All my life I have heard it said, “Life sucks”. Usually it is followed by another phrase, which I call the “second-half philosophy”.  You see, it doesn’t matter what the first half of a statement is, it’s the second half that reveals how you see and experience life.  What’s your second-half philosophy?

Often, the second half of “life sucks” is, “and then you die.”  Sometimes, if a person is a real optimist, they will follow “life sucks” with, “so deal with it”.  That’s so sad!

Life doesn’t suck, life is great.  Sure, life is tough, and we could spend all day waxing philosophical about why a loving God would give us so many challenges.  You can do that if you like, but the answer is really very simple.

acing the game

Life is tough because you want it that way.  No, really, you wouldn’t want it any other way.  Let’s compare life to gaming for a moment.  You are out to eat with some new friends, right? And you happen to mention that you are a gamer.  Your new friend across the table says, “Really?  I’m a gamer, too!” Thinking this is a match made in heaven, you ask your new friend what game he plays.  He answers, excitedly, “tic tac toe”. “What?”  You ask, thinking you could not have heard correctly, “tic tac toe” he answers in all seriousness.  You respond, “as in x’s and o’s?”  “Exactly,” he replies. 

Such a conversation would never happen, because part of the thrill of playing a game is the challenge, right?  Without a huge challenge, you cannot have an epic win, and without that epic win, there’s no satisfaction in playing the game.

Tic tac toe is fine for a four year old, but after that, it’s not challenging enough to keep someone’s interest.  Why do people play games, participate in sports, take on hobbies?  Its not just about passing the time, in fact, passing the time is actually what its not about.  No one wants to pass the time doing something boring.  Even reading a newspaper offers an intellectual challenge – most adults would not enjoy spending hours on end reading children’s books.

We love challenge, we crave challenge. You might even say that we were created to be challenged. Life is tough because that’s what we want, that’s what we need to grow, to get to the next level.

When you are playing a video game and 5 monsters attack you at once, most people don’t quit, they rise to the challenge and try to win, even if it seems the odds are impossibly stacked against them.  Why?  Because to win with those odds is immensely satisfying.  This is true even though they know that the win is only going to bring on a new and bigger challenge when they “level up.”

So why don’t we usually see life the same way we see games?  Maybe, if some bell rang and a giant sign fell from heaven announcing “level 20” every time we had a win, we would see things a little differently.  If, after surviving a devastating financial setback with our marriage intact, we received a certificate of accomplishment, a “level up” notification as it were, perhaps we would be able to face the next challenge with excitement rather than dread.  Instead of saying , “oh no, not again,” we would be able to shout, “bring it on!”

Seeing life’s challenges as a part of life and growth and something that is good for us is often not so easy to do.  Being in the midst of a life-threatening illness just isn’t the same as playing a game on the computer and sometimes the risk of failure seems so high and so certain, we feel like throwing our hands up in the air and saying, “forget it.”  But even the outcome of the most severe challenges are not a foregone conclusion, I know so many people who have survived death sentences – cancer, tumors, spinal injuries, shocking experts and believers alike.

Learning to see things from this perspective is a skill, it’s something we must work on, it’s part of what I call, “living with courage”.  Living with courage is about opening our eyes and learning to see the world through a different kind of glasses.  It involves the exercise of taking every moment, every event and asking ourselves, “what could this mean?” and “what ELSE could this mean?”  And the first step is by deliberately changing our second-half philosophy.  Life’s tough – whatchya gonna do about it?