This is the third and final week of this series. I am excited to be tackling the subject of challenges today. Every single one us is facing a challenge. The other two posts in this series have laid the ground work for us to build on. Our attitudes determine whether or not we will make excuses when we experience challenges.
Vocabulary.com describes challenges like this, “A challenge is something that puts you to the test — like running your first marathon or reading War and Peace.” We can either run from them out of fear or head towards them with peace and some much-needed grit.
I was a pretty compliant child. I kept the peace and wanted everyone to be happy. I am an enneagram 2 (helper) so my whole thing is to help you and for you to like me in return. But I had a bad friend breakup in my early 20’s that made me a little more strong-willed. That whole challenging season taught me A LOT of what to do/not to do. I made a bunch of mistakes but I also learned my value.
I developed this “TELL ME I CAN’T” attitude:
It’s too high on the shelf? Oh no it’s not! I’m 5’2 but I will figure out a way!
I’m too young for that job? Watch me figure it out!
It was a bit obnoxious and prideful in all honesty, but I was coming out of the shadows and learning that I could do hard things. I had to learn that I could stand on my own and get things done. Long story short- I developed grit.
Merriam Webster defines grit as, “firmness of mind or spirit: unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger.” I immediately think of Clint Eastwood when I think of grit.
He is so confident. You just really don’t want to mess with a guy who looks like that!
The Bible is full of stories about overcoming challenges:
- Nehemiah defied the odds and rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in 52 days. They had been destroyed for 150 years and no one else was able to get the job done. Even when their enemy came to stop them, Nehemiah gave the workers a sword for one hand and a hammer for the other. They were instructed to build AND fight simultaneously. Grit.
- My favorite overcoming challenges story in scripture is in Luke 5:17-39. Four friends wanted their paralyzed friend to meet Jesus. The crowd was too big for them to get to Jesus so they lowered their friend down through the roof right in front of Him. This cracks me up on a couple of levels!
- Who owned the house? Were they impressed with this confidence?! They already had tons of people to clean up after who were inside of the house. Now, they had to fix their roof!
- What kind of desperation and love does it take to get on top of a roof with a man who can’t walk? I imagine it’s hard enough to carry a paralyzed man on solid ground. But then to climb up to the roof and carefully lower him all the way down without dropping him… Incredible grit.
- The stories of dealing with challenges are countless:
- Abraham was called the father of many nations while he was still childless.
- David was anointed king and then went right back to the field, tending sheep.
- Deborah was judge and prophetess to her people in a time when women were supposed to be seen and not heard.
- Joseph knew he had greatness inside of him, but was sold into slavery.
- Mary was chosen by God to carry His son and, because of that miracle, almost lost her marriage to Joseph.
Non-Biblical history is rich with stories of people facing challenges head on with grit. Here are a few:
- Albert Einstein didn’t speak until he was four years old. His elementary school teachers thought he would never make anything of himself. He is one of the most intelligent people to have ever lived.
- Benjamin Franklin had to drop out of school at 10 years old. He taught himself by reading. He is one of our country’s founding fathers and invented things we use every single day.
- Thomas Edison failed over and over again inventing the lightbulb. He is famously quoted saying, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
- Van Gough painted over 900 pictures while he was alive, but only sold ONE. Now he is celebrated as one of the greatest artists of all time.
- Steven King’s first novel was rejected 30 times. He was so frustrated that he threw it in the trash. His wife pulled it out and made him finish it. Now he has sold more than 350 million copies of his books.
- Bethany Hamilton, a famous surfer, had her arm bitten off by a shark when she was 13. A month later she was back on her surf board and won first place in the Explorer Women’s Division of the NSSA National Championships.
- Nick Vujicic is probably my favorite overcomer in modern history. He was born with no arms or legs and has- well, just watch this… (Really. It’s worth it!)
What’s the point?
Some of the BEST things that have ever happened were because someone bumped up against a challenge. I think we have this idea that God’s will is supposed to be easy sailing – no struggle, no waiting, no hardship. However, that is simply not Biblical. God uses our struggles to make us more like Him.
Here is what the Bible says about challenges:
“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,” (James 1:2-4 MSG).
“And then, after your brief suffering, the God of all loving grace, who has called you to share in his eternal glory in Christ, will personally and powerfully restore you and make you stronger than ever. Yes, he will set you firmly in place and build you up,” (1 Peter 5:10 TPT).
“So no wonder we don’t give up. For even though our outer person gradually wears out, our inner being is renewed every single day. We view our slight, short-lived troubles in the light of eternity. We see our difficulties as the substance that produces for us an eternal, weighty glory far beyond all comparison, because we don’t focus our attention on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but the unseen realm is eternal,” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 TPT).
“Success is due to our stretching to the challenges of life. Failure comes when we shrink from them,” John C. Maxwell.
God actually ordains challenges in our lives so that we will come out on the other side closer to Him and with less flesh. (I’m not saying that He makes us sick so that we can show His glory. I don’t believe God makes us sick.) But I do think He will slow us down if we are in too big of a hurry. He will take people out of our lives who aren’t good for us. He will give us bosses that make us mad. He alone knows what He is doing in our lives.
The campus we lead is in a weird location with a tiny staff. We could look at what we DON’T have, whine, and compare. But how would that be helpful? We met with our leadership team this week and encouraged them to approach these challenges with grit and gratitude. A poor me/victim mentality is not good for anyone. We are not going to complain about what we do not have. We are going to consider our challenges a privilege and lead well.
When we are facing a challenge I want us to look in three directions:
- The past: Let’s look back at what God has brought us through. God instructed people in the Old Testament to build memorial stones so that they would remember what God did and testify of His faithfulness. When we look back over our lives, we can clearly see that God saved us and protected us, even through hard challenges.
- The present: Let’s look at the challenges that we’re facing with the correct perspective and with grit. Yes, it may look like a mountain right now to us, but God made mountains in an instant with just His voice. He is infinitely bigger and better than anything we are facing. Our attitudes will determine how well we move through the season.
- The future: When we look into our futures, let’s stand on the promises God has spoken to us. Let’s make decisions now with the future in mind.
Challenges are in no way the end of the world. They are, by definition, challenging! But I really believe that creativity can flow when there are no other options. I have made us a worksheet so that we can process through challenges in a healthy way. Let’s go towards our challenges with grit and expect great things.