Author Archives: Todd Neva

A Weed Is a Plant Without a Purpose

June 11, 2019, by Todd Neva, foreword by Kristin Neva

“A weed is a plant without a purpose.” On the nine year anniversary of Todd’s diagnosis, he talks about finding purpose in living with ALS.

If I had made the video, I would’ve added a bunch of other meaningful things he does — Helping me with my creative projects. Editing my novels. Listening and talking me down when I’m upset. Coaching me on various household projects. Laughing with me as we watch movies or shows.

And the best thing is being a great dad to our kids — watching movies with them, affirming them, encouraging them. And co-parenting. If we both think something the kids want to do is a bad idea, then I know I’m not being an overprotective mom.

Thankful for my husband! Happy Father’s Day!

Video transcript:

A couple days ago a friend of mine stopped by. She is a caregiver of mine who had volunteered for a couple years turning me at night. She stopped by. She was telling me about the first butterfly, monarch butterfly, that she saw of the season, and she’s a little concerned because the milkweed is not out yet here in the upper part of Michigan.

It reminded me of a scene in my wife’s book Across the Bridge. Marcella is in the garden and a monarch butterfly flutters by, and it lands on a milkweed. And Marcella thinks to herself that that plant she had once considered a weed is sweet sustenance for that monarch’s flight to Mexico.

A weed is really just a plant with no purpose.

People ask me how I get by with a relative positive disposition, and I will say it’s because I have purpose. There’s things that I do that I busy myself with. I intentionally seek out challenges and projects.

I’m on my church’s communication team and I help with graphics for promotions and advertising and things like that.

I preach on occasion. I write a blog, and I do these videos.

Now not everybody has got the skills I have to do those specific things, but there are things that everybody can do. There’s something that anybody can do.

Even if your purpose in life is just to endure suffering to get by, to manage this disease with a certain level of grace, and to help your caregiver or your children cope with what is hard for them too

Some nights I lie in bed and I’m in pain, and I see it as my purpose to endure that pain for just another hour, just to give my caregiver, to give my wife, just one more hour of sleep until I have to wake her up.

Sometimes I breakdown. Sometimes I just can’t stand it. I have to call out for her. I can’t make it an hour, and that’s okay. At those times you shake it off, as as much as a guy with ALS can shake it off, you shake it off. You move on and then the next day you try to get by with a purpose.

You need to pick up something that’s heavier than yourself — well with ALS it’s really easy to find those things that are heavier than you for a purpose in life.

It could be the most trivial thing. It may be to have a pleasant disposition or maybe it’s helping with the finances, using adaptive technology on your computer to balance the checkbook. Become an Internet troll, whatever, something that you can do. Just find a purpose, and do it. You’ll get through this.

Life is suffering. It’s hard, and if you haven’t suffered it’s just because you haven’t lived long enough, so we shouldn’t be surprised by it. We just have to get through it.

Resurrection

April 18, 2019, by Kristin Neva

Todd had his breathing tests this week, and it wasn’t good news—it’s never great because his breathing weakens every 6 months, but usually just a few points. However, the decline was 9 points in the last 6 months, 16 points over the last year, which means it’s time for him to get a feeding tube—before the surgery would be life-threatening. This is new territory for both of us, and it’s disheartening.

Heading into Easter, it’s tough when one’s reality doesn’t fit the narrative we often hear of redemption promised today. I explore this theme in Across the Bridge. When Marcella Seppa meets her new tenant, widower Drew Smith, a spark ignites, but she won’t consider dating him. She doesn’t want his son, AJ, to experience the hurt she felt when she was young. Marcella lost her mother when she was fifteen years old, her father quickly remarried, and her stepmother pushed too hard to foster a relationship her. Well-meaning people used Christian platitudes in an attempt to comfort her, but it resulted in Marcella having a faith crisis.

Drew is at church on Easter with Marcella who rarely attends anymore.

A guy wearing a polo shirt and khakis stepped to the mic. “Welcome. I’m Pastor Dave. We’re so glad you could join us for Resurrection Sunday. First off, we’re going to hear some stories about resurrection in the lives of ordinary folks who have found hope in Christ.”

A video—obviously done in house, as Drew recognized the background from the lobby—featured a young couple and their beautiful, adopted eighteen-month-old daughter. They took turns sharing about their struggles with infertility. They kept their faith in God, and their prayers were answered, but in a way they didn’t expect. Next up was a middle-aged couple sharing their story of an affair. They had been on the brink of divorce, but then the husband repented, his wife found grace to forgive him, and they both found healing in Christ. Lastly, a woman talked about being healed from cancer. The doctors had found a tumor in her brain. It was terminal. The tumor disappeared, and there was no scientific explanation.

