This episode is about what we need to do when we’re hit with heartbreaking events, when we’re struck with crisis that leave us feeling like we’ve lost our purpose. They make us feel like we’re stuck in grieving. Dr. Jody Ray, the author of Pivot, talks about how he was able to successfully pivot when he went through some of the hardest things he’d gone through in his life.
We also talk about what it’s like to go through these dark seasons of our life where we’re struggling with depression or anxiety and what we need to do to help ourselves successfully get out. If you’re going through life struggle right now that seems like a dark and never ending valley, this is the episode you want to listen to.
Jody Ray: One day I hear the words I want a divorce…it really turned me for a loop. It was that moment, that season in my life that really caused me to start doing some soul searching.
I started questioning, “Is this what I’m supposed to be doing in my life? Is this where I’m supposed to be?” Questioning everything.
You know, they always say that crisis brings clarity, and that crisis helped me to start a journey to really develop some clarity in my life.
Who I was, the direction that I wanted to go, and where God was calling me to go more than anything. That was a huge moment, and it was a dark season for a time just not knowing and having to deal with some of the questions that I was asking myself. Through the advice of some friends and some close mentors, I really took some time to think through what am I supposed to be doing, where am I called to be.
This was in a time where financially and where I was and where our company’s going, it was like boom time. I mean, it was great. I was one of those people that I sort of planned out, this is where I want my life to be when I’m 30 and 35…
So I had calculated it that hey, at 42 years old, 45 at the latest, I’m retiring. I have the money that I need to go do all the things that I want to do, this life plan that I was on, this trajectory that I was working towards.
“I was checking the boxes.”
Every goal, I was making it. So I was pumped up and my ego was pretty pumped up too, which ended up being a huge negative. When all this happened, I just reevaluated every part of my life and made a decision to just quit my job.
I was at a meeting in the Bahamas at a place called Paradise Island with many colleagues and people in my industry at a convention. I’m sitting there and I’m having this conversation, speaking to this group of people, and in the back of my mind, I’m having this other conversation where I’m going, “This is not what I’m supposed to be doing with my life.”
I left that event and really went back up to my room in this very expensive hotel and got down on my knees beside my bed and just said, “You know, Lord, I don’t know what to do, but I’m going to quit following Jody’s plan and I’m going to follow your plan. For what, where I’m to go from here is all about the direction you’d have me to go.”
That ultimately led me to quit my job, go to seminary, and started on this journey of becoming a pastor.
Real big shift, life change and the great thing I would say is that I’m glad that god doesn’t tell us what tomorrow and the next day is going to bring because having known, if god would have said hey, this is all that’s going to happen in your life or this next few years. Shoot, I don’t know what I would have done. I think I’d have been too scared.
Hitting Rock Bottom
Charlie Hoehn: So many people just don’t talk about how dark it can really get. Can you share what that was like?
Jody Ray: Yeah, for me, I was this guy who really thought that I knew exactly what I wanted to do, I thought I had everything together. I really did, I thought I had it all together. When your foundation of who you think you are and the direction you think your life’s going and you’ve kind of developed this picture of what that’s going to look like—what you think is this real strong foundation and then when that foundation breaks and all of a sudden, you’re left in a season of where wow, none of that was really as important as I thought it was, or all these plans that I made….
Because I’m a person who really wanted to know and I’ve had plans and all of this was very important in my life—to have that foundation break, it was if something in me broke.
There was some depression there and anxiety and worry.
“It was really over.”
I’d been working so long and investing so much into this little life I had, and now none of that really meant anything. So it was a real tough time. There were times where I didn’t want to be around people.
I just kind of isolated myself. I went to work, went to the gym, and did some of those things. It was kind of a dark time.
It wasn’t dark in the sense that I was going to do something wrong. It was just really a self-evaluation. There were some other things that in my past that I hadn’t probably dealt with, and so it made all of that come to a head at once. It was pretty tough.
