Before seminary, before working in church leadership, I was a mathematician. For me, the fun of mathematics was not so much about content, but about how people engage the learning of, what for many, is an extremely difficult discipline. For those, learning math begins with mindset ; actually believing they CAN learn and that difficulties and struggles are not related to their intelligence and worth.
We all encounter obstacles in our relationships, jobs, leadership, and trying to achieve our goals. It is our reaction to these obstacles that determines ultimate success or failure.
This very same principle translates very well to the spiritual life.
When some encounter The Struggle, it sometimes becomes a wall to be retreated from. There can be a cost to an identity based on performance, perfectionism, and results.
But The Struggle is part of growth and change and development. There are two mindsets we should intentionally foster that are contrary to the false self.
Confront The Struggle.
It is essential to remind yourself that struggling needs to be separated from your perceived value.
This is very hard to do in a culture that is based in results and performance. It is that culture that has seeped into and runs amok in our churches, marriages, and decision making.
When The Struggle is intertwined with our identity and sense of significance, backing away becomes a way to preserve a sense of value. This is why in our spiritual lives we fall back to the comfortable and familiar decisions, behaviors, and ways of relating. In this situation, it is not about health or wholeness, but rather about preserving a source of identity that is working for us.
But when setbacks or difficulties are an expected part of the spiritual life, they can be confronted without a perceived loss of value. That allows us to…
Learn from The Struggle.
Times of struggle offer a chance to evaluate.
Our response to obstacles gives clues as to where our identity is rooted; said again, where we are looking for wholeness apart from God.
We can check our expectations, behaviors, and methodologies and determine if they are appropriate.
Is is appropriate to offer repentance, forgiveness, or compassion as part of our struggle.
What needs to be done differently? Or not at all? What values and goals are healthy and consistent with an identity in Christ? Is the struggle part of an attempt to create your own sense of wholeness?
Learning is part of perseverance.
Confronting and learning from The Struggle is what Paul had in mind when he wrote to the Philippians to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you”.
In what area of your life are you experiencing obstacles or struggle?
What is your response to these obstacles or struggles?
I work with followers of Christ to energize discipleship, improve relationships, decrease anxiety and facilitate leadership development. I am a certified coach specializing in pastoral leadership, relationships, discipleship, life transitions, and Christian identity. Also, I am the author of the forthcoming book Discovering Your Root: Developing Your Identity in Christ.
Services I offer are one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking at organizations/churches, workshops on marriage/discipleship/leadership, and church retreats. For more info, click here to contact me.