Marcella sat stiffly, looking down at her lap. Drew grabbed her hand.

“God so desperately wants to bring healing in our lives,” the woman on the video concluded with a gentle smile.

When the congregation burst into applause, Marcella pulled her hand away and stood. She exited the sanctuary.

It was a tough service for Marcella. She remembered that when her mom was sick, there had been prayers, promises had been claimed, and Marcella couldn’t understand why God would pick winners and losers.  It’s tough when experience doesn’t fit the narrative you’ve been taught. If you pray hard enough, long enough, have faith, rid your life of sin, then there will be healing.

But what about when mental or physical illness continues for years? When a marriage is not restored. When there isn’t healing. When needs go unmet. These don’t fit the narrative.

Where does that leave us on Resurrection Sunday?

We need to change the narrative we tell. The writer of Hebrews said that we do not see all things subject to Christ. So let’s just say that disease, broken marriages, and mental illness are not of God. Not his plan. Not his will.

As Christ followers we’re called to fight evil. To pray. To act. To give. To serve. And Christians have done this as society developed. They’ve built hospitals, orphanages, schools. They’ve cared for the sick. They’ve fed the hungry. This is often the only resurrection we see on earth. We pray “your kingdom, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven” and then we act to make it happen as much as we can, because we are God’s people, his presence on earth today. And we hold onto hope that this world is not all there is.

My character Beth processes her grandma’s ALS diagnosis in my novel Snow Country.

“He is risen,” Pastor Chip greeted his congregation on Easter morning. A smile broke across his face.

“He is risen, indeed,” the congregation responded. Someone started clapping. Soon, nearly everyone joined in.

“Hallelujah,” Grandma shouted, her hands not cooperating to clap.

Lilies sat on the steps in front of the chancel. Behind the pulpit, a large urn held palm branches children had paraded up the aisle the week before. Resurrection Sunday was a celebration of life, real life in Christ. After the darkness of winter, spring was coming, though it would be a white Easter in the Keweenaw, Beth thought ruefully. In California, Mother would be hiding Easter eggs in the yard for Cora and Tate to find.

Danny’s rotating schedule once again made him available on Sunday, and he sat by Beth’s side.

The message of resurrection found residence in Beth’s heart. Yes, Lord, yes. Because of you, because of your love, I am filled with love this morning. She looked to Grandma on her left, and then to Danny on her right. He reached out and squeezed her hand.

All their problems were temporary. Life on earth was temporary. Ultimately, they would be with Christ. New bodies. No more sadness. No more tears. Beth rejoiced in the resurrection that guaranteed her resurrection, Grandma’s resurrection.

This we can celebrate. Happy Easter!

Carry Your Cross

April 8, 2019, by Kristin Neva

As we journey through lent, one thing that strikes me is the human frailty woven throughout the events leading up to the crucifixion.

The disciples could not stay awake to pray with Jesus in the garden.

Peter, who had boldly declared that he would never fall away, that he would go to prison or to death, denied Christ three times.

Much earlier, Jesus had told his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” We read in the book of John, after Jesus is tried before Pilate, Jesus literally carries his own cross.

Traditionally, Christians have meditated on the stations of the cross which include Jesus falling under the weight of that cross. It’s not specifically stated in scripture, however in the account of three of the gospels the soldiers force Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross. After Jesus has been sleep-deprived, after he had been mocked and beaten, it is likely that he stumbled under the weight of that cross—that he physically could not go on.

When Todd got a bad cold several weeks ago, he was dependent on others to press on his abdomen so he could cough. In the midst of those intense days during which Todd couldn’t be left alone for fear he would choke on mucus, one of our night-time caregivers called in sick. I was exhausted. Like those disciples who couldn’t stay awake with Jesus, I knew I couldn’t stay awake, pressing on Todd’s chest all night. I cried as I called through my back-up list and nobody was available until I neared the end of my list. He’s an artist, not a CNA, not a nurse, but he’s a friend who was willing to come so I could sleep a few hours. The human body can only physically do so much.

