We all struggle with things and have countless choices in how to deal with these struggles. This can be anything from minor inconveniences to major events in life. I am surprised at how easily I deal with some things, and equally surprised at how poorly I seem to deal with and understand others. We need to understand our fears and needs and emotions and learn where they come from and why we have these reactions to life’s events. We must learn what our strengths and weaknesses are. It’s not always easy to get a clear view of ourselves. And where independence and pride can block our self-awareness, we must turn to God for guidance from His word and godly counsel from the people God puts in our lives.
In my search to conquer some of these challenges, I like to start with a passage from James that I read often, but I continue to struggle with.
"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have it’s perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
So, in other words, the state of patience = lacking nothing. I would love to feel like I ‘lack nothing’. But how often do we really feel that way. We wish for this or that, complain about this or that, or express in many other ways our being discontent. This is not a peaceful life nor is it the one God wants for me so I believe He has provided a way for me to learn how to deal with negativity and tragedy in a healthy way. And I will be stronger each time I follow His guidance and succeed in overcoming my challenges. This doesn’t mean that I have to like everything that has been put in my path, but I do have the ability to get through it and be stronger in the process if I look at it through God’s eyes and see His purpose in it.
Let’s imagine that our emotional response is stress, fear or anxiety. We are to have a respectful and reverential fear or awe of God. But not of the events He allows to happen in our life. Anxiety is to fear or worry about what you think might happen. The cure for fear is experiencing the perfect love of Jesus Christ, which casts out all fear. And don’t forget - you don’t have to face your fears alone.
Hebrews 13:5-6 says, "Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
I remind myself the definition of stress is when we perceive our physical, mental or emotional needs or desires are not going to be met and/or we perceive that demands placed on us exceed our resources or ability to meet those demands. When I look at it this way, I realize that the only way this can happen to me is if I am prioritizing earthly desires and expectations from myself or others above God's expectations. God promises to take care of me and provide for my needs as long as I am putting Him first in my life. So if I think I need something I am not being provided then I must be valuing a lifestyle, appearance, condition or expectation that exceeds what God has provided. This is so humbling to me. Who am I to argue with God, my Creator, or disagree with what He has provided me?
This is one of the ways I become perfected in patience. Because timing is also a part of our expectations and is often the key to overcoming many challenges. We want everything now. We don’t really ever want to go through it so the quicker we get past it the better. But in this way, we cheat ourselves out of the very lesson God is trying to teach us. If we pray for patience, then when we are tested beyond our comfort and confidence level we ask for the challenge to be removed, how will we ever receive or gain that patience? This is what also reminds me to trust God. I probably had a different challenge in mind, one that I felt pretty confident that I could handle, when I prayed for patience. But God had another, a better, more fitting, more valuable challenge for me. If it tests or shakes my confidence then I need to realize that my confidence needs to be in God and all He can do for me and not in myself and my limited abilities. In the end, I have the potential to be a much ‘bigger’ person if I trust Him to provide the lessons in my life that allow me to grow into that ‘bigger’ person. Why would I cheat myself of that? The answer to this is really the key for each of us, and I believe for a lot of people it is fear based. Once we identify and conquer this fear, we will be content and have that “peace that surpasses understanding” Philippians 4:7
It is natural when ‘bad’ things are happening to us that we pray for them to be removed or taken away, but isn’t this actually us being tempted to run away or avoid the very experience or lesson God is trying to teach us? Is impatience actually the temptation we need to overcome? Patience can only be acquired by enduring the very trials that are so overwhelming and uncomfortable that we question our ability to overcome them. That’s why this is a test of our faith.
Never pray for an easier life — pray to be a stronger person!
Never pray for tasks equal to your power — pray for power equal to your tasks.
Then doing your work will be no miracle — you will be the miracle. Phillips Brooks
1 Corinthians 16:13
“Be men of courage, be strong.”
I hope this is encouraging to you. I know when I remind myself of these things, I do feel stronger, more humble, more grateful, more hopeful and more trusting in God that He really does love me and have a purpose for the seemingly inexplicable events in my life.