After living in the South all our lives, my wife and I are Michiganders now. The (believable!) joke here is that The Orange Construction Barrel* is our state bird. A front-page article making that point ran in a Detroit newspaper the summer we moved here. Michigan winters are hard on highways, and summer repairs are critical. But those aren't the sorts of roads and potholes I have in mind right now.

Life is a journey. We map our roads to success and happiness. There are curves along the way, and we must not give in to the temptation just to coast. Okay. You've got it. Right? The notion of life as a road to travel has been used in the Bible, by Scott Peck, and in the vocabularies of practically all of us.

There are no roads without potholes. So the people who get the most joy out of life are the ones who learn early how to deal with discouragement.

Temperament appears to predispose some people to see the dark side of situations and to incline toward pessimism. There are external circumstances over which one does not have control. There are people who can make life harder for you as critics or enemies. But you are not helpless in the face of your disposition, circumstances, or critics. There is at least one thing you can control.

Your attitude toward life is a choice you alone can make. There have been days when I have had to have a pretty stern conversation with myself. "Do what is right," I said. "Do it well. Do it with passion. And leave the outcome to God." Do you recall having some version of that conversation with yourself?

Adopting a helpless posture in the face of challenge practically guarantees a sorry outcome. Unless someone rescues you from yourself — an unlikely option in most situations — you are going to lose the job, the relationship, or the dream.

Did you hear about the jilted bride who placed an ad? "Hope Chest for Sale: brand new, half price, long story."

That's quite different from the little boy playing right field for his Pee Wee League team. A latecomer leaned against the fence and asked, "What's the score?" When the boy answered that his team was trailing 8 to 0, the kindly fellow said, "Don't be too discouraged. Maybe your team will do better next time." The kid didn't even look up; he just said, "It's okay. We ain't been to bat yet!"

The issue here isn't to encourage you to be naïve or foolish. But a layoff, illness, divorce, bankruptcy, or moral failure doesn't have to be the end. Believe it or not for now, the truth is that life needs to work the way it does. Apart from setbacks, we don't develop character traits such as strength, courage, and endurance. Without challenge, we never experience the sweet taste of victory or joy. Apart from our own discouragement, compassion likely could not exist.

Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen and help you ... (Isaiah 41:10 NLT).


Check this tongue in cheek Wikipedia article on Orange Contruction Barrels