Our friend helped carry the cross, a little bit of heaven in a difficult situation. Todd recently observed that he has had ALS nearly 20% of his life. “That’s a long time to be sick,” he said. He’s been paralyzed for five of those.   It’s too heavy of a cross to bear—so we are dependent on others—those who volunteer, those who give money so we can hire night-time care. In the midst of this seemingly impossible situation, when people come alongside us, our spirits are lifted, we feel like we are not alone when a bit of God’s kingdom is displayed on earth.

This Lenten season I feel solidarity with the disciples who couldn’t stay awake, with Peter, with Jesus who couldn’t carry his cross, with humanity. Our human bodies have limitations and we need each other.

Dusty Road

March 6, 2019, by Kristin Neva

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” That truth, which the church is called to consider on Ash Wednesday, is set before those with ALS every day.

Each time a muscle cramps on its way to burning out. Every time there is a new loss of function. When car keys are surrendered. When a wheelchair is ordered. When basic needs require assistance. When choking on dinner becomes the new normal. Living every day with the knowledge that you or your loved one may be one respiratory virus away from death.

Today, on this Ash Wednesday, both Todd and Sara have a bad bug. It started a couple days ago with chills, a fever, aches, and a cough. Sara’s cough is deep and painful, but it’s productive. Todd can’t cough as deeply, and he can only cough a few minutes until his diaphragm is too tired. We’re using medication to loosen and thin the secretions, cough assist devices, and a technique that looks like the Heimlich.

At 5:30 this morning, the night caregiver woke me to help Todd. I could hear the fluid in his lungs as he said, “Stacked breathing!”

With my hands clasped and placed under his sternum, I counted “1, 2, 3” — and he took short breaths on each count — and when I said “cough,” he exhaled. He swallowed the mucus and said, “Again.” We repeated that until he could breathe freely.

“Do you think this is it?” I asked him, anxiety building within me.

“I think I’ll make it through this one,” he reassured me.

Lent reminds us to consider the tenuous nature of life. We’re all on a dusty road to death. Leading up to Easter, Christ’s followers watch the object of hope and adoration go to the cross.

The Most Beautiful Woman in a Hundred Years

January 16, 2019, by Todd Neva

A paragraph in The Princess Bride caught my eye.

Before I get to that paragraph, let me explain that the book is different from the movie. The central conflict in The Bride chapter is who is the most beautiful woman in the world. Buttercup was barely in the top twenty at the beginning of the chapter, which was quite remarkable considering she didn’t like to bathe or brush her hair.

Her love for Westley quickly propels her to the eighth most beautiful woman, and then she gets word that Westley died at the hands of the Dread Pirate Roberts.

Buttercup retreats to her room in despair, and when she emerges “she never looked as well. She had entered her room as just an impossibly lovely girl. The woman who emerged was a trifle thinner, a great deal wiser, an ocean sadder. This one understood the nature of pain, and beneath the glory of her features, there was character, and a sure knowledge of suffering. She was eighteen. She was the most beautiful woman in a hundred years.”

This is the type of beauty possessed by the female protagonists in Kristin’s books. There is an element of pain in each of their stories that matures them, gives them depth of character, makes than ever more appealing to their love interests.

Kristin writes authentically from her own pain, and she too has become more beautiful over the last several years.

Legacy of George HW Bush Seen in Quality of Life of People with Disabilities

December 10, 2018, by Kristin Neva

George HW Bush signs the ADA into law in 1990

I cried as I listened to a tribute to George H. W. Bush, realizing how much he impacted our lives. In 1990, he signed the Americans with Disabilities Act, which ensures that Todd has access to services and buildings that improve his quality of life.

Long before the ADA, culture and attitudes regarding people with disabilities were changing. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 extended civil rights to people with disabilities. That law banned discrimination on the basis of disability by recipients of federal funds. The Department of Health, Education and Welfare established regulations to implement the law in 1977.

During the Reagan administration, Vice President Bush led the Task Force on Regulatory Relief, however Bush heeded the concerns of the disability community and ensured that society did not take a step backward, keeping intact the regulations that gave access to people with disabilities.

The regulations he supported ended up being the basis for the ADA, which extended the civil rights of people with disabilities to all public accommodations.

George H. W. Bush personally benefited from the bill he signed. After developing Parkinson’s disease, he still enjoyed getting out, even in his wheelchair.

Because we live in an old community, I can see what life would have been like if Bush hadn’t supported the regulations that came out of the Rehabilitation Act, or if he hadn’t signed the ADA into law.

Todd has no way to access many local businesses and restaurants that were built at the turn of the twentieth century and grandfathered into a perpetual state of inaccessibility. One step to enter a business is insurmountable in his 400-pound power wheelchair.

