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181: Becoming Better or Bitter? Allowing Life’s Difficulties to Grow You Closer to Christ with Connie Albers

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How do we walk through the trials we face and come out stronger than before? We have two choices when we face life’s difficulties: We can become either better or bitter. Today our guest Connie Albers shares how she has used her difficulties as spiritual growth opportunities. We talk about how we can manage our minds as we manage the trials we face and use them to grow closer to Christ.

There is immense power in capturing our thoughts and rewriting the script playing in our minds, and this is especially important during hard times. If you’ve been through a tough season, this episode will help you shift your perspective and find strength in hard times.

How can we use the difficulties we face to become better, instead of bitter? Connie Albers shares how she used the trials she faced to grow closer to God.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:

  • [4:00] Connie’s Story of Managing Trials That Left Her Facing Bitterness
  • [9:19] We Can’t Flip the Switch and Make the Pain Stop When Managing Trials
  • [11:13]  The Importance of Managing Our Thoughts During Life’s Trials
  • [14:18]  Does God Give Us More Than We Can Handle as We’re Managing Trials?
  • [17:43] How God Uses Our Trials As Spiritual Growth Opportunities 
  • [21:24] The Choice Is Yours, and You Can Come Out Of The Trials Bitter or Better
  • [29:27] Managing Trials Through the Mindset That God is Good and Loving
  • [36:43] Advice for Moving from Bitterness to Becoming Better Through Trials
  • [44:46] Checking In With Ourselves: Are We Becoming Better or Bitter Through Hard Times?
  • [51:22] Is Bitterness Rooted in Deeper Thought Patterns?

 [4:00] Connie’s Story of Managing Trials That Left Her Facing Bitterness

Connie shares the challenging times she and her family faced when God stretched her spiritually by going through times of grief, trials, and hard times. The life events made her question what God was doing because, in those trying seasons, you can't force things, you can't fast forward through them, you have to stand firm and face them head on. 

She had been caregiving for her mother for about seven years, still trying to work, writing a book, and her book was released just two months after her mom had passed. She shares that losing her mother felt like a hole blew through her chest. 

Connie had experienced the loss of loved ones and friends. But the loss of her mother was unlike anything else she had experienced. She shares that her mom was her greatest cheerleader, the one with whom she could rant and rave and have a bad day and know it was all going to be okay. Despite the hole she felt in her heart, Connie shares that had to keep pressing on and continuing with life. 

She had to put on a smile and keep going even though she was mourning and grieving. She went on a book tour to promote her new book, and while this was exciting, the combination of the book launch and her mother’s death left her feeling the highest of highs and lowest of lows. In addition, Connie was trying to help her stepfather through his grief, all while trying to keep her business going and holding her family of five together.

Then the COVID shutdown came, bringing loss of income for her and many of her family members. Next Connie learned that stepfather had passed away. Despite the trials, Connie was trying her best to continue and to be strong.

[9:19] We Can’t Flip the Switch and Make the Pain Stop When Managing Trials

Connie shares how when we walk through trials it’s not like we can flip a light switch and heal. She admits that she thought something was wrong with her because she expected to snap out of the pain and move forward. She notes that when we start comparing ourselves to others in these moments it compounds the frustration, the hurt, the pain, and the expectations we have placed on ourselves. 

Connie shared how God will sometimes take us through trials so that we can have the

empathy and compassion that we would not have to be able to have otherwise. Although we often want to deal with the pain and get on with life, but sometimes God has us sit in a place for a very long time to learn and stretch ourselves so that we can grow closer to Him and grow in empathy for others. 

Connie said these life trials made her realize that people can't enter that space of pain and grief with you, that it's often a sacred space. She shares that there were only a few people that she allowed into that very vulnerable, tender place.

[11:13]  The Importance of Managing Our Thoughts During Life’s Trials

She says the most powerful lesson she has learned is that it's critical that we take every thought captive. She encourages us to do two things every single day to capture our thoughts. She says that first thing in the morning, we must come to terms with the fact that emotion may overtake us today since we are in a season of battle. So Connie started to sit in the morning with the Lord, asking him to prepare her for all those unexpected moments and events that would come up throughout the day.

Connie encourages us to speak from a genuine and right place because God says it will all be well. But the key to disciplining the mind for godliness is to own and admit the feelings. She says we must be honest and declare to God, “I am broken, I'm hurting, I want to break into tears, I want to go hide, I don't want to talk to anybody.” 

At the same time we also say, with faith, “God, I need you. I need you to carry me, stand by me, hold my hand, and give me a word where I can encourage and edify somebody else even in my grief and pain.” We must learn to discipline the mind and take those thoughts captive. And If that means we have to have a good cry, then we have permission to have a good cry. Don't ever stuff it down or hold it back because that will do more damage in life, she adds.

[14:18]  Does God Give Us More Than We Can Handle as We’re Managing Trials?

Connie reminds us also of the truth that Jesus went through immeasurable pain and suffering, including emotional pain. So why do we think we won’t have pain as well? We have to remember we're going to face problems, but through the difficulties, we get refined and become more like God; we become more polished, better vessels. 

