• Thomas A. Wilson

4-T Days and 4-T Nights

Real life is analog; humankind perceives and experiences continuously variable physical quantities. Unlike digital devices, which operate within a system of 1’s and 0’s—tiny switches either on or off—people discern with an almost infinite variety of joy and ecstasy, discomfort and torment.

A quick glance around planet Earth provides ample evidence that the Universe offers an abundant amount of danger and dilemma. This is, undoubtedly, one exciting place! What to do, then, with all the alarming input makes up a big chunk of what it means to be fully alive. Authentic grownups pursuing next-level living are forever enrolled in a lifelong postgraduate program focused on the ramifications of pain and pleasure. They’re getting a doctorate in disaster.

An ancient prophet said, “In the world you will have trouble.” The koine Greek word used to capture His wisdom is thlipsis. Literally, it means pressure. Anyone who has done any real living knows the word intimately—he/she felt it in the middle of his/her chest. Doctors understand that there is a complex biological relationship between stress hormones and the human heart. Pressure produces depression and anxiety (which makes sense to me). Cortisol, a stress hormone, is the messenger that sounds the alarm that it’s time to roll out the metaphorical emergency response team within the body.

And the response team needs to know what kind of scene awaits. In the natural realm, hurricane, forest fire, active shooter, or a mass casualty event all require different resources. So, too, do the internal crises that affect the hearts and minds of people. Pain comes in four different types—4 "t's." Each type demands (and this is important) a nuanced response. They are Test/Training, Trespass, Tragedy, and Tactical Necessity.


Some difficulties flow out of inexperience. Parallel parking, for instance, is enough to make a 15-year-old apoplectic, but seasoned drivers take pride in whipping into the narrowest of spots. A driving test is designed to determine what a driver does not know. And what one does not know has a profound effect on destiny. Privilege demands ability at a minimum standard.

Life is full of tests that expose one’s level of proficiency. And according to researcher and author, Dan Pink, people need mastery in order to thrive. Funny thing about tests, the teacher is usually silent. My extraordinary editor, Barbara Hollace (, introduced me to the following quote:

When you're gong through something difficult and you wonder where God is, remember the teacher is always quiet during the test. Author Unknown

For people of faith, divine silence is disconcerting—it helps to know that the distressing quietude is by design.

The right response to testing is to focus on the demands of the test with a willingness to address areas of exposed lack. The temptation to despair or whine only gets in the way of progress—it interrupts the test. Then, testers must start over. I don’t know about you, but the sooner I get through the test, the better!


An internet meme quotes John Wayne as saying, “Life is hard. It’s harder if you’re stupid.” Pain follows close on the heels of stupid behavior—sometimes, tragically so. In July of 2011, a man took part in a motorcycle rally protesting New York State’s motorcycle helmet laws. Yep, helmetless, he flipped over his handlebars, hit his head—and died. Undoubtedly, the Onondaga man was deeply loved and had the rest of his life ahead of him. Instead, his potential was wasted, and his loved ones were left aggrieved.

The right response to trespass pain is to not trespass again. Repent. Change your mind. Move in another direction. If you don’t, you’ll run right back into the pain. And that’s just crazy. Sin, lawlessness, is insane because the behavior is intrinsically incapable of delivering a satisfied life. Let that sink in. It is intrinsically incapable.


The world is a difficult place; some might even call it broken. Viruses and tsunamis and genetic disorders are just the tiny tip of the pain iceberg that affects us all. Some things just don’t make sense, and they never will. The humanist is left to find peace in knowing that natural selection is just working itself out. Like the evolved Mechas in the final scenes of Steven Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence, the only place to go to is one of kindness, wonder, and melancholy. The person of faith, on the other hand, arrives at almost the same spot. They also, eventually, embrace kindness and wonder, but they cling to something else: hope. For both humanist and believer, kindness and wonder materialize if they continue the journey and do not stop to build dogmatic shrines of self-aggrandizement.

Tactical Necessity

Even good boxers get bruised. Even extraordinary soldiers get wounded. Getting into the mix demands a willingness to get dinged. If you want to play it safe, better keep the game console close at hand. Humans are designed, or evolved, (you pick) for adventure. That’s why virtual questing sucks so much time from those who are not yet on a real adventure of their own. Someone once put it this way, “If you can’t run with the big dogs, go ahead and stay on grandma’s lap.”

Let’s hope she has a nice sweater for those cold autumn mornings.

So, life happens in a myriad of distressing ways. Pain comes via test, trespass, tragedy, and tactical necessity. Respectively, authentic people are called to learn, correct, hope, and fight. My prayer for every one of my readers is that each one finds peace—peace that passes understanding—as they go about the business of really, truly, living. And as they navigate their 4-T days and 4-T nights of pain, I hope they remember that another person endured a challenging 4-T days of testing , too.

From the Book of Matthew, “After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.”


Times of testing can induce fear, despondency, rage, and escapism. Humans are hard-wired to fight, flee, and satisfy themselves when in discomfort. Standing in the pain, then, maintaining control, is intrinsic to resilience. When we take the pain and re-channel it toward a goal, we transform the episode into an asset.

Affirmation of the Week: When I experience painful circumstances, I learn, I correct, I hope, and I fight. And I do so with vigor.

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