Does anyone else out there get frustrated by repeated encounters with “If only”? “If only my wife understood me better, we wouldn’t have to deal with all this tension between us.” “If only my kids were more obedient and well behaved, my home life would be happier and less stressful.” “If only my boss had more reasonable expectations, I would finally be able to get ahead.” If only _________(fill the blank).”
Although circumstance around us often contribute to our struggles, they are typically less important in the greater scheme of things than factors much closer to home. In fact very commonly, our difficulties in life reflect issues or weaknesses that we need to deal with ourselves. Playing the blame game is never an effective solution and just leaves us blinded and stuck. Our growth areas naturally tend to bring out and/or magnify events going on around us. So, these situations can provide valuable clues to what we need to be working on personally. Also, God can and frequently does use what is going on around us as a way to strengthen us. Spiritual exercise if you will.
An exercise analogy can actually be very helpful here. Unused muscles will weaken and waste away. If we want to build strength, we have to stress the muscle with exercise. This signals the body to increase the size, number, and efficiency of the muscle fibers which gives us more power.
We can intentionally do the same thing to our life skills muscles by engaging in activities that stretch us and challenge us. Taking the easy route or playing it safe is not conducive to personal growth. We can also talk with experts or others who have been through what we are going through in order to discover and practice new ways of dealing with life. Implementing these discoveries can and will help to strengthen us. It is also important to choose to have a positive attitude in the midst of our struggles as well. This makes us more moldable and usable as we become part of the solution.
I also believe that God can and does allow us to go through difficulties with the express purpose of targeting our weakness. He doesn’t do this to punish us or take advantage of us, but to make us stronger. Even the things our enemies use to try to hurt us can be used by God for our ultimate good if we let Him.
One last exercise analogy. Muscle building is not just purely a matter of growth and improved efficiency. It also, like many renovation projects, includes a certain amount of demolition. Some muscle fibers sustain damage and even die in order to stimulate the body to repair and rebuild. In the same way, we often need to die to self and cast off weaker parts of ourselves during the process. This allows God to rebuild us and make us stronger. This can be painful and unpleasant, but it is ultimately for our good.
I would love to hear from you! Please take a moment or two to share how spiritual exercise has played out in your journey. And if there is a way I can be praying for you, feel free to let me know. Share in the comments or reach out using the Hope Recovered e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.