It’s Not Too Late to Live The Life You Never Knew You Wanted
Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness — Desmond Tutu
Do you ever feel hopeless?
Do you ever feel like your situation is beyond salvaging, that you’ve gone too far, that there is nothing good in the future to look forward to?
If so, you’re in good company.
Many people have been in your shoes, and perhaps worse, and have not only lived to talk about it, they have become even better versions of themselves.
You, too, can have such a story.
Because where there is life, there is hope.
From Federal Prison to a New Life
Christopher Yuan* was a promising young dental student who had been a star pupil, “model minority,” and “good son” all his life.
But after discovering porn at a young age, he started sliding down a dark path of (seemingly) no return.
Chris left home, moved in with his boyfriend, and threw himself into a torrid lifestyle of drugs, sex, and partying. He spent so much time doing and dealing drugs at parties that he was kicked out of dental school a few months before graduation.
Eventually, he was discovered by the FBI and sentenced to federal prison, where he was dealt another blow when he discovered that he had contracted HIV.
Meanwhile, Chris’ mother Angela was planning to commit suicide because of her grief over this wayward son. But a group of friends stepped in, helped her discover faith in God, regain her hope, and showed her how to love her son unconditionally.
Although Chris had rejected his parents, even throwing them out of his house when they tried to visit, they were there for him when he hit rock bottom.
While Chris was in prison, his parents were outside praying for him, visiting him, reminding him of their love. Gradually, Chris opened up to his parents, and to a lifestyle very different from the one that had led him into this mess.
Today, Christopher Yuan is a drug- and promiscuity-free author, speaker, and teacher with a master’s degree from Wheaton College.
He fully mended his broken relationship with his parents, and the family is regularly invited around the world to tell their story and encourage others facing hideous nightmares of their own.
What about you?
What have you suffered?
What have you regretted?
What rock bottom have you hit?
If you feel hopeless or in despair, take heart. Your story isn’t over yet. And with a few tweaks to your perspective, it may end up being every bit as hopeful and happy as the story of Christopher Yuan.
How to Make Lemonade
“God designed life to be a transformational experience” — Mark Victor Hansen
You’ve probably heard people say: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
In my more pessimistic moods, I hated this line. I found it trite and naive and utterly useless.
YouTuber Ryan Higa said it best, in the video “Stupid Inspirational Sayings”:
“Lemonade is not just made of lemons. It’s barely lemons! It’s mostly water and sugar! Life didn’t give us that.”
But after thinking about it, I realized that life did give us sugar. We ALL have a little bit of sugar.
- If you’re alive, that’s “sugar.”
- If you are physically and/or mentally healthy, that’s “sugar.”
- If you have some education, that’s “sugar.”
- If you have someone to love, and someone who loves you, that’s “sugar.”
Life comes with sugar, even though it throws lemons at us from time to time.
Even if a situation seems irredeemable, we can still have hope that on some plane of existence higher than this one, it is redeemable somehow.
By choosing not to add bitterness (ie, a cynical attitude) to the sourness, we are “diluting” the lemons with water.
And by utilizing the tools and resources we have at our disposal, we are “sweetening” the lemons — making lemonade, so to speak.
Some bitter people might say this kind of thinking is utterly naive. And perhaps it is, but if I’d rather be naive, humble, and at least a little bit happy than bitter, self-righteous, and unhappy — wouldn’t you?
Know That You Are Loved
“Everybody, everybody wants to love / Everybody, everybody wants to be loved, oh…everybody heals with love” — Ingrid Michaelson
You are loved, but you may not fully realize it.
When you DO know it, however, it will change you from the inside out. You will be able to face, literally, anything.
Why do the vast majority of popular singers sing about love. Then I realized, Because love is the only thing worth singing about — it’s the only thing worth living for.
When Chris Yuan was living a promiscuous lifestyle, he was looking for love, but didn’t know what it was. He thought sexuality meant love, when really what it meant for him was trouble.
Chris rejected his parents’ love and turned to his sexual partners for acceptance and belonging.
But when his life fell apart, he was finally able to see that the deep love and acceptance he had craved throughout his life was there in his parents, and in his parents’ God.
The misunderstanding wasn’t entirely Chris’ fault.
When Chris was young, his parents Angela and Leon did not know what love was either. They fought with each other, froze each other out, and demanded stellar performances from Chris and his brother.
