What Do You Do When Life Sucks? (The Power of the “But”)

What do you do when life sucks? What do you do when it seems everyone and everything is against you? What do you do when your marriage isn’t what you want it to be or you are struggling with your kids? What do you do when your pile of bills is way bigger than you can pay? What do you do when your health is bad and it seems you’re running out of hope? What do you do when you feel totally discouraged, hurt, and afraid?

Have you been here lately? Are you here now? I want to encourage you–and me–today with some lessons from a very old story.

A man named David was talking to God about his dire situation, and he opened up about how he was feeling about it. He said he was exhausted from crying for help (Psalm 69:3). At that point, David’s life sucked. And he wasn’t afraid to tell God how he felt about that.

After talking on and on about all of his horrible circumstances and how he felt so hopeless in the midst of them (how often do we do that?), David finally said an important word: “But.”

This is one of the biggest buts in the Bible.

“But,” he said, “I keep right on praying to you, Lord, hoping this time you will show me favor.”

When life sucks … keep right on praying … and hoping.

But what if you’ve prayed about something, and yet God does not seem to be answering? Very common question, and I don’t have all the answers, because this is just one of those “only God knows” kind of things. But let me try to explain what I do know about this.

I believe in a God who is the creator (regardless of how he created), the Alpha, the eternal designer, the archetypal architect and author of all. As such, I believe he has a design for how life is best lived. It’s not so much about rules and regulations, can and can’t do’s, but about living this life we’ve been given to the full.

So, when I choose to live according to God’s plans and am going the way he wants me to go, the Bible says his hand is ready to help me (Psalm 119:173). That’s an awesome promise! But it is conditional. The verse continues, “for I have chosen your precepts.” God’s promises are conditional not because God puts fine-print terms on his love, as we humans tend to do, but because he sees the big picture. He knows when his help will truly help us (when we’re doing things his way) and when it will ultimately harm us (when we’re doing things contrary to his design).

Why would a loving father give us something that he knows would ultimately hurt us? Our Father God’s ultimate desire for us is to live in a trusting relationship with him–to choose his way of living life. That’s why he “works for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). He sees the big picture. He knows what is ultimately best for us. And he wants that. He loves each of us so much that he’s willing to sacrifice to make it happen.

God is working, regardless of what you have done or are doing. He is at work, regardless of how you feel or the circumstances you are in. He cares for you and has a plan for your life no matter how long you’ve been asking and waiting.Trust him, regardless of how things seem or how you feel. Take a walk outside and delight in God’s creation. Hold a baby and delight in God’s miracles. Care for a friend and delight in the opportunity to serve.

Sometimes life sucks. That’s not God’s fault, although he often takes the blame. Often life sucks because of the choices we or others around us (even others now generations removed) have made.

I’ve had type 1 diabetes for 42+ years. Yes, that sucks. I’m not sure why I have it. It may be genetic, although I’m the only one in my family who has it. I look at it as a life circumstance. It’s the hand I’ve been dealt.

My response is to keep on praying. For a cure? Sure. But (there’s that all-important “but” again) mostly I ask for the ability and strength and fortitude to make the right choices each day. I know that having diabetes sucks for lots of people, so I pray for them. I volunteer with the American Diabetes Association in Louisville to keep working toward a cure. I ride my bike as a Red Rider. And none of that stuff sucks. It’s actually pretty sweet!

It’s the power of the “But.”

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More Posts on Dealing with Trials

Thankful for Temporary

Diagnose How Well You Are Handling Your Diabetes

How to Look Past the Obstacles

I Am Thankful for Temporary

triumphant disabled manTemporary is a sweet sweet word.

I have had type 1 diabetes for 42+ years, and I am very thankful that it is temporary.

Yes, perhaps someday I’ll be the recipient of a working pancreas transplant or a robotic pancreas or some other “cure.” Or maybe I won’t. Either way, my diabetes is temporary. Someday, it will be gone, and I’ll have a body that can metabolize blood glucose.

No more finger pricks and shots and pumps and counting carbohydrates. No more need for Hemoglobin A1Cs or endocrinologist visits.

