When life wants to bully you

tug of war via kimberlyanncoyle.com

A friend and I talked recently about a couple we know struggling with significant work/life balance issues. We sympathized and tried to brainstorm a few ways to help them, until we finally concluded¬†that regardless of the amount of help we offer, it’s simply placing a band-aid over a deep wound. Nothing we do can fix the larger issue at hand, which boils down to this: Our mutual friends allow life to happen to them, rather than making decisions that impact the way they happen to life. It’s like watching a bully push around two kids in the schoolyard, and no matter how we try to intervene or encourage them to fight back, they stand there and take it.

I reached a point about six months ago, where I didn’t want to hear about the pushing and shoving anymore. For goodness sake, I wanted to say. Take a stand, make a change, do something, anything different. But, because I love these people I said something far more gentle and Jesus-y. “I’ll pray for you,” I said, and I left it at that. Then I judged them up and down and all around for allowing themselves to be slapped around by life all the time.


Every night for the past week, I woke up with a start. Dreams straight out of a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel come to visit in the dark. They are weird and violent and make absolutely no sense without cliff notes. I try to tease out the meaning come morning–why did my daughter’s face unzip right in front of me? Why am I crunching caramel popcorn between my abs (this could clearly never happen in real life because what abs?) Why is there a man standing there watching me refusing to move even when I threaten him with physical harm? It’s so bizarre, but in each one I sense a common thread of helplessness and vulnerability, of people watching me in impossible situations, situations in which I fail to deliver.

I think I’m afraid life is happening to me, rather than me happening to it.


I refuse to allow life to bully me, so it’s resorted to scaring me witless in my dreams. I won’t let it to win. Can we talk straight? I’m not going to give you gentle Jesus today. I’m going to say what I should have said to my friends–if you’re struggling with a situation in your life, one you have some control over, exert your right to change your own circumstances. I’m going to give you straight up Jesus. Pick up your mat and walk, friends. Decide that you’re not going to be bullied by life, and then do something, anything about it. Sure, you should pray about it too, but for goodness sake. Jesus didn’t tell the lame man to think it over, ask his friends what they think, and intercede for a while, he told him to get up and put those legs of his to good use.

Use your brain and your opportunities and your friends and your God-given desires to push back on the bully of life. Stop trying to place a band-aid over the deepest wounds, and take a step towards healing. Yes, it requires vulnerability. Yes, you will fail to deliver. Yes, you will be afraid. Take a step, however wobbly, towards freedom anyway. Push back a little on your life, the one filled with promise and potential and orchestrated imperfectly by you. I will stand here and cheer you on until you see it through.