Feeling smothered, Chris turned against everything his parents stood for, and THAT’S when they realized that they didn’t understand the true nature of love.
Chris’ severe rebellion was a wake-up call for Angela and Leon. They realized they did not know long-suffering, forgiving, truthful, and unconditional love. They had to learn to love and be loved.
That was the only way to save their son.
“The salvation of man is through love and in love” — Viktor Frankl
Behavior modification, motivational speeches, rules and restrictions, and psychological tricks can only change a person in a shallow way, and only temporarily.
But people who have hit rock bottom need more than a cosmetic touch-up. They need a transformation from the inside out. And that only comes from being loved.
But the wrongful pursuit of false love gets a lot of people (like Chris) in trouble.
The key to avoiding this trap is to realize you are ALREADY loved — by God, and often by your friends and family, as well.
Then you can learn to love others and live with peace, contentment, and joy.
This is, of course, far easier said than done. If humans could figure out the exact mechanism that turns head knowledge into heart knowledge, we could solve a host of problems.
One thing we all need, though, is to just take time. We’re often too busy rushing around to realize anything, because we’re just thinking of the next thing on our to do list.
But if you take some time to stop and reflect, some of that will likely trickle down from “knowing” to “believing.”
It makes no difference how deeply seated may be the trouble, how hopeless the outlook, how muddled the tangle, how great the mistake. A sufficient realization of love will dissolve it all. — Emmet Fox
When Life Really Does Suck
“It’s easier to be cynical; to accept that change isn’t possible, and politics is hopeless, and to believe that our voices and actions don’t matter. But if we give up now, then we forsake a better future” — Barack Obama
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is true about 99% of the time, if you choose to let your horrible experience make you stronger rather than give up and turn bitter.
Bitterness eats people from the inside out. It’s like adding arsenic to your lemonade, rather than water and sugar.
Of course we are all humans and we all experience self-pity.
Just don’t stay there.
Cry and complain a little if you need to, but then take a deep breath and turn your attention to how to start preparing your lemonade.
Forget Nihilism; It All DOES Mean Something
99% of the time, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
The other 1% of the time, you may not get stronger, but you may at least be able to help someone else because of the horrible experience you have gone through.
Which means: even if the situation you are going through, or have gone through, has caused you irreparable damage — at the very least it is not meaningless damage.
If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.
We may not always know what that meaning is, right away, but rest assured that there IS a meaning, and if you hang in there long enough, you will likely find out what it is.
- Christopher Yuan and his parents had no idea that his suffering, prison experience, and even his HIV status would one day bring hope and encouragement to thousands of people around the world — but it has.
- They had no idea that Christopher’s expulsion from school was the beginning of a greater career path — but it was.
- They did not know that Christopher’s painful rebellion would end up forging a powerful relationship between parents and son that is closer and truer than anything they had while Christopher was growing up — but it did.
Similarly, you are not omniscient, and you don’t know how your story will end.
Things may look bleak now, but even this temporary bleakness can make your finished story more beautiful — just like occasional dissonance adds charm to a song when it is finally resolved into consonance.
All things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose — Romans 8:28
Co-writing your story
Granted, not every painful story ends as happily as Christopher’s, but remember:
What LOOKS LIKE the end, may not actually BE the end.
You may think your life is over, but in reality, redemption and resurrection may be just around the corner.
Some people say that you are the author of your story, that you are in control of how your life unfolds.
Bu you have a Co-Author who knows more than you do, and no matter what kind of mess you’ve made with your life so far, if you let God and others help, it can get better.
Sometimes the only thing standing between us and healing is pride.
We don’t want people to see us broken and vulnerable. We don’t want to admit wrong or failure. We think we need to pick ourselves up by ourselves.
But we can’t.
We are all CO-authors, not full authors. We don’t write our life stories by ourselves.
So when you’re tempted to give in to despair, let others pick you up.
Pause and remember that you are loved, that life has meaning, and that you never know what’s just around the corner — perhaps it will be more than you ever dreamed of.
And whatever else you do, don’t give up hope.
It’s always much too soon for that.
Ready to live with purpose and power?
I’ve created the Write Purpose Manifesto to help you clarify your goals, discover your purpose, and change the world through your words.
For more information about Dr. Christopher Yuan and his work, see his autobiography — Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God, A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope (affiliate link)