Storms: Choices, Consequences, and Contentment


Connecting Choices to Outcome

Do the choices that are made every day have anything to do with how things work out in life?  A few years back while living in another state, I decided to take a walk around the a walk around the neighborhood after a tornado; then later, taking a drive through the city, what I saw from the storm reminded me that consequences always follow every event of life.  I am mindful about the way people, so often, take for granted  peace, happiness, and good times in life and how many times that we forget that everything in life has consequences –good or bad.  Obviously,  some consequences are not because of the choices that we make in life, they are the result of nature, other people’s actions, or something that we do not understand about the seasons of life.  The fact remains that there are consequences for everything that happens in life.

Outcome and Escapist Thinking

A problem with problems is that we do not like the outcome because the consequences make life difficult to experience.  One of the most common responses to negative experiences  is to try  escaping consequences, deny the impact of our behavior and choices on others, and escape the reality of what those choices bring to life experience.  I am reminded from working in the prison system  that quite often we have inmates come to the chapel and  make a choice to become a Christian and to begin to pursue a spiritual life.  Instead of entering into a process of discipline and developing a responsible faith and transformation,  a common response after becoming a believer is for inmates to begin  seeking prayer and guidance about how to appeal their sentence to get out of prison.  A problem with this thinking is because they do not like the results of their choices, present circumstances, and the absence of a gratifying life.  Instead of accepting circumstances of being in prison as a result of bad choices, anti-social behavior, and hurt and pain for others; they believe that a spiritual relationship entitles them to an immediate change of circumstances.  What is not clearly understood is that having a relationship with God does not mean that circumstances will be removed for a lifetime of choices that are made. When people go to prison it is because they are convicted of a crime –a consequence of a bad choice.  Something that stands out here is that many times there is a mystical, magical thinking about what forgiveness brings in a person’s life that needs to be demythologized.  Forgiveness does not mean that we are not responsible for what has happened and it does not mean that consequences will disappear because we have found faith through God.

Memories and Traumatic Experience

In cognitive psychology theory, the importance of memory is correlated to the way experiences are organized and stored in the information management system within the brain.  The impact of experience upon memories and schemas are  realized through understanding memory encoding, which is the way traumatic or painful experience codes a memory and actually change the construction of brain tissueEpisodic memories are the most powerful memories that people have and are connected to responses given through the lived-experience of life.  When painful events, invalidation, hurt, or trauma occurs beliefs, relationships, and memories are forever changed –life changing consequences attached to actions that classify memories with specific triggers.  However, it is not that simple when choices that are very painful are attached to the way the brain organizes information, memories, and painful emotions.  For some people, people they just want to say, I am sorry and hope that it will be forgotten because they wish for immediate release and change the painful circumstances choices have created.  However, it is not that simple when there is deeply ingrained hurt and trauma.  When choices are made, words are said, and actions are taken; we may not realize that when one word, one act occurs, it can be life changing. Indeed, how another person experiences our choices are related to how they experience and processes our chosen behavior.

Choices, Prayer, and Outcome

Memories embedded in the psyche, are connected to an internal perception process,  schema that is a part of the biological and physical makeup of the brain.  It is not just a emotional response; it is how an individuals brain and mind organize events, which and regulates how we think, feel and triggers how we behave when episodic memories are activated. Indeed, choices have consequences upon how life will be experienced, encoded, and remembered.   Unfortunately, outcome is not given enough consideration when people decide on a course of action or use irresponsible words, actions, and behaviors.

What needs to be emphasized  and understood is that when there is a painful experience, painful invalidating words, and abusive behavior that destroys trust and boundaries that the consequences of what has happened cannot simply be wished away, prayed away, or ignored.  The important and neglected truth is that  there are some things that are a part of life –like problems, storms, aging, death, and seasons of life that are very difficult to face.  What needs to be  understood is that we must learn to live with consequences and realize that some things will never change and do not go away no matter how spiritual one becomes.  Our prayers might be better focused upon asking for Grace that provides sufficient strength to live within the circumstances in the place our choices have taken us  to live.

Contentment through Spiritual Growth

The apostle Paul said,  ” I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, [therewith] to be content” (Philippians 4:11).   This is not an attitude of hopelessness and/or  surrender to circumstances, but an affirmation of faith that states that whatever circumstances that are faced, contentment can be found in a Savior who is sufficient in the whatever circumstances life may bring.  The fact is that anyone can trust God when everything is always going right.  The question is can you trust God in your circumstances to be sufficient –to provide efficient grace to live through the storms of life?

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