He couldn’t attend my daughter’s Suzuki violin recitals in the old building where I had attended elementary school. Last weekend, he easily wheeled into my son’s elementary school, which was built during Bush’s first year in office.

Our life outside of our accessible home is dictated by which buildings Todd can access. The church we attend. Restaurants we patronize.

He could attend the all-school production of The Little Mermaid, in which our daughter played the part of a princess. The historic Calumet Theatre has been modified to be accessible with a ramp going up to a side door. It is possible for him to get inside, but the old auditorium certainly wasn’t designed for wheelchairs with aisles too narrow and steep for safety or comfort.

Contrast that to the modern Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts at our local university, where we watched our daughter’s choir performance. We entered at ground level. He parked his chair next to companion seats, so our son and I could sit next to him with unobstructed views of the stage. We enjoyed the performance without logistical stress.

These may seem like little things to healthy people, but they make a world of difference in the life of people with disabilities. I’m so grateful we live in a society that values the least fortunate.

We could still do more. Hopefully in the next thirty years, we’ll see additional changes that would further improve life.

It’s difficult to travel even an hour from home, since most bathrooms and hotels do not meet the needs of those with paralysis. I imagine a country where accessible bathrooms and hotel rooms have overhead lifts. Freedom!

But traveling is the least of our concerns, given that life at home is still difficult. The biggest need for the ALS community is caregiving.

Through Medicare, we get three hours of caregiving assistance each week—two showers. However, Todd requires virtually twenty-four-hour assistance, including being turned at night so he doesn’t lie awake in pain and develop bedsores. I tried to provide that care, but my efforts were unsustainable, mentally and physically, after more than a year of not sleeping for more than an hour at a time. Now we, like many middle-class families with ALS, need to fundraise to pay out-of-pocket for help with the extensive care needed. It’s either that or sleep-deprivation for the spouse, which is what often happens.

Thank you to the friends and family who help us pay for Todd’s nighttime care.

We need Medicare reform so that families with severe disability can get a reasonable amount of home health care—so basic needs are met. After all, dealing with disability is something that might lie ahead for any of us or those we love. We are all one diagnosis or one accident away from paralysis.

Did He Allow It? A Response to a Question after the Father’s Day Flash Floods in the Keweenaw

June 19, 2018, by Todd Neva

Eagle River Falls, MI, Sunday, June 17, 2018

A friend called me because her daughters were distraught with all the damage in the Keweenaw, and she was struggling to answer their question. “Why did God allow it to happen?”

Wow! That’s a good one. Some of the greatest minds in history have wrestled with this question.

St. Augustine wrote about this in about 400 A.D. Theologians debate this today. And sometimes Christians say things that are in some ways true, but lack context or they’re not appropriate for the situation.

First, let’s be clear in that God is not punishing you. Jesus said that the Father makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Whether we are good or bad, we’re all subject to the forces of this world.

Did God allow it? Is he not in control?

In a broad, cosmological sense, yes. But this is where we need context, and an answer that’s appropriate for the situation.

Paul said God subjected all creation to futility “in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

And the writer of Hebrews said, “Now in putting everything in subjection to [Jesus], [God] left nothing outside his control.”

But then he said, “At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.”

So, yes, God allowed it in so much as he exposed us to the forces of nature and even the consequences of free will. And he is in control, but the plan is bigger than what we see on a day-to-day basis.

And what we see on a daily basis is a soul factory here on earth.

By one estimate, there has been over 100 billion people born on this planet. About 7 billion of those are alive today. Maybe God could have allowed the first 20 or 30 billion to be born and then ended it all, but I’m glad I had an opportunity to be born. I’m thankful to live in a community that was built long before I was here, safe in a society whose institutions were developed through much trial and error.

We’re here for a time, but our souls live on. And those who know him can spend eternity with God in heaven where all will be made perfect.

In the meantime, we get to see glimpses of heaven — when we love and when we’re loved, when we marvel at the beauty of his creation.

It’s a miracle any of us are alive in the first place. The complexity of life is such that scientists have only begun to scratch the surface in understanding it. The average adult body is made up of an estimated 30 trillion cells. If you lineup all of the DNA molecules in all the cells, it would reach 34 billion miles. It takes the earth 60 years to cover that distance when traveling around the sun.

Anybody who’s owned a car knows that the more features are on a car, the more can go wrong. And as such, in the most complex machine ever designed, one little glitch in the human body — one little protein missing, one little DNA chain broken, one bad chromosome, one little contamination — we have sickness, disease, and suffering.

