Warrior or Wimp?
“Adversity is an obstacle in the pathway of the weak, and a stepping stone on the journey of the strong minded!” (Tim Hartung, wrestling coach—see part 2)
We choose our journey.
We choose our perspective.
Obstacle or stepping stone?
I wonder if this is what James had in mind when he penned, Dear Brothers and Sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (1:2-4, NLT emphasis mine)
What!?! Isn’t adversity supposed to evil?
According to James, no.
I confess I’ve been struggling to choose a positive attitude lately—okay, more like all month.
But do you want to hear something interesting?
At the beginning of the month, I prayerfully planned out various topics to write about this quarter. And God pushed me to include a series on attitude at the beginning, after goal setting. (See I Resolve To part 1, part 2, and part 3) Little did I know this series was going to be more for me than for you.
And as I complained to God about my grueling situations He led me to read James’s words in various translations. All blessed me and encouraged me. But it was the Message’s rendition of these verses that the Spirit used to clobber me over the head with The Holy 2×4:
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.
Read that again if you need to, I’ll wait.
Yeah, there it is. You feel that ache on the side of your head? That’s from the Holy 2×4 the Spirit just swatted you with. Mine has quite the goose egg to go with it.
I’ve had bouts of crabbiness, where my attitude has had the power to fling my witchiness to the other side of the alphabet. Unholy words have flown out of my mouth. And I’ve wallowed in self-pity. In other words, I’ve failed—big time.
I’m in a season where tests and challenges are coming at me from all sides and have been for a while. None of these tests and challenges are “big” things like terminal illness/disease, trauma, loss of a loved one, etc.
Many of you are thinking; I’m right there with you, Sister. Pour the coffee.
Individually, I would just roll with any of these, or a small combo of them, and not worry about it. But they’re coming at me from every angle all at once—and multiplying. I desperately want to quit at times, but know I would regret it.
Then I read Hartung’s words to his wrestlers: “You should be looking forward to every day—its challenges and opportunities. You should be anxious to get the opportunity to take each test thrown your way…all the sweat, pain, tears, grit, time, energy, effort, early mornings, calorie maintenance, sprints, long practices, etc. are for test time—for seizing opportunities. This is where it all pays off…” (T.H., emphasis mine)
So now that I have a matching goose egg on the other side of my head, what are you thinking?
You used to think your time in Bible study, prayer, listening to great teachers, memorizing Scripture, serving at church, etc. was all you needed to prepare for battle. But that’s not true, is it? I also give you life-tests to bring your faith-life into the open. I expose your true colors. I don’t do this to shame you, but to help you see where you need to work and mature. To expose your weaknesses before Satan uses them against you. To develop your endurance for future things you cannot see. To deepen your reliance on Me alone. To eliminate any deficiencies. To give you a heart and mind like Mine. So stop asking for deliverance. This is from me—let me finish my work. Remember, Baby, the only way to sharpen a sword is through adversity, to grind it down—to remove all the nicks, damage, and imperfections. But once they’re gone, the edge is sharp. Ready for battle.
I responded the only way I could: confession and repentance. I dedicated myself to seeing the test through to the end. To passing it well, with Jesus by my side. I asked for His strength and endurance. And I CHOSE to change my attitude. I CHOSE to be strong-minded. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still fatigued, weary. But I am CHOOSING to TRUST GOD and His provision in this.
Beloved, adversity can either destroy us or make us stronger—the choice is ours. If we focus on Jesus and are strong-minded, it makes us stronger, refines our faith, and offers us a chance to grow. It gives us an occasion to identify our weaknesses; see what skills or techniques need refining; and provides an idea of what we need to work on and surrender to be more like Christ.
“Life can get long sometimes, filled with adversity and grueling situations, but that is what makes WARRIORS rise to the top.” (T.H.)
I love Hartung’s use of the word WARRIOR! How many times does Scripture describe us as warriors, Soldiers of The Cross?
Soldiers Have Nuts, Guts, Heart, and Mind. They’re eager to step out in faith when called. They’re prepared to take a strategic risk to be successful. They “dig down deep and suck it up and succeed when it gets hard.” (T.H.) They go the distance and strive to achieve victory, trusting the Lord to guide them. They seek God’s wisdom and employ it. They keep their mind sharp and focused with His Word. They focus on defeating their opponent rather than the desire to give up. A soldier pushes himself/herself physically and mentally.
Paul implores us to put on The Armor of God so we will be able to stand against Satan’s schemes (Ephesians 6:11-17). And David encourages us to:
Praise the Lord, who is my rock.
He trains my hands for war
and gives my fingers skill for battle.
Psalms 144:1, NLT
Why would God need to train our hands for adversity, challenges, grueling situations, arduous circumstances—for battle? Because He knows that’s our reality in this world (Luke 6:22; John 15:20, 16:33). Sometimes He allows hardships, harassment, discrimination, slander, etc. to happen in our lives to build our character. To thicken our skin. To keep us from being easily offended. To make us tougher. To make us like Christ.
Much like the strenuous workouts the wrestling team endures to prepare for the taxing nature of competition, God uses adversity to prepare us for something more significant. The wrestling workouts are formulated to condition these young men and women to increase in strength, flexibility, power, endurance, AND mental toughness.
All things we as Christians need to incorporate into our lives, wouldn’t you agree?
Keep in mind, Beloved; God is more interested in developing our maturity, deepening our character, and solidifying our integrity than he is about our comfort and ease. He would rather eliminate our deficiencies than spare us pain.
When you face adversity and grueling situations, ask God for wisdom to help you determine if this is a situation to be resolved or a test to battle through. If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. (James 1:5-6)
(Next time I will share Tyler’s story and how his life, learning how to wrestle, and love for Jesus have become intricately intertwined. And how an attitude adjustment changed him as a young man, as a wrestler, and as a follower of Jesus.)