Hi, Rob here. Last week our son, Jake, fell out of a tree and broke a bone in his foot. As a nearly 7 year old boy you can imagine the disruption this causes to his skateboarding, tree-climbing, running and biking world! He has taken this setback in his stride however. What I’ve noticed is that he has focused more on what he can still do, rather than dwell on what he can’t do. He can still play with Lego, read his books, do his maths games on the computer, hang out with friends and talk our ears off about cars among other things. It would have been easy and somewhat understandable if he had moaned about not being able to run, climb and jump but he got on with what he could do. This means his attitude is positive and his parents are relieved!
But what about us? Life is full of setbacks and obstacles. What do we do with them? What is our attitude? I see two traps that we fall into. The first is the passive response. We simply accept all setbacks as our lot in life. We shrug our shoulders in disappointment and resignation, allowing the message of failure to settle deep inside our soul. We agree that we’re no good at …(name it; relationships, sport, a particular job, academia etc.) while actually making an agreement with the thought that we’re no good. The second response is the refusal to accept any obstacles or limitations. No setbacks will be accepted! The problem is that this attitude, while seemingly positive, isn’t based on reality. Denial can only get you so far. If you deny that anything’s wrong then you spare yourself the rigours of self-reflection, repentance and change, while making the lives of the people around you miserable.
I tend towards the passive response at my worst, but am certainly capable of the pig-headed response too! Biblically we find a good model in Paul. Paul suffered enormously in his life of faith but knew great ecstasy in it also. After describing both hardship and ecstasy in 2 Corinthians 11-12, he tells this story:
Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, ‘My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.’
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size – abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
Paul realised that he didn’t have to be strong in himself, but allow Christ to be strong in him. He asked God for what he wanted but was open to hearing God’s view on it. Being humble on our knees is better than walking tall all high and mighty. Like Jake, Paul accepted his limitations with good cheer and went about what he could do. The key for Paul was that it was all about Christ’s life in him. This is the key for us too. We bring the obstacles to God; we ask our Good Father for what we want; we listen for his voice and wait for his word. But we also have to stand against the enemy who seeks to steal, kill and destroy. We have to break our agreements with failure and rejection in the name of Jesus. Jesus walked closely with the Father and out of that strong relationship, he resisted the enemy and went to the cross. The Father felt absent there but resurrection was to come.
Suffering will come. Guard your heart. Walk with God. Take up your cross and follow Jesus. Resist the enemy and he will flee from you. God’s grace is enough. Suffering comes for a season but life in Christ is forever. Take courage. God Bless.