My point is not to make you anxious of all that can go wrong, but to point out the miracle of all that goes right, day in and day out for so many people for so long a time.

The human body is not the only complex machine God designed. He also designed an incredibly resilient ecosystem that has sustained life for thousands and thousands of years. A combination of lifeforms that trade oxygen for carbon dioxide. The water cycle that sustains life.

We inhabit a complex, and sometimes dangerous, machine. Sometimes we don’t have the foresight or knowledge to understand all that could go wrong, such as exposure to hundred-year floods. There’s no possible way to know all that can go wrong, and there’s no way to live a life completely free of risk. Sometimes things just happen.

But when things do happen, we have an opportunity to show God’s love to those who are suffering. We can work to bring order out of chaos. Find a way to help somebody. Grief needs action.

Fabric of Life

June 11, 2018, by Kristin Neva

Eight years ago today our lives became divided into before and after. Before the diagnosis, I took a lot for granted. We had the normal hopes and dreams of any young family with two small children. After the diagnosis, we needed to learn to live with this ever-changing disease.

The months and years continue to get sliced into before and after. Before we moved to Michigan. After Todd stopped working. Before Todd gave up driving. After he got the wheelchair. Before we got the handicap accessible van. Before we needed help at night but didn’t have it. After we began hiring nighttime help so we could sleep again. Before the diagnosis, the world felt safe, predictable. After the diagnosis, the reality of the fragility of life is always forefront in my mind, and with that the sense of amazement that any of us are here at all.

This morning, I pounded out the beginning of another chapter of a novel I’m writing. I took a break to look out the window and saw two sandhill cranes strutting down our gravel driveway. This afternoon, I had the joy of hearing Sara laugh and sing with her piano teacher. This evening, I’ll attend Isaac’s baseball game and pray he hits the ball. Tonight, Todd and I will laugh together as we watch a sitcom.

Moments of before and after, both major and minor woven together, become the fabric of our lives.

PS Thank you to our family and friends who support us financially so we can hire nighttime help. We couldn’t do this without you. If you know of someone who may be interested in our story, let them know Heavy for Kindle is discounted to 99 cents from June 12 through June 19.

The Rules of My Universe

March 26, 2018, by Kristin Neva

Poof, Conflict Resolved?

In maintaining the rules of the world I’ve created with strokes of a pen, I have a better appreciation for why God doesn’t always intervene in our lives.

Different genres of literature are set in various times and places, and it’s important for authors to maintain the rules of their particular universes. In Historic novels, they can’t utilize technology that hadn’t yet been invented. Authors of Fantasy and Science Fiction must describe the limitations of their universes and stick with them, otherwise they won’t be able to effectively create tension or the readers won’t be able to suspend their disbelief.

I write contemporary fiction because I love the real world—but I also hate it. When I drive my kids to school, I glory in the beauty of the sunrise over the Portage Canal, but I despise ALS and the toll it takes on caregivers and people with the disease who don’t have basic needs met.

We’re in a better situation than many, and I appreciate the support from family and friends, but life is still hard as a full-time caregiver for my darling husband, who is now paralyzed. Meanwhile, I battle my own chronic health issues, and I cry out to heaven, “Jesus, won’t you please come back? God, this is too hard. Why won’t you heal Todd? At least heal me so I can better care for him and our kids. Help!”

I pray for a cure for ALS, some medicine that would at least stop the progression. Better yet, I’d love to see divine intervention. A miracle. Poof, ALS gone, and my best friend can walk. We’d go on vacation and build sandcastles on a beach in Florida with the kids.

Alas, those are not the rules of the universe we live in, nor of the universe I’ve created on Copper Island. My characters experience the pain of life, and they’re frustrated when there are no easy answers.

One of the hardest parts of writing is to resolve tension and conflict organically, to let it play out. As I write, I get to know my characters, and they become friends. I want good for them—after all there’s a lot of me and others I love in them. But inevitably, because of the world in which they live, my characters get in situations where they feel like there’s no hope, and as the author, the god of my fictional universe, I don’t even know how they’ll find resolution.

With the stroke of a pen, I could employ deus ex machina, or god from the machine, a literary device used in Greek tragedies. At the dark moment, when all hope is lost, a crane would lower onto the stage an actor playing a god, who would resolve the conflict and conclude the drama. But if I tried this, it wouldn’t feel authentic.