Connie told her husband recently that she is not the same person she was three years ago after losing her mom in 2019. The person she has become takes stock and does things differently; she values honesty and integrity and finds herself not wanting to put up with the nonsense because she knows she doesn't have time for it. 

Instead, she clings to God's word, disciplines her mind, and asks the Lord for help when she experiences feelings because she is an external processor. In these times, Connie will walk around in her backyard and process everything. She found what works for her, and it's different for everyone, so she shares that it’s critical to know ourselves. Some of us are deep thinkers, which means we need quiet space and alone time. Some of us need that girlfriend or sister who will listen, she says.

[17:43] How God Uses Our Trials As Spiritual Growth Opportunities

I shared how her statements remind me of the verse about God's not going to give you more than you can handle. It’s a personal pet peeve of mine when people say that “God won't give us more than we can handle,” that's because that's not what Scripture says. 

He absolutely will provide you with more than you can take, I said. Because when he doesn't give you more than you can handle, you're not digging deep to gut it out. But when we face more than we can take, we look up to say, “I need you. My weakness is where your strength is made known”. This is not about being fake, and it's about how you can speak from a place of truth that even though we are hurting right now, we will be okay.

When God gives us trials to face, his entire goal and reason for allowing us to go through hard times are to invite us to go deeper into him, to let him clean and pull away all those things we've been clinging to as substitutes for him. Every trial we face is an opportunity for God to be within us, bring us closer to him, and rely on him when we no longer have the strength to move forward.

While there is pain now in this specific circumstance, in the future, this chapter will be closed and this event will be just a faint memory. We can comfort ourselves with this truth.

[21:24] The Choice Is Yours, and You Can Come Out Of The Trials Bitter or Better

We must not believe the lie that life is all rosy and perfect because that's not the truth, she says. If we believe that everything will always be great, then we will struggle because real life is hard. 

Connie reminds us that in these trials God is working on us, just like we’re the potter's clay as being formed, molded, and fashioned into a beautiful vessel. He's getting rid of the extraneous material that is keeping our light from shining brighter for him. She reminds us that our purpose on earth is not to bring glory to ourselves and not to see how big we can make our star. Our goal on earth, Connie believes, is that what we do needs to bring glory to the Lord.

Connie reminds us that when she physically felt the weight of all that had happened and lifted it, it wasn't because she was so intense she pushed through the pain. It was because she served a gracious God who met her where she was, never left or forsake her, and led and comforted her. God is our refuge, she testifies.

[29:27] Managing Trials Through the Mindset That God is Good and Loving

Even amidst all Connie was experiencing, she shares that she had so many blessings come into her life and her business. It's another reminder we must discipline our minds and use the hard times as spiritual growth opportunities to strengthen our reliance on God. 

We can process grief while also having our mindset focused on God’s truth. We must stay open to the pain, she says. We can't move forward and grow from our experiences if we're going to close up because that is when the bitterness comes in. This is the skill I think so many of us need to learn to exemplify that skill of both of those being open and saying, “the pain is real; I feel every bit of this, and also, God is good.” 

Because the only way to get through those situations is to choose, we have to decide that this is the mindset we will have. We can be confident that God will give us the strength to have this mindset because that is the same mindset that Christ had in the garden as he was kneeling, seeing the cross before him, feeling the pain, tears, and blood coming down his face. Christ felt the pain, but He also chose God’s will above all things because He believed in God’s goodness.  

We must learn to stand in front of the mirror and admit this time is painful and that we don't like what we’re going through. But then follow it up with the reminder and declaration that God will walk us through this–that God is our strength, even though we feel weak. 

[36:43] Advice for Moving from Bitterness to Becoming Better Through Trials 

When she struggles with bitterness Connie says she reminds herself, “Who am I to question a holy God?” If we really believe God is good, all the time, then we have to accept there are certain things that we are not going to understand on this side of heaven, she says. 

We need to turn to him, know His word, and form an intimate relationship with Him. Finally she shares that it’s important to remember that God is making us into the women that He wants us to become. She reminds us that He's not hands off God, and that He knows exactly where and how we must be refined.

I shared that when we’re in that place of bitterness it's important first to see that God is not judging us for the offense. He's not happy that the pain is present, but pain makes us aware of a deeper issue we must face. When we turn our faces towards him for help in processing the difficulty of the life trial, he always receives us and never forsakes us. 

So, if we can admit that something is happening to us that's hard and hurting, we can understand that God is instantly saying, “I'm happy that you see that, my daughter. Let me help you unravel that.” Then, with God's help, we can work to get to the bottom of it and release it. I shared that when we are managing trials it’s a time to be brave and bold, to pour our hearts out to God, and learn to leave behind the place of bitterness we are simmering in. 

[44:46] Checking In With Ourselves: Are We Becoming Better or Bitter Through Hard Times?

One of the biggest blessings of living longer life and walking through difficult life experiences is that our perspective on life changes. Connie alluded to that in our conversation when she said, “I'm a different person now than I was even three or four years ago because of what I've gone through.” And I can see that in my life too. The thing is, every decision that we make, brain science shows, is either strengthening one mindset or it's strengthening another. 

