The 2011 movie, Larry Crowne, is a story about a middle-aged Navy veteran (Tom Hanks) who is fired from his job at a large retail discount store. Despite his seniority and excellent work, Larry is fired because he doesn’t have a college education. Larry’s personal life is sad, too. Divorced, he lives alone, and is on the verge of losing his house. With his back to the wall, Larry enrolls in Speech and Economics courses at a local community college. One statement from each class resonates with him. His Speech professor (Julia Roberts) said that learning to communicate effectively will “change your life” and his Economics professor (George Takei) claimed that learning his principles will “change the world.” Larry took those statements to heart, applied the knowledge he gained, and ultimately moved forward with his life.
I was inspired by a story about someone who resolutely dealt with his setbacks by exploiting his thirst for growth and learning. Too often, we allow ourselves to be defined by our setbacks rather than viewing them as launching pads for personal and professional development. Larry Crowne exemplified diligence and pride in whatever he attempted, and made the most of what was before him at the moment. Is that how you have responded to obstacles and hindrances? The apostle Paul spoke about a much more serious kind of suffering, but it encourages me that my trials can produce endurance, character and hope “because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5) No matter what happens, you are loved by God!
Here are three more truths to embrace when you face personal or professional setbacks:
1. God remains in control even when you feel like your life is out of control. Read about His greatness and care in Isaiah 40. When you find yourself upside down in your career or relationships, your world may suddenly feel small and pressed in from all sides. That emotional weight threatens to move you toward a hopeless, helpless state. Don’t make this your permanent address! Press into another truth Paul lived out: “. . . we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves ; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed . . .” (2 Corinthians 4:7-8)
2. God’s purposes are not frustrated by our circumstances and include our setbacks. God is always redeeming the pressures and disappointments of this world in order to shape our character and our future. There is a long history of God using the struggles of His people to ultimately accomplish great things through their lives. Moses, Ruth, Peter, Mary Magdalene, Abraham Lincoln, Helen Keller . . . our stories are being written and re-written every day. What looks like Plan B to us, is really God’s Plan A. (Read John 10:1-10)
3. We have a choice about the way we handle our adversity. Someone once told me, “Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional.” When we feel so sorry for ourselves that we adopt a victim identity, we can be sure that our outlook will certainly affect our outcome. There is another choice found in James 1:2-5: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” Regardless of your setbacks, opportunity awaits. Side with Larry Crowne, believing that what you are learning will change your life, even change the world!
Serving Him with you in the marketplace,
The older I get the more comfortable I become with the former knowledge and wisdom You have given me. May it never be true! Lord, give me a thirst for more truth and a hunger to grow in maturity even in old age. Don’t let me settle. Keep stretching me for Your purposes and Your glory. I need help accepting that adversity is a season—but it IS to be expected. Please send me the grace and faith to embrace my setbacks as open doors that You are sending me through.
“Competition got me off the farm and trained me to seek out challenges and to endure setbacks; and in combination with my faith, it sustains me now in my fight with Alzheimer’s disease. “
Pat Summit, Recently retired University of Tennessee Women’s Basketball Coach