I’m ready to celebrate! 

But diabetes is not the only thing that is temporary, of course.

To my friends Stan and Chuck, MS is temporary.

To my sister Kathy, Rheumatoid arthritis is temporary.

To my friend Terra, loss and grief are temporary.

Loneliness is temporary. Depression is temporary. Chronic pain is temporary.

Cancer: temporary. Abuse: temporary. Dementia: temporary.

One of the reasons I enjoy reading the Bible is that I believe it displays the bigger picture of life for us. It provides perspective. From beginning to end, it’s easy to see that all the bad circumstances of life are just temporary. The Bible describes life as a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

See, when Jesus told people not to worry about their lives but to seek the kingdom of God, he was telling them, and us, that stuff is only temporary.

When Jesus healed people of their diseases, he was telling them that their sicknesses were only temporary. All these people eventually died of something, and yet all of it was temporary.

When Jesus’ close friend Lazarus was deathly ill, Jesus didn’t immediately run to his rescue. Why? Because Jesus knew it was all temporary.

Jesus told the thief on the cross next to him, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” In other words, this is just temporary.

My circumstances and yours are temporary, no matter how difficult they are or impossible they seem. Even if healing or reconciliation or freedom or stability never come in this lifetime, it is still all temporary.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

I’m ready to really celebrate! 

What does temporary mean to you?


The Incident: A Not-So-Model Diabetes Patient (or “Grandma Got Run Over by a Wheelchair”)

marioandretticarIt all started innocently enough. The hospital nurses gave me a model car to put together, probably to keep me in my bed rather than romping through the hospital hallways with the other kids on the children’s floor. This was back in 1971, and hospitals were not yet in the practice of moving patients out as soon as possible.

I had just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and admitted to Good Sam hospital (see my earlier post on my hospital adventure). I had made new friends with kids who had cancer and heart conditions, as well as those who had had numerous surgeries to correct birth defects, just to name a few of their conditions. One of my roommates, a young kid who had a serious heart condition, was taken to surgery one evening, and he never returned. One of my other roommates woke me and the kid next to me up with screams in the middle of the night and then cried inconsolably the rest of the night. He said he knew our friend had died. I thought he was crazy until the following day when a nurse told us that indeed he didn’t make it through the surgery. No one was there to console us or provide us with counseling.

Maybe that’s why my fellow children’s-floor friends and I were so out of control. I’m sure we simply didn’t know how to handle all we saw and were experiencing.

It all culminated when I ran over a little old lady in the hallway. One of the big kids (and by big, I mean he was maybe 13) was pushing me in a wheelchair through the halls. I was Mario Andretti, speeding around the Good Samaritan 500 Racetrack. The other race teams had already given up. We were the undisputed 4th-Floor Wheelchair Race Champions. What I didn’t realize was that at some point the kid pushing me had given me a big shove and then let go. An older woman stepped out of a room directly in my path, and I suddenly found I had a very unwilling passenger.

She could have just enjoyed the ride, but instead she had to make a big deal out of the incident. (Incident was the word the nurses and hospital administrators kept using.)

So suddenly I had a model Lotus racecar to put together, which was kind of fun for a short while. But the tires had a piece of rubber that needed to be cut away in order to attach them to the rims. I asked a nurse for scissors, and she complied, probably to keep me busy and out of trouble. As I poked out the stubborn rubber section of a tire, however, I plunged the scissors between my index and middle fingers (I still have the 42-year-old scar). Seven stitches and I was good to go, sans the scissors.

Several days later I was in isolation, away from all my fun friends, with a serious case of Staphylococcus. It was the worst. No more races, no more friends to play with; they didn’t even let me finish building my model car. Finally, the doctor let me go home, where I carefully finished assembling the Lotus.

Several weeks later, my doctor removed six stitches from between my fingers. One of the stitches somehow fell down into my hand. He wanted to send me back to the hospital to let them find and remove that lost stitch, but the hospital said no, ostensibly because he could take care of that in his office.

That was fine with me. The kids back in my neighborhood and I had sled races to run and a new model car to pommel with a BB gun.