Reconnecting with a Plan
Charlie Hoehn: How did you figure out what God’s plan was for you?
Jody Ray: I came from a very strong Christian home. My dad was a pastor, and when I was 16 years old, I really felt that God was kind of calling me into the ministry. I don’t know how to describe that at the foundation or base level, other than to say, if you’ve ever had this desire in your heart that you can’t really—it’s hard to describe those desires. I had this desire, somewhere in my heart I was supposed to do to be a minister or a pastor, shepherd people.
I didn’t want to really do that, so I just began to go Jody’s way. For the next 15 years or so, I was just doing what I wanted to do and what I thought would make me happy and what I thought would make me successful and all that.
Then, when that crisis moment came, it was like wow, here’s this thing again. It’s popping up in my life and I feel that sense of call that I had felt several times, even when I was a banker.
So as I began to lean into that, there were some people who just started sort of entered into my life during this particular season.
Business people or people who had strong faith, and they just begin to invest in me and as that process was happening. It just became very clear that I was supposed to take this big step in a completely new and different direction.
Looking Beyond the Hurt
Charlie Hoehn: How can we embrace these moments when they’re so world changing and often terrifying? How do we lean in and actually embrace them?
Jody Ray: One of the things that I believe with all my heart is that we all have moments, we have great moments we remember—things like getting married, having our first child, graduating from college, writing a book and getting that book published, those are all these great moments we celebrate and are exciting.
We also have this other series of moments. Part of human existence is we’re going to feel the experience, full gamut. We have moments of divorce or death of a loved one or a loss of a job or whatever series of events that we have. What I see is embedded in those hard moments are great opportunities, and they’re great opportunities for transformation to take place. It’s something that we learned in the business world, that there is always an opportunity in the midst of a problem that we face or a struggle within our company, our organization, or a failure.
“There’s an opportunity there.”
You’re taught in the business world to begin to look for those opportunities. It’s the same thing that happens in our lives. So when we get into these places, it’s the most difficult thing that we can do, which is why I wrote the book. To begin to say, all right, I’m in this tough time, there’s been a crisis moment or a difficult moment or life changing moment that’s taking place.
So the book is all about helping—when we get in a tough moment, we focus on “This is bad. What am I going to do? My life’s over.” We focus on those kind of things. If we can begin to shift our thinking—and that’s not to demean the pain or anything like that—but we begin to say, “Okay, what can I learn from this? What do I need to own in this season that I’m in? What do I need to own and how I got here, and where do I want to be on the other side of this?”
“What’s this new path where is God calling?”
When we can begin to think through all of those pieces—when I begin to take ownership for my part in a problem, and then when I can begin to think beyond the present situation—that’s when pivot moments are created.
When you look at some of the people who have done great things in their lives, people who have accomplished great things, many of them can trace that great accomplishment or that great new trajectory or path that they were on to a moment that they entered a crisis that they had or a problem that they came into or a difficult time or season. It was from there that they were able to see clearly this new path.
That’s how I believe it works. I think embedded in every problem we face, sometimes I would even say that the bigger and the more difficult the season or the moment, the greater the opportunity is for that person or individual on the other side.
Charlie Hoehn: Man, I could have used this conversation in your book when I was 15 years old, almost 17 years ago. My aunt Karen, she was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS. There is nothing harder than watching somebody you loved basically be tortured and suffer by her own decaying body. I remember a woman in the hospital room when I was watching her die said, “Well, this is all part of God’s plan.” Instead of ignoring maybe that comment, it really planted a seed of anger for me. I ran away from God for a long time because of that moment, because of that crisis. I’m really glad that you wrote this book because people who are going through that, they don’t often have people around them supporting them in an understanding way.
Jody Ray: Yeah, I hate when people say things like that person said to you. There are very few things that can get me or make me as mad as when I hear that. Because one, it’s a really bad sell of who God is. It’s a poor description that God has orchestrated every event of our lives—that it was his plan that my mom die from brain cancer when she was 44 years old or your aunt passing away—that all those were orchestrated.