The question comes down to whether we are making decisions to grow closer to that better version that God has, not being like, we're going to achieve it someday, but just continuing to grow and stretch to become the fullest expression of who God wants us to be. Are we moving towards that? Or are we moving towards being closed off and living smaller and being angry? What are we moving towards? It is not easy to walk through these events. 

I hope you heard what we were saying today, and we certainly hope you know we aren't saying that you need to fake it till you make it. When we walk through the stretching seasons, the best thing we can do is to feel what we're feeling while creating that foundation of truth that serves as bedrock during this time. This journey will keep us strong and keep us from becoming bitter. 

It’s also helpful to continually check in with ourselves and notice the thoughts we have. Rather than judge those feelings, come from a place of curiosity and seek to understand where it's coming from.

I wanted to add a few more things here to our conversation to help you not grow bitter but better through difficult life circumstances. First I want you to imagine how different it would be if you could hold both the tension of the painful situation you’re walking through and the foundational trust in Christ. It is possible to have both. It's not healthy to deny that God exists and to try to push through on your own, and it’s also not healthy to deny that the feelings are burdensome. We also don’t need to pretend that God is perfect, everything is excellent and that pain doesn’t exist. Because it’s true that emotions are complex and also true that God is good, it's possible to live in both places. 

Lastly, I challenge you to consider this question: “What if what you're walking through is an invitation to a bigger, fuller, more prosperous life? Because that is God's ultimate goal for us is to be light for him in this world. How might this situation be used by God to expand your ministry as His servant of hope and truth? 

We are always in this place where he's refining and removing the things getting in the way of us being able to shine brightly. He will always continue doing that. And with practice we can learn to balance that feeling that, although the work is painful, it's okay for him to do that work. It's tricky to hold it all, but it's possible!

Here’s another tip for when I need help moving out of bitterness during a challenging season: I often do physical exercise that results in meeting a specific goal. For example, a few years ago during a tough life trial I chose to start running every day (and am not a runner). Now, I'm not particularly eager to run. It's not my favorite thing in the world. You would be the first to hear me say that. 

But there was a season where I had allowed bitterness to take full residence into my heart. I’d felt so stretched and so empty every morning when I woke up. I was so uncertain that God could help me get through the day and that God would bring something good out of what I was walking through. However, I began to see the bitterness subside as I started running. Running required me to lean on him physically, to say,  “Okay, God, this isn't easy for me. I'm not a naturally gifted runner. But if I do this each day I know it will be evidence of your strength sustaining me.”

I didn't run far, but in those moments I was stretched beyond my physical limits and God had to step in. These moments helped me see, “God will provide enough grace and strength for me to get through. I'm going to be okay, I'm going to survive.” And every day I did that, it was this little victory. We must have little victories like this when we walk through hard times.

[51:22] Is Bitterness Rooted in Deeper Thought Patterns?

Suppose you recognize some of these significant issues of bitterness and anger in your heart. As we’ve shared today, bitterness is a natural response to life’s trials because life can leave us asking questions and be incredibly painful. The more we allow that bitterness to grow, however, the more that the bitterness can steal our joy and even keep us from growing close to God. Brain science tells us that the more we focus on a thought, the more that pattern is strengthened in the brain.

If you feel like bitterness has taken root in your thoughts and you want lasting help for change and healing, I invite you to join me in the Christian Mindset Makeover

The Christian Mindset Makeover is a nine-module course with both on-demand material and live support from me. So you can work through the lessons at your pace, and I'm there with you live to help you as you go along to get personalized support. What makes the Christian Mindset Makeover so powerful is the brain priming process. Brain priming is the key to transformation because it is the scientific process where we're pruning away old thoughts. We're doing the mind renewal work from a biblical and brain science perspective; that's my training as a neuro coach! 

I encourage you to learn more about the Christian Mindset Makeover here. Or sign up for my free workshop that talks about how to use brain priming to release these deep thought patterns we all struggle with (such as feeling “never enough”–which can often be a result of bitterness too). Go here to access that free workshop!

I'd love to continue this conversation; let's discuss this more on Instagram. I would love to connect with you there and hear about how this episode encourages you to leave behind the bitterness and instead use your trials as spiritual growth opportunities.

 

Connect with Connie: 

Podcast

Website

RESOURCES: 

Christian Mindset Makeover

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About Alicia Michelle

Alicia Michelle is a certified NeuroCoach™, Bible teacher, speaker and host of The Christian Mindset Coach Podcast and You Tube Show. More importantly, she’s a lover of Jesus, a wife of 21 years to her best friend, and mom of four amazing kids ages 19 to 10. Alicia struggled with overthinking, negative thoughts and “being enough” for most of her adult life until God radically transformed her heart after a life-threatening medical crisis. Now through her signature courses and coaching programs she loves equipping women with practical, scientific and biblically-based mindset tools to help them overcome negative thought patterns and discover more confident, joyful lives in Christ. Listen to her on the podcast or on You Tube; download free workshop trainings at VibrantChristianLiving.com; and connect on Facebook and Instagram.

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