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Living Healthy with Diabetes and Proving the Doctors Wrong

How NOT to Teach an 11-Year-Old Boy to Give Himself a Shot

Camp Hamwi and THE Shot

The Year I Was Banned from the Olympic Games

The Diabetic Dad and the Delayed Delivery

Jordan baby picMy wife and I were in the delivery room about to give birth to our first child. Now, before I get too far into this story, I need to explain that my wife, Heidi, is from New Jersey. If that fact means nothing to you, go to Netflix and watch a couple episodes of “Jersey Shore.” Or don’t and be thankful.

Anyway, Heidi was something like 27 centimeters dilated–I’m not really sure; I’m a guy–and the nurses were calling for the doctor. Unfortunately it was dinner time, and because I live with type-1 diabetes, I needed to eat. So I hurried down to the cafeteria to get some food. Fortunately, Heidi did a good job of clenching for 15 minutes till I returned.

By now my blood glucose had dropped really low, so I sat in a hospital lounge chair and began to eat. I wanted to be sure I had the energy I needed to remind Heidi how to breathe properly and anything else she ordered me to do.

Heidi, with all the compassion a Jersey girl after 32 hours of labor can possibly have, told the nurses that if I passed out from my insulin reaction to just shove me in a corner out of the way and take care of her. The nurses laughed but Heidi was very serious.

Just then the doctor walked into the room, just as I began eating my strawberry cheesecake. He quickly assessed the situation and said, “It’s time to have this baby!” He looked over at me eating dinner and inquired to no one in particular what was going on. When a nurse informed him that I had diabetes and needed to eat, he tapped his fingers on the side of the bed and said, “OK, so we’ll wait for dad to finish eating.”

Heidi did not agree with his prognosis. But you have to understand: she wasn’t thinking clearly at the time. I’ve never seen her so mad or heard her scream so loudly.

So I left the last few bites of cheesecake on the tray. Twenty minutes later we welcomed Jordan Michael Mack into the world. I got to cut the umbilical cord, which I did with a steady hand thanks to that cafeteria run.

The whole thing was incredible. Mom and baby were healthy and did well, and dad was able to finish those last two bites of cheesecake.

*     *     *     *     *     *


How NOT to Teach an 11-Year-Old Boy to Give Himself a Shot

Camp Hamwi and THE Shot

The Year I Was Banned from the Olympic Games

Diabetics in Love


dPOLL: Where do you struggle with your diabetes care?

In my last several posts, I’ve discussed looking at your diabetes care as more than just a physical issue, but to consider it holistically. In my last post, I provided a simple five finger diagnotstic tool you can use to evaluarte how you are handling your diabetes care. Today I’d like to see which of these five aspects of our health we tend to struggle wioth most.

Please choose the issue you struggle with the most and then be sure to click the VOTE button. Thanks for your involvement!

Diagnose How Well You Are Handling Your Diabetes

Mike_Hand.jpgDo you feel like you’re losing your grip on your diabetes care or some other life circumstance?

In my last post, I discussed the idea that we can best deal with difficult life circumstances holistically. Today I want to make this as practical as I can. So the task at hand for you today is to use your fingers as a diagnostic and prognostic tool. Use this handy five-finger exercise regularly. For each one give yourself a score from 1 to 5, 1 being “totally missing,” that is, you are ignoring this aspect of your health, and 5 being “hitting on all cylinders,” that is you are doing great (not perfect) at this aspect.

