The farmer began digging the ground beside the well, and throwing the dirt on top of the mule. At first the mule was shocked and disappointed that his old friend had chosen not to try and rescue him. But then the mule came to a decision. The mule said to himself, ” You know what? I may be old, but I ain’t done living yet! I’m not gonna let this be the end of my story! As the clods of dirt continued to rain down on the old mule, he shook off the dirt and stomped it under his feet. He continued to do this time and time and time again. Every clod of dirt that came crashing down on him, he shook off and stomped under his feet. 

Suddenly, the old farmer begin to realize something. ” It may be just me…..but it looks like that old mule is getting closer!”, he told himself. Eventually, after shaking off dirt and stomping, shaking off dirt and stomping,  time and time again, the mule had elevated himself to the surface of the well and stepped out to freedom! The decision of the mule as to how he would handle the adversity of being trapped and potentially buried alive was the key. The problem ended up not being as important as how he would REACT to the problem. His reaction to the problem had saved his life.

The moral of the story is obvious. In life, we will face many hardships, challenges, struggles, and adversity. We can either let the times of adversity bury us with depression and destroy us in defeat, or we can choose to fight with all of our might, and ultimately use the challenges we face as stepping stones to achieving our goals and reaching our destiny. We may not always understand the reasons for all the trials that we face or the situations that seem so difficult in our lives. But we can rest assure that God knows what we are facing, and he has plans for all of us. God plainly said in the Bible, ” For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) Even though at times it may look like we are destined for defeat, God has plans to prosper us if we will only continue to trust him, and chose to “SHAKE OFF” the little set backs and the dirt that life sometimes throws our way. 

So what are some of the things we need to shake off you may ask? Well there are many depending on your situation, and the specific struggles you may be facing, but I will name just a few.

Shake off  Fear–  As long as we go through life afraid, we will keep ourselves in a self imposed prison. Many people go through life with the mind set of…..”What if this happens?” or “What if that happens?” If we allow ourselves to, we can sit and manufacture things to worry about. I like the old saying that says, ” Worry is like rocking in a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.”  This is so true! Worry is a complete waste of time. Worry can actually make you physically ill. You will NEVER be the success in life you were meant to be when your life is dictated by fear. When your decisions are the results of fear, more times than not your decisions will be mistakes. We can not think rationally when paralyzed by fear. 

Shake off  Negative Thoughts- This somewhat goes had in hand with shaking off fear. We have to live our lives striving to maintain a positive attitude, and keeping negative thoughts to a minimum. We end up becoming a product of our thoughts. If we are constantly thinking negatively, and convinced that we are going to fail, the odds of failure are greatly increased. Many of the great success stories of famous people that you hear about are a direct result of the person involved having a “never give up”, attitude.  I like what the great Christian speaker and author Charles Swindoll has to say about a positive attitude. He says, “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.  Attitude, to me, is more important than facts.  It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think, say or do.  It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill.  It will make or break a company… a church… a home.  The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we embrace for that day.  We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way.  We cannot change the inevitable.  The only thing we can do is play the one string we have, and that is our attitude… I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes” ( Charles Swindoll)

Shake off Bitterness- Often times past hurts and conflicts that we have had with others causes us to become bitter, and makes us put up walls to safeguard ourselves from being hurt again. Bitterness will cause us to not be willing to trust anyone, or take others at face value. And the sad fact is, that when a person harbors bitterness toward another person, the only person it really hurts is the person that is bitter. The person that is the target of the bitterness, many times doesn’t realize it, and if they do, they probably don’t care! When we allow ourselves to let bitterness towards others creep in, it hinders our personal growth and keeps us from being able to interact with others effectively. 

Shake off feelings of Inadequacy- Lastly, if we want to reach our full God- given potential, we have to shake of the notion that we aren’t good enough, not smart enough, too old, too young…….the list could go on and on. Consider this……Colonel Sanders started his fried chicken empire at the age of 65, using $105.00 from his first retirement check! Wow! How incredible is that? God has given you gifts and abilities that are yours to help you reach your full potential. Many people have personal strengths and abilities that they don’t even realize that they have because they have always felt inadequate, therefore they have placed their dreams on a shelf, telling themselves that they aren’t good enough. Never underestimate the potential that may be laying dormant inside of you. Everyone is unique and has their own set of talents and abilities in a combination that nobody else has. I heard it said once that nobody can be you as effectively as you can. How simple and true that is! You bring things to the table that no other person can. 

In Summary, don’t let life bury you in a well of stress, fear, bitterness, or anything else that would hinder you from achieving your dream. Be like the old mule in the story, and every time that life throws you an unexpected curve or crisis, keep your chin up, remain positive, and allow the situation to build your character. The lessons that we learn, and the personal growth that we experience as a result of the hard times in our lives, can ultimately become the stepping stones to “escape the well”, and live the productive lives we were meant to live.  Napoleon Hill once said, ” Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.”   I love that! You can do ANYTHING you set your mind to do. The only limits we have are the limits we place upon ourselves! So go out there and pursue your dream! You’re more awesome than you think. God doesn’t make junk!

Thanks for Reading!

Until Next time,

Mark

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