We’ve all heard the phrase, “Don’t make mountains out of molehills.” If only I had a nickel for every time I heard that phrase in childhood…
Circumstance occurs. Perception magnifies such & such to grandiose proportions, causing verbose lament of its significance to ensue. Exacerbated parent/teacher/adult/any-reasonably-sound-human-being within earshot gets their fill of said ranting and responds with the classic wisdom: “Don’t make mountains out of molehills.”
This propensity is not merely my own shortcoming. It’s common to us all, old as the Garden itself. How effortlessly we overlook obvious good through laser-focus on the often small-by-comparison lacking bits of life. A vast expanse of Paradise with everything free for the taking except that one little caveat that would ultimately spur Eve’s downfall. She possessed more than a mountain; she’d been made ruler over Created Earth with Adam. Yet of all the beauty – SINLESS beauty – surrounding, her eyes flocked upon that one fruit from that one tree. And we’ve been following her lead ever since.
Research has repeatedly shown it takes ten positive statements to compensate for one negative. Spend an evening showered in complements and a single negative utterance drowns them all in memory.
Annie F. Downs recently made the case for “keeping the painful parts of your life small to live a full life”. Now she’s not advocating we play Pollyanna. After all, in the sage words of T. Swift, “band-aids don’t fix bullet holes”. Silver linings won’t stop a severed artery from bleeding out. No, pain demands attention. Survival, in fact, depends upon pain for, without it, we would befall harm quickly and at great cost. Pain provides necessary parameters for living when it comes to safety as those affected by CIPA (aka the genetic inability to feel pain) will tell you. Though you may not feel the heat of the flame, you still bear its resulting burns and at far greater extent than if you had felt the singe instantaneously.
Pain has purpose.
THAT SAID – it plays a part but NOT the whole. A life’s summation must be more than its collective suffering. There must be cause for celebration somewhere. While creation remains under a curse, STILL it cries out in worship declaring the glory of God. If desert sands and parched ground, if ashen hillsides and flooded banks can sound forth praise, then certainly so can I in the middle of hard things. Even the psalmist sang, “I would have lost hope had I not believed I would see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.”
God Himself declared to Moses, a man He spoke to as a friend, “See today I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Choose life that you may live, you and your children.” (Deuteronomy 30:19) Both exist in our reality: life AND death, blessing AND cursing, good AND bad, dark AND light. Just as God instructed Moses, so He gives to us: CHOICE. Choose life that you may live. Neither are exclusive descriptors of existence. Where there is life, death also dwells. ‘Tis the way of all fallen flesh. But where there is death, life’s remnant can also be found. Decay renders soil more fertile. Ash alkalizes acidity. It’s central to nature, both the law of entropy AND the reality that life will out.
Does this mean Annie’s statement of keeping pain small is unfounded? Not at all. Pain is and always will be present while this fallen earth remains. Pain because of a curse, a curse resulting from a choice, a choice that existed SO THAT LOVE COULD BE POSSIBLE. Love without choice is not love at all and that comes with great risk, at great cost.
Pain is real. It demands attention.
But not all of it. Even darkest nights reveal the shining through of stars.
We magnify what matters. We measure by what we make much of. Query the Psalms, ancient accounts of suffering and song. They face pain head-on, crying out for justice, for mercy. They do not deny life’s sorrows but rather take its full weight before the listening ear of God. Even the most heart-wrenching psalms bear an element of praise, a remnant of hope. Where pain is great, praise is made greater. Where trials rage, thanksgiving rings through and true. The determinant is choice.
With both options ever before mankind of life and death, what realm will we choose to dwell in? Think of your own story. Do you measure it in increments of suffering or joy, of failure or accomplishment, and by what lens do you define the two? When you share your experiences, do you belabor the woes or delight in even mundane moments with gratitude? As you look over your life thus far, what draws your attention, your affection, your energy?
Let’s labor together to take one step towards triumph, towards celebrating even the smallest of wins and not letting pain hold the final verdict on our life. When all seems ashes, take heart. May we be people who face pain headlong with tenacious thanksgiving on our tongue. May we be known more for what we celebrate than the wounds we lament. It takes courage to choose gratitude in what seems a graveyard; it feels an awful risk. But it is one worth taking. In the context of mountains and molehills, we determine which elements of life hold sway over our hearts. May looming structures in our lives be marked by grace and gratitude, by praise resolute with hope, rather than majoring in the minors and magnifying pain over joy.
We all endure the rain. Floods may rise and fall. But if its hope you’re looking for, Charlie Chaplain said it best: “You’ll never find a rainbow if you’re looking down.”