How to experience joy in adversity

I just wrote this to a woman I’m coaching and thought you might benefit from hearing it too.

She’s been dealing with severe chronic pain for over 10 years and all indications are that she’ll deal with it the rest of her life.

Yet she is committed to somehow living a truly amazing life despite that.

And first, I must say it is an absolute honor and privilege for me to be in the company of others who are committed to living joyfully regardless of their circumstances.

Now here are some of my thoughts in response to her acknowledgment of the immense challenge it can be to see the amazing in life while going through pain:


First of all, I commend you for not giving up, and still desiring to live an amazing life despite your pain.

Probably most of us cannot fully appreciate or understand the challenge you face.

I can relate to a degree, having experienced torturous chronic pain for about 4 months. But I think Viktor Frankl probably has an even more relatable experience for you.

If you haven’t read it lately (or ever), I highly recommend reading Man’s Search For Meaning.

It’s an extremely powerful book on how to live well even under the most bleak circumstances (he survived years in nazi concentration camps).

He makes a compelling case on how to discover and choose the most helpful meaning in our circumstances.

And since you are committed to living a Truly Amazing Life despite your circumstances, I think it’s pretty important to make sure you’re clear on what it means to you to live a truly amazing life.

And that your definition is attainable.

It’s easy to let outside circumstances slip into our definition of a Truly Amazing Life.

Many people seem to think living a Truly Amazing Life requires money, material things, or being healthy and pain-free.

Victor Frankl among others have proven otherwise.

Living a Truly Amazing Life is an internal matter of the heart and mind.

Those dealing with chronic physical or mental pain & illness probably have the biggest challenge of anyone though.

But I submit that they also have the greatest potential joy to experience.

Here’s an analogy I like:

The deeper the valley that sorrow and pain carve into your soul, the greater is that valley’s capacity to hold the living waters of joy.

A deep gorge dammed up holds a lot more water than a shallow stream bed.

Pain and challenges carve those deep gorges in your soul over time, and your capacity for even greater joy is increased.

When you are able to view pain as the great blessing it is, carving the path to more indescribable potential joy than you can even imagine, it changes your experience of life.

It’s not easy to keep viewing pain as a blessing though, obviously.

But since when did the greatest things come the easiest?

Answer: since never.

But here’s the truth, visible from the highest perspective:

It is a great honor and privilege to be given the experience of intense pain and challenge.

Because pain and challenge forge greatness and produce the deepest humility, compassion, mercy, and capacity to love purely.

And those are the things that produce joy and make life amazing.

All of us have different paths.

Certainly none of us wants to be in pain if we can avoid it.

But for those of us who find ourselves in the path of pain, whether temporary or chronic, it’s a marvelous thing to realize there is even greater hope and joy to be found because of that pain.

And sometimes even in the midst of it.

When I was in the depths of pain a few years back I failed quite often at viewing my challenges as a gift. Often the pain and mental challenge was simply overwhelming.

But every time I was able to come back to gratitude for the pain, it brought peace and joy.

And sometimes euphoric joy beyond description.

Sometimes my tears of despair and anguish were converted to tears of overwhleming joy, even in the midst of deep physical pain.

To me, striving for and experiencing joy makes life truly amazing.

And it is absolutely possible to experience peace and joy even in the midst pain. But it all depends upon the meaning we choose to give our experiences.

When it hurts, when you’re down, when you’re most discouraged, what if your thought was, …

“Something amazing is coming from this.”?

How would that change your experience?

Only one way to find out!

I don’t know when, or how. It may not even be until after we die in many cases.

But I truly believe what Napoleon Hill said, that “every adversity carries the seed of an equivalent advantage.”

And choosing to believe that opens worlds of possibilities to the mind that were hidden before.


Hope you’re well!

Make today amazing!



  1. Linda Reply

    Aaron, I have read this from my e-mail feed, like a dozen times.
    Part of me wants to scream back that you don’t know what you are talking about…how easy your answers are to say.
    But, you admit that.
    Then I look at the alternative, to live a very small, bitter, painful life. The pain is there either way. I do have some control over some of it.. I can avoid any and all activities that increase the pain. Going to dinner, vacuuming, sewing, playing with my dog, etc. Life.
    I can spend life curled in bed avoiding life, but even then the pain is with me. If I focus on the pain, I give my life over to pain.

    I remember so many years ago, when my 5 year old daughter died. She had congenital heart problems and we knew we would lose her close to that age from the time she was born. I did not waste a moment of her sweet life focused on her death, and I chose, when she died, to not become bitter and angry and damaged, but better. I loved her so deep knowing she was here for such a short time. Great pain, great joy.
    Your coaching is helping me reevaluate my response to the pain.
    I’m reminded of the verse…In ALL things give thanks.

    Your words are not just words, they are a map,
    to be continued….

    • Aaron Kennard Reply

      Thank you for that response Linda! For speaking the whole truth. I feel what you said so deeply. When my body was being tortured daily years ago I wanted so badly to scream and rip my truly amazing life poster off the wall. Not believe any of it. But I couldn’t deny it was true – and like you just said so eloquently – there’s only one truly good alternative – faithfully continuing and putting in the work to find joy and meaning in the journey.
      I’m grateful to you. Your courage and strength are so uplifting to me. See those gifts your mom unwittingly gave you blessing lives? ❤️

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