Tuesday, February 2, 2010


I like it when things are easy. It's true that I don't want a boring life of lazy complacency, but it's nice when the endeavors I undertake work out well. It's wonderful when everything just sort of falls into place, when it seems like it's meant to be. I like feeling capable, and I enjoy making progress. Not all of my projects are so simple, however. Often there are struggles and challenges and setbacks. I don't win every time, and sometimes I have to struggle against difficult deficits.

It can be tempting to just give up when we face setbacks. We might feel that the we've undertaken a bigger task than we can handle or that the difficulties mean that God doesn't support our endeavor. Sometimes those assumptions could be correct, but I don't think they are universally true. A difficult task is not necessarily a lost cause. Sometimes God sets us tasks that challenge the limit of our abilities and endurance. When I work out, I challenge my muscles to work as hard as they can and push myself to the limit so that my base strength will gradually increase. If I didn't challenge myself, I would not grow. From this point of view, setbacks don't have to mean doom—sometimes they are even blessings in disguise.

Consider Moses. God sent Moses to Pharaoh to demand the release of the Israelites. In the beginning, Pharaoh refused. Perhaps Moses wondered if God was really with him or began to doubt whether his supernatural experience had really happened. In the end, Pharaoh's stubbornness only made God's triumph more spectacular, so that all the people throughout the land heard about Moses and the people and what God had done for them. Jesus himself was nearly thrown off a cliff by his own neighbors in Nazareth, but he went on his way and continued his ministry. Later, the apostles were imprisoned and beaten, but they didn't give up. God brought them through these hardships and they continued to preach and teach in the name of Jesus.

Of course, all of our endeavors don't necessarily seem so clear-cut. It's easy to believe that God is with us and will help us when we've received a clear commission directly from Him. But what about our daily lives, as we struggle to do what's right and good in His name? Is God with us then? Will we prevail through the hardships? The general answer is that sometimes we will and sometimes we won't. When we face these struggles, it is vitally important for us to pray for God's will to be done in our lives. If God means for us to succeed, then our prayers open us up to receive His aid. Sometimes our prayers may lead us to the conclusion that God is giving us permission to relent, that He has other work for us to do instead. In times like those, there is no shame in walking away from a failed endeavor so that we can apply our time and talents to other work of God's choosing.

Whether we persevere or taste defeat, God is always with us and He is proud of the efforts we make on His behalf. Our struggles may be difficult, but God will be there to help us succeed when that is His plan or to redirect our efforts when He has something else in mind. Either way, our struggles are worthwhile and appreciated. Each time we face a setback, we have the chance to grow in character into stronger and more resilient Christians. Therefore, we are not forced to view setbacks as failures—we can still profit from them.

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