Grow Strong from the Struggle

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As I raked up the branches scattered across the lawn by the recent storm, my muscles protested.  After about 20 minutes, despite a chilly wind, I was perspiring. Why? My physical frame is not accustomed to that kind of exertion. I am not ‘in shape!’  I could be. In a matter of weeks, were I to start a regimen that made my body work, there would be a response in me. My heart would become more efficient, my muscles stronger.

Stresses of life, things that make us emotionally and spiritually exhausted can serve a similar purpose. It is true. The Psalm says, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.” (Psalm 119:66-68, NIV) Did you catch the meaning there?  He was apathetic towards God, wandering – until adversity brought clarity, new focus, and a renewed desire to grow spiritually

Are you dealing with a challenge to your sense of well-being? It could be a physical need, an emotional struggle, an inner conflict with temptation. It might just be a winter storm (smile!) or being without electricity for days. (Yes, that’s tough for those of us accustomed to the comforts of 21st century life.)  Whatever it is, instead of griping about it, instead of falling into despair, why not choose to use the hardship to grow?

We believe that situations that create stress are our enemies. Think again!  Those who are always indulged, pampered and protected from every struggle, never develop  the resources to live a whole, healthy life.  In much the same way, those Christians who avoid situations that try their faith will never discover the depths of God’s grace.  Those who refuse to sweat cannot compete at the highest levels!

Let me ask you to think about this again. What’s stressing you today?  Share those things with the One who loves you, but instead of begging for an escape, ask for strength to endure!  Let the stress push you to rethink your assumptions about life, to help you to become more self-aware, to lead you to greater faith that take you deeper spiritually.  Hardship can relieve us of our illusions of self-sufficiency and in our weakness we will lean on the Lord and on those we trust to help us along.

If we don’t respond to it in a healthy way, stress can damage our emotions, break our health, or drive us to depression.  IF we remember we have a Resource to whom we can turn, One who will not leave us without hope, our stresses will build great faith and deep character in Christ.

James, the first pastor of the church in Jerusalem, a man who faced intense persecution and internal pressures of a church in conflict, gives us wisdom for the way –  “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” 1:2-3 (The Message)

Paul, the man who served the Lord without reserve, speaks to us from his experience. “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.”  (2 Corinthians 1:8-10. NIV)

Oh, yes, I must be transparent. The losses that have come my way in the last few years, the sorrow of losing my wife, the struggles of life, have not always found me trusting or asking to be strong. Sometimes I cry and complain.  Sometimes I plead for relief! Yet, as I reflect on these stresses, I am thankful that I am led by the Spirit to rely on God and I know that I am made richer – in faith, hope, and love – praise God!

Are you stressed?  Don’t be a Lone Ranger!
Take your cares to the One who cares for you today.  Weep, if you need to. Hold open your heart and invite Him to heal and help. Offer thanksgiving, not necessarily for the hard things, but for His grace to keep you in the middle of the mess.  Repent (turn away) from the things that you choose that are really just avoidance of the real issues. Boldly seek Him, asking Him to show you HIS way instead of just begging for an answer to the question – Why?  Thank Him that He knows exactly what you need, exactly how much you  can take. His goal is to make His beauty shine through you and to lead you to real and eternal life.

Here is the word from the Word – “let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.* Because of the joy* awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people;* then you won’t become weary and give up.” (Hebrews 12: 1-3)

Jesus says, “the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:26-27, NIV)

_________

10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)

The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning.
It’s time to sing Your song again.
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me,
Let me be singing when the evening comes.

You’re rich in love and You’re slow to anger,
Your name is great and Your heart is kind.
For all Your goodness, I will keep on singing,
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul
Worship His holy name.
Sing like never before,
O my soul,
I’ll worship Your holy name.

And on that day when my strength is failing,
The end draws near and my time has come,
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending,
Ten thousand years and then forevermore!

Jonas Myrin | Matt Redman © 2011 Said And Done Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)

SHOUT! Music Publishing (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

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