I believe the scripture will tell this is that we are human beings and we live in a world that’s fallen where bad things happen to good people. But our faith leads us to a place called eternity, which is so awesome.
What I would say, again, this is in my book, is that God doesn’t cause bad things to happen to us but God can use some of the deepest, darkest, most painful moments in our lives. He can use those moments for his glory and our good.
“He can propel us into understanding more about who he is.”
I have this incredible compassion and love for people because of what I experienced, so my greatest desire and the reason that I wrote the book is that I want to help people who have faced or are facing or have a friend or a loved one or colleague or anybody like that who is experiencing a moment like you talked about or that I have talked about or any array of other difficult moments.
Just say, “Hey, this isn’t all there is.”
Even if you caused the moment, even if your dark season or moment is a mistake, one of the things that I say in the book is that mistakes are events and they’re not people.
Iif we can realize that, and that God didn’t throw us away then say, “Hey Charlie, you made this big mistake. You are no good to me anymore. You are done. I don’t have anything to do with you” wipe my hands, go a different direction.
Those are the moments where He embraces us the most.
His love is so incredibly big that it can encompass any of the mistakes we made, and he invites us in and then says, “Hey I got something more for you to do.” That’s what it’s all about to me and what the book is about.
What It Is to Pivot
Charlie Hoehn: I know your book hasn’t been out long at the time of this recording but have you been able to share your wisdom with others and see them go through these transformations a little bit smoother?
Jody Ray: Absolutely. There are a number of stories, I have lots of stories in times where I have helped people or seen people work through their seasons. I’ve highlighted a number throughout the book, of people whether it was from an addiction or whether it was a job failure or whether it was from divorce or whatever that they’ve gone through…where they have these moments in which they came to the brink of crashing and burning themselves, or hitting rock bottom and begin to look for, “Where do I go from here? What do I do?”
I think the pivot moments of our lives can be the most profound, incredible moments that we’ll ever experience.
What I mean by that is I don’t want to experience the death of a loved one again. I don’t want to experience a divorce or a financial crisis. Those are events that I don’t ever want to deal with again, but those are the moments in which the greatest change can take place in us.
“The greatest pivots can take place in us, and we’ll look back one day and celebrate.”
It is crazy to say that we can celebrate a hard moment, a dark season or a heartbreaking moment. But we can. It is a weird celebration. I get that. But I can go, “Gosh, if it hadn’t been for this, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and although I don’t want to go back there, I am thankful for having walked through that.”
Moments are like seasons of the year. They have a start date and they have an end date. Winter is a season. It has a start date and spring comes. Life is like that. Life is a whole connection of seasons and moments.
So when you are in that dark place or you are in that difficult place, always recognize, “Yeah this is dark and this is hard right now and this is ugly and I am in a lot of pain,” but you are going to walk through it.
One of the 23rd Psalm where David is talking about walking through the valley of the shadow of death he said, “I will fear no evil for You are with me.” What I love about that is he said, “When I walk through it.” He didn’t say, “I’m going to stay there” he didn’t say that this is the end. He didn’t say that I am trapped. He said, “I’m going to walk through it.”
I think and believe that when we enter those moments—and we’re going to have times where we’re going to have heartbreak. We are going to have times when there’s going to be some grieving. There’s going to be times where there will be tears, all of those pieces are going to be a part of it. But we are always moving forward. We are always dealing with and processing grief and pain in the right way, but we are always moving forward to the other side.
When that season, that winter season ends and the spring comes out and the flowers began to grow and life begins to change, we can come out on the other side stronger and healthier and have a real clear vision for our future if we use those moments correctly.
Connect With Jody Ray
Charlie Hoehn: I want to wrap up this episode with a couple final questions. The first one is what is the best way for our listeners to follow you and potentially get in touch with you?
