How often have you heard the phrase “trouble is your best friend”? No matter how often I hear that phrase; there is something within me that rebels to the very core of my being. Who in his right mind would welcome difficulty?
Whether we like it or not, there is perceived value in struggle. If you are a salesman you must hear an overwhelming number of “no’s” before you get to the “yes’s”. A baseball player endures more failure than successes at the plate. As a matter of fact, an all-star baseball player fails getting on base 70% of the time. I have read where Thomas Edison failed over one thousand times before he successfully invented the light bulb.
Life is about successfully dealing with failure. It’s about getting up off the ground, dusting yourself off and getting back to the task. It sometimes means you do those things you don’t naturally enjoy doing. I read a quote by Success Magazine’s editor Daren Hardy. He said, “If there is a job related task you really don’t want to do, it’s probably the very thing that you should be doing. “
Properly applying lessons learned from failure is a key element to our success. That is true in our day to day challenges, but it is especially true if we want consistent growth in our Christian life.
I have a hunch that most believers think the primary struggle in the Christian life is learning to overcome the devil. But the real battle is surrendering our life to Christ’s control. The ultimate goal is to allow Jesus to live His life through us.
Listed below are four areas of personal struggle that leads us to personal growth. Successfully navigating these four areas of conflict allows us to let go of our “self-effort” mentality and live a more Christ-centered life.
Opposition – Grace can only be experienced when we encounter opposition. How do you respond when someone says something critical or unkind? Or as we like to say in the South, how do you respond when someone “smarts off to you?” Are you reactive, and let them have it, or do you draw on God’s grace in those moments of conflict? Roy Hession writes:
“Every person who crosses us, every person who discourages us is God’s way of breaking us. It creates a deeper channel in us for the life of Christ. The only life that pleases God is His life, never our life. Our self-centered life is the exact opposite of His. We can never be filled with His life unless we are prepared for God to bring our life constantly to death.”
Conflict is God’s way of revealing our flesh. When backed in a corner, what’s inside will come to the surface.
Forgiveness – In order for us to practice forgiveness there must first be hurt or betrayal. Even though God does not create conflict, He allows it in our life to learn the grace of forgiveness. Without practicing the continual act of forgiveness we can never experience the depths of Jesus Christ. Biblical forgiveness says, “I forgive you and release you from the debt of ever making it right with me. “
Hurt – We can never know healing until we have been hurt. The deeper the personal hurt, the deeper the healing. God’s touch goes deeper than the forgiveness of the offender; it creates a healing in us that can only happen when hurt is present. When God allows us to experience deep hurt, He is preparing to do a work deep within us that will result in a new level of intimacy with Him.
Weakness – The opposite of strength is weakness. Weakness must be present in order for us to realize that in and of ourselves we have no strength. As the Scripture says, “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10) When we live out of our weakness we have an unseen strength that allows us to do “all things through Christ that strengthens us.“ (Philippians 4:13)
Weakness does not mean that we are weak and impotent people, it means we are willing to lay down our self-strength for Christ’s strength. I like to describe this kind of strength as “an iron fist wrapped in a velvet glove.”
The Bottom line
Yes indeed, trouble is your best friend. Trouble properly received allows us to practice God’s grace and eventually come to the place that nothing or no one can offend us. Trouble allows us to forgive our offenders and keep the debt account at zero. Trouble gives God the opportunity to go deep in the healing process when we are hurt or betrayed. And then the Lord caps off the process by giving us the opportunity to trade in our weakness for His strength.
God in His mercy allows us to go through trouble, and when we do, we are never alone. He is always walking through the process with us. He lovingly endures the suffering with us in order that we might have a greater capacity for His life. During this process we realize that Christ in us makes us complete. He is truly all we need.