Instead, my characters must grow through whatever tragedy they face. And growth is hard. Just as there are no easy transformations in our real lives, change doesn’t come easily in my fictional world. I write my characters into a corner, and they need to work through the messiness of life.

In my novel Copper Country, I would’ve liked for Aimee to have the kind of relationship she wanted with her dad, but there’s no easy cure for narcissism in real life. I would’ve liked for Russ’s parents to embrace Aimee, but the Saarinens held firmly to the sectarianism of their church. Anything else wouldn’t have felt true to character, true to the universe I created. So instead of these situations getting better, Aimee gets better and perseveres.

When my daughter was eight, I was reading her a story from a Children’s Bible in which Adam and Eve disobeyed God, ate the apple, and sin entered the world.

“It’s all their fault,” she bemoaned, absorbed in the story. And then she remarked, “On the bright side, there wouldn’t be mysteries or exciting movies if they hadn’t sinned.”

There is no story without conflict.

In our story, God subjected all of creation to futility. There’s a cosmic battle between good and evil, and an internal battle within our hearts and minds. We face loss. Tragedy. Broken relationships. Health issues. Internal angst. We struggle with faith in a God who can seem distant and absent. How can a loving, all-powerful God allow his children to suffer?

I can’t answer that question, but when I press hard, it gives way to a different question as I consider my creative pursuit of writing. Could have God created a different world in which we didn’t suffer?

Perhaps God could have written our story in a different genre, with different rules for our universe, but in doing so the world as we know it would cease to exist. We would cease to exist as we are.

My life story takes place in a messy, broken, sorrowful world, but it also contains beauty, joy, glory, and love. But when this story ends and the book is closed, I’ll enter a new world where the rules of the universe contain no evil or suffering. Only love.

 

This article originally appeared on KristinNeva.com.

The Truth About Happiness

March 23, 2018, by Bryan J. Neva, Sr.

Bryan and Todd Neva, Minnesota, 2011

$10 Billion a year! That’s how big the self-improvement industry, and it’s projected to grow by nearly 6% annually. So there are ten billion reasons why that industry doesn’t want you to know the truth about happiness.

If you were to ask others what would make them happy, they’d typically answer with such things as, winning the lottery, buying a car or home, or going on an exotic vacation. These material externalities are fleeting and temporal. Others look for happiness within themselves, going so far as a Tibetan monastery high atop a Himalayan mountain to find it. However, lowering your expectations or denying the reality of life only numbs the pain.

The word itself, happiness, implies circumstantial conditions, like happenstance, or luck. However, joy is so much more important than happiness. And joy is much closer than you might think.

Joy can be found in your heart, words, and actions. A heart for God seeks to obey his commandments for life, the greatest of which are to love God and your neighbor. Put God first, others second, and yourself third.

My younger brother Todd is one of the happiest people I know, and he’s a complete quadriplegic with ALS. He’s mostly confined to his home, but he lives his life in service to others. He helps his wife, Kristin, with her fiction writing and her YouTube channel The ALS411. He volunteers with his church as a webmaster and graphic artist. He speaks and maintains a blog, nevastory.com, on topics of grief and suffering.

I’ve asked him several times how he remains so happy, and he can’t give me an answer. But if you look at his life, he puts God first, others second, and himself third. He strives to live a godly life by obeying his commandments, and he seems to have joy in spite of the circumstances.

Suffering in life is a given. We’ll all must suffer in some way, physically or mentally, at some point in our lives. If we love others, we’ll suffer all the more through our compassion, but can still have joy. Rather than running from our problems, run toward the problems of yourself and others by helping them carry their burdens in some way.

This is not to diminish the need for medical help when needed. If you’re sick, go to a doctor and take your medicine. If you’re depressed or anxious talk with a confidant or mental health provider and take their advice. Depression and anxiety can be due to chemical imbalances in the brain, and thankfully medicines today can relieve some of the symptoms. If you’re struggling with addiction, find a twelve-step program. Don’t suffer in silence. Give others the opportunity to live outside themselves and come alongside you and help you carry your cross.

Suffering, sadness, and happiness are all parts of the human condition. Find joy in all those situations through your heart, words, and actions. We all must suffer in some way. So rather than running from suffering embrace it but do your best to overcome it. You’ll never appreciate the mountains until you’ve traveled through the valleys.

Accepting our sufferings gives us hope and meaning in our lives and ultimately leads to joy and happiness.

This article originally appeared in Profit At Any Price and was reposted here with permission of the author,