  1. (Index Finger) How is my physical health? (Be sure you point at yourself, not others, throughout this assessment.) This of course is the most fundamental thing (everything else takes place in relation to your physical self). Am I testing? Am I eating right? Am I exercising? Don’t forget that the other components seriously affect this one.
  2. (Middle Finger)  How are my emotions? Am I feeling mad? Sad? Afraid? Joyful? Trusting? Sometimes this finger can get us into the biggest trouble. When life doesn’t go as we would like it to, we feel like giving this finger to everyone around us, and to ourselves, and even to God. But remember, your emotions are not in control! Emotions are pulled along the tracks by the engine of your mind. (That’s important.)
  3. (Ring Finger)  How am I doing mentally?  Perhaps I need to change the way I think, which has an effect not only on my emotions but everything else. As you evaluate your overall health, use this finger to consider your commitment to your health in each of the other areas. Put a ring on it.
  4. (Little Finger) Do I have healthy relationships—good friends and close family who support and encourage me and provide me some accountability? Don’t discount the little finger because it’s “little.” I’ve injured my little finger several times and I found it difficult to do much at all with my hands. It’s the same with your relationships. Positive, healthy relationships help you deal better with things emotionally, mentally, physically, and yes, even spiritually. Do you have a little group who will do that with you?
  5. (The Thumb) How is my spiritual life? Regardless of what your spiritual life consists of, this component has a substantial, perhaps even supreme, impact on everything else. I believe what the New Testament says about this one: that if I put this one first, all the other things line up as well (see Matthew 6:33). As I mentioned in my previous post, you can hold on for a short while with your four other fingers–that is, with your own power–but without the thumb, a higher power, you will eventually lose your grip.

I’m writing this blog because I hope to help people with all five of these vital components of life. Please follow my blog (either at the top or bottom of your screen) to keep up with my posts. I’ll touch on each of these “fingers” in other posts.

Hold on tight!

Diabetes: Enemy or Pure Joy?

It’s human nature. It’s intuitive. As human beings we look at the trials in our lives as the enemy. Trials like diabetes or cancer or marriage problems or, well, you name it; they are all uninvited antagonists that only want to make our lives miserable, and worse, to destroy our lives

In a previous post, “Successful Diabetics Own Their Diabetes,” I noted that some people with diabetes seem to view their condition as a kind of “Dr. Evil” (from the Austin Powers movie series)–a villain who is constantly scheming to terrorize their bodies.

Of course we look at trials this way. Like I said, it’s human nature. But that doesn’t mean our human nature is what’s best for us. Sometimes we have to fight against our human nature and look deeper within us to something that’s better, that’s healthier.

Part of my premise, my basic assumption about life, my guiding principle, is that life circumstances—the stuff of life like living with diabetes—is best dealt with holistically. That is, health is not just something that’s physical; it’s also mental, emotional, social, and spiritual.

Sometimes in order for us to deal better with something like diabetes, we must change the way we think about it, or feel about it. And perhaps to do that better, we need the relational support, encouragement, and accountability of friends and family. Or we need to put it all in the hands of a higher power; we need to trust God.

For me, the physical, mental, emotional, and social parts are like fingers. I need each one to hold on. But the spiritual component is the thumb; without God, I’m eventually going to lose my grip.

I enjoy reading the Bible. It provides guidance for me in how I think and feel and live life to the full. It provides quite a few … well, let’s just say counterintuitive ideas. Here’s one:

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 (James 1:2–4).

Wait a minute. Consider dealing with my diabetes as “pure joy”? Are you kidding me? But look at why we should consider it a joy.  It develops really good things in us, including perseverance and maturity. See, having a positive, even joyful, attitude toward my diabetes is not just some pie-in-the-sky thing. I’m being totally realistic in the way I look at my diabetes.

Yeah, sometimes the highs and lows aren’t fun at all. They feel awful. They can bring lasting damage. But each one is also a learning experience. What did I do or not do that caused this high or low? What can I do better to avoid it?

Yes, these trials test me. They test my resolve. They test my strength. They even test my faith. And each one tests how I will respond. When I respond with a negative mindset, with unconstructive emotions (yes, I am in control of my own emotions), with unhealthy habits, without the support of others, and especially without the power of God (the one who created my body, brain, and emotions), it sends me into a destructive downward spiral. But when I chose to respond by considering my difficult trials with pure (not fake) joy, I can persevere through them.

That’s right: Considering it pure joy does not mean faking it. It simply means I decide with the free will I have how I will respond.

Read my next post on this topic. It’s very practical about how to live this out in your life. I’ll show you how to use all five “fingers” as a handy diagnostic and prognostic tool.

In the meantime, keep your grip!