when life hurts that much

(This is the introduction to my book, Dungeon Times Survival Guide. It’s available in print or Kindle on Amazon.)

Life doesn’t go according to plan.

It’s just no fun when things don’t work out the way you want them to, is it? All of us have experienced disappointment when what we had envisioned or hoped for didn’t come to pass. Why did it have to rain every single day of our beach vacation that we had looked forward to for months? We were just so sure we were going to make the team, but our name wasn’t on the roster posted outside the locker room door. We got passed over for the promotion we knew that we deserved . . . again.

Ugh. Such is life.

But what happens when life deals you a surprising, crushing, and painful blow so shocking that it sends seismic ripples down through you to the core of your being? Like losing a job? Or learning your family is splitting up? Or getting that phone call that the test results came back, and it is cancer? Chances are, you will get an unwelcome surprise at some point in your life far greater than any disappointment experienced on a rainy beach vacation, and it will rock your world. I’m not trying to pop your happy bubble, but we live in a broken and fallen world.

Such is life.

This little book is an exploration into the search for meaning and purpose during incredibly rough times. I’ve come to call those “dungeon” times. If you are familiar with the Biblical account of Joseph (the kid with the coat of many colors), you may recall he ended up in a dungeon for a long time, and he didn’t commit any crime to earn his way in.

Let me jump right in here for a moment and say if you’re not a religious person, or maybe you used to be, I hope you won’t put this book aside or close your browser just because we’re going to examine a guy whose life is recorded in the Bible. I have a desire to share this book with folks who share a common experience of wrestling with pain and disappointment, regardless of any labels people may give you or you choose to own.

In fact, if you are a churchgoer or a person who follows Jesus, let me caution you. It could be easy to dismiss this book because you “know how the story goes.” Perhaps you do, and yet I’m willing to bet there are some truths we’ll lift from Joseph’s life story in this little book that will rock you and confront you in your current life situation, if you’re open to it. If you’ve been in a church for a long time, or you have followed Jesus for a number of years, it can be a challenge at times to fully engage the Biblical story because we think we’ve already got it. If that doesn’t describe you, you’re actually ahead of the game on this one.

Maybe you know someone who is going through one of those really rough times right now. Maybe you’re the one feeling like you’re in a dungeon right now, and that’s why you’ve picked up this book. You’ve landed in this dungeon of sorts, maybe even through no fault of your own, and you’re wondering how in the world you’re going to survive, and if you can somehow do that, how long it will last, and even if you’ll ever get out of it.

I’ve been in my own dungeon time for a few years now, and though things are better, none of us can be sure what the future holds. My desire is to share some of the things I’ve learned (and continue to learn) that may help you with your pain, confusion, sense of abandonment, depression, anguish, exasperation, anger, or resentment—or all of the above.

Hear this: there is good news.

As we stick with Joseph, we learn he did get out of that dungeon, and his life turned out pretty well, all things considered. Reviewing his life story may make you wonder how in the world he didn’t end up bitter and full of resentment, because you probably know someone who went through hell on earth and is like that. Not Joseph. He did things a little differently, and his dungeon time actually contributed to the blessings he received when he got out. I hope this book will help you turn your time in the dungeon into a time of blessing. I know that sounds really weird, and maybe even offensive and pompous. It might make you downright mad to even entertain a thought like that right now. I would have been mad if someone had told me that, back when I first landed in my dungeon. But hang with me. With God’s help, I believe we can find meaning and purpose together.

There is no way around this fact: an unwanted challenge and time of trial in your journey will define you in some significant ways, one way or the other. I want it to define you for good.

Albert Einstein once said, “There is possibility in every difficulty.” Let’s hang on to that thought.

The goal of this little book is to help you find meaning and purpose in your dungeon times by applying truths we can discover through our examination of Joseph’s dungeon experience. In each chapter we will explore one of the truths from Joseph’s journey that can help us on ours. My aim is to infuse you with hope, motivate you to hang in there during the long days, and encourage and equip you to make good use of your dungeon time so you’ll be prepared for what’s ahead. God’s not done working in your life yet.

Hang on to that thought, too.

Rev. Greg Griffin is a Board Certified Pastoral Counselor and Forgiveness Coach in private practice in Marietta, GA. His specialty is relationship repair and rescue- helping partners, spouses, and parents and their adolescents. He’s also the author of Dungeon Times Survival Guide, and Vital Faith.

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