Let Your Struggles Grow Your Muscles
I don’t like having trials — never have. I don’t think anyone does. You would have to be strange to like to have problems. But there is something that I have realized: you can’t get though life without them. Someone once said, “You are either in a trouble, coming out of a trouble, or about to experience a new one.” This is true. Trying to get rid of problems is like trying to knock the gopher back in the hole at Chuck E. Cheese. About the time you beat one gopher down, two more pop up from different holes.
I thought that I would outgrow them, but that didn’t happen. There seems to be a different set of problems for every age and season of life. I even had an idea that once I grew in my spiritual walk that I might skip over some. That didn’t happen either. The road of life has a lot of potholes and bumps.
The truth is, looking back on my life, my greatest growth has not been in the absence of trials, but in the presence of them. Several weeks ago, I spent six days in the hospital with COVID. I have to say: I really thought I might not get out of that hospital bed.
As a lay in the hospital bed, struggling for each breath, I listened to my wife and youth pastor (via live streaming though my cell phone) speak to the church on choosing joy in the midst of struggles. I am going to be honest here – I really didn’t have a lot of joy. All I could do was think about straining for the next breath and monitoring my oxygen level.
I had no joy. I felt nothing. I didn’t feel the presence of God. I just felt horrible.
But isn’t that how it often is when we are in the middle of problems? When we are going through the tough stuff, we just don’t “feel it” — joy. I am not saying I lost my faith. I trusted God was going to do His perfect will. But I had to allow my faith to override my feelings.
You see, the joy that God gives us is deeper than our feelings and is not based on circumstances. The joy comes from trusting that God is going to use whatever circumstances we are going through to grow us into someone stronger than we were before everything went south.
When I got out of that hospital, I realized that my faith had grown even stronger. I recognized the value of having good friends who checked on me daily. I had a better understanding of the seriousness of COVID on our nation. I realized the value of total dependence on God.
But, most of all, I discovered that my faith had to be dependent on God in the bad days, not just the good days. I had to trust Him when I didn’t feel His presence. I had to trust that He was with me — doing something. I didn’t know what He was doing at the time, but He was working — on me.
Looking back on the experience, I can see that my spiritual muscles have grown. And God showed me I have a lot more growing to do.
So, you may not always feel joy when going through problems, but you can still “count it joy” — that God is using those problems to grow you stronger. Let your struggles build your muscles — your faith muscles.
James 1:2-4 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
Pastor at IGNITE-First Baptist Church of Kennedale