Jody Ray: Well, social media is always a great way, whether that be Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, those are always ways to connect with me. I’d love to have the listeners do that.
If you go to our church’s website, which is mtbethel.org, and there’s all kinds of ways to connect with me personally via email or whatever right there, and I am very accessible and love the opportunity to speak and talk with people.
There are also videos there and talks that I have given and things like that that they can view as well. Those are all great ways to connect with me.
Charlie Hoehn: Excellent and the final question I have for you is to give our listeners a challenge. What is the one thing they can do this week from your book that will have a positive impact?
Jody Ray: The one thing that they can do is when you find yourself in tough times or difficult seasons, our human nature is for us to retreat and pull away from people and that is the worst thing that you can do. It’s in these times where you need to force yourself to pick up your phone and call your friend. To be with the people that you love or to connect with a community.
I think it is a great time, if you are in a college, to connect to a collage ministry. Or maybe there’s a local congregation.
Instead of pulling away, resist that desire, which is very natural, to escape or to pull away from people. Really force yourself to connect. Because as humans, we are created for connection. Sometimes, or often times, when we are in a tough time we don’t want it. It is exactly what we need. It is like when you have a cold or something and you’re a kid and your mom was trying to stick that terrible tasting medicine down your throat.
You didn’t want to do it, you don’t want to do it, but it was the key to you getting better. That is the one thing that I would tell our listeners and your listeners to do right now—if they are in that place, just to connect with people. Connect with your friends, connect with your family or find a really good strong community to be a part of and connect with those.
Connect With Your Community
Charlie Hoehn: I want to ask because people who are going through a dark season in their life tend to hear that and say, “Yeah, I know that already,” I’m going to push you to be even more tactical than saying reach out to your friends and family—what do they say?
Jody Ray: One of the things that I tell people is that it’s okay to not be okay. When I am connecting with my friends or family or this community I am talking about, it is okay to talk about that.
So if I am texting a friend of mine I am going, “Look I’m in a bad place” or “I am just really struggling right now. Is there any chance for us to grab some lunch or dinner?” or something like that.
If you have those kind of connections or people who are friends of yours, maybe you know somebody who’s connected to a community, a church community. You just say, “Hey, I’d like to go with you” or “Help me get connected in some way.” I think those are some of the ways that you can do that.
“It is so vitally important to connect and to not retreat from our relationships.”
Charlie Hoehn: Agreed wholeheartedly—and if you don’t mind, I want to add to this because this is something that is near and dear to me as well. I think it also matters who you reach out to. Reach out to somebody who will just listen and not judge you and won’t try to save you.
Jody Ray: That’s right.
Charlie Hoehn: The pain that we go through can help us transform into our greatest next phase in our life, but if you try and have someone save you, they will take that gift from you.
Jody Ray: That’s right, and for that person who for example may not have people that they love to hang out with but they may not have that person, I am real big on counseling and coaching. It is a part of my personal health, part of my life to this day, something I always stay connected to. These are people who listen to me but also—they’ll listen for a season, but there’s that time where they may help. Sometimes the way we look at a crisis or we look at a situation because we’re right in the middle of it, we don’t see it as clearly as those people around us who we can trust at some point can help us to visualize and to see clearly where we are and can help our thinking be healthy.
There’s a healthy way to grieve, and there’s an unhealthy way to grieve. There is a healthy way to process what you’re going through, and there are unhealthy ways. You really need people, whether that be a professional or people who you’re close to help you navigate that.
Charlie Hoehn: Absolutely, totally. Doing it the unhealthy way can leave you in that state indefinitely.
Jody Ray: It absolutely can. A lot of times, what we see in society today…we try to medicate the pain that we feel, and we do that through relationships, we do that through sexual things, we do that through substance abuse, and those are all the wrong ways.
Those only create more issues.
So if you can process grief and the difficulties that you’re going through in healthy ways, it makes that season shorter for you.