“God does not give us overcoming life: He gives us life as we overcome. The strain is the strength. If there is no strain, there is no strength. Are you asking God to give you life and liberty and joy? He cannot, unless you will accept the strain. Immediately you face the strain, you will get the strength. Overcome your own timidity and take the step, and God will give you to eat of the tree of life and you will get nourishment. If you spend yourself out physically, you become exhausted; but spend yourself spiritually, and you get more strength. God never gives strength for to-morrow, or for the next hour, but only for the strain of the minute. The temptation is to face difficulties from a common-sense standpoint. The saint is hilarious when he is crushed with difficulties because the thing is so ludicrously impossible to anyone but God.”
I have those words from Oswald Chambers printed out and taped in my journal entry for June 4, 2017. I would like to think that I have mastered that mindset but often I find myself lacking. As far as I can remember in my life I have done what I could to avoid painful situations. Looking back, I can see where my anxiety would control my decision making and anything that looked, appeared or resembled anything like pain I ran. Sometimes that would mean running from tough conversations that I needed to have about my life. Instead of facing the truth which involves pain I would avoid, hoping that by suppressing the pain it would eliminate it.
What I discovered instead is that when you avoid the pain it doesn’t eliminate it—it intensifies it.
There are many reasons people get into addiction but one of the things I think that drives it is the desire to suppress or numb the pain. It all makes sense. If presented an option to have an easy way out then most people, myself included, will take the easy way. Over the past couple of years my mindset has slowly started changing about pain, disappointment and the struggle. The nature of my job as an insurance agent confronts me with the inevitability of disappointment. I hear the word “no” more times than I hear the word “yes” and then even when I do hear the word “yes” then sometimes people go back and say “no.” As I have plowed through disappointment and reflecting on some success I have learned one valuable lesson that reminded me of the Oswald Chambers post: there is strength in the strain. Chambers said, “If there is no strain, there is no strength.”
You want to get better at something? You must struggle.
You want to win? You must lose.
You want to succeed? You must fail.
You want to become strong? You must understand your weaknesses.
You want to become smarter? You must learn more.
Life is hard enough as it is and the more we suppress difficult things paradoxically the more difficult things get. Please understand that I am not advocating we seek out pain in some weird manner to prove a point. Pain, difficulties and tough things have a way of presenting themselves to you. It’s not a matter of if but when. I have prayed so long for God to take pain and difficulties away but maybe, just maybe, the only way to the path of following God is through the path of pain.
Maybe that’s why Paul said, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” Perhaps when difficult things occur that is the time we need to be most cognizant of our surroundings to ask, “What can I learn from this difficult time?” Our gut reaction is “flight” but I think it is time we fight. There are so many people who are struggling with loss, disease, brokenness, financial ruin and other difficulties. I try to keep perspective when something “tough” happens to me knowing that it could be better but my gosh, it could be worse.
I was listening to a podcast on my way to work this morning and it said, “If you had six seconds to live what would go through your mind? Would it be regrets? Would it be disappointments?”
I paused for a long time to think about it and my genuine response would be this: GRATITUDE.
I have had a really good life. Thinking about that I felt a weight of responsibility on me because I have had such a good life. I heard myself thinking out loud: “Because life has been good for you, you need to give life back to people. Robbie, that starts with you working hard, loving hard and taking ownership.”
I believe that.
There is strength in the strain.