When life kicks you in the teeth, should you man up, tear up or wise up?
The answer you give to that question (by your words or by your choices) will say a lot about the options that open up in front of you.
The saddest option is the easiest: throw in the towel and get reduced to tears. Take the path of least resistance. Never take a risk. Never swing for the fences.
It’s ‘safe’, but ‘safe’ in the way that lions in the zoo are ‘safe’.
You get to complain about how other people have done you wrong — richer people, prettier people, more powerful people, people with more connections than you — how they always seem to make decisions that ruin your life.
It’s the easiest of the options, but the one that does the least for you.
Sure you get to absolve yourself from any responsibility for your miserable lot in life (at least in your own mind) but it does nothing to IMPROVE your life. You settle into the role of victim and behave like a kite in the winds of life, trusting your chances to good fortune while knowing good fortune will probably never come.
It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, convincing you to give up before you’ve truly tried. If you are a victim of circumstance, you are not the master of your own destiny.
The two remaining options do not require a belief in your own victimhood.
The second one requires getting tougher in response to the circumstances.
It doesn’t accept failure as an option.
Getting knocked to the mat is nothing more than a chance to regroup for your next attack. There’s always another plan, always another play. Work longer. Fight harder. Train more. Be better than the competition… in whatever it is you’re striving for.
It’s the Nietzschean approach of ‘that which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger’.
That’s better than playing the victim, but it only takes you halfway there. There is no requirement in that formula for self-mastery, for being well rounded, not even for being ‘good’ in any meaningful sense.
All that approach requires is being better than the other guy… at something.
But what good does that success do you if you are a failure as a human being? Just look at all the Hollywood gazillionaires who have more money than sense, but spend half their lives in rehab, or fall for the craziest religious fads going.
King David lived what could be called a successful life. He was a faithful son tending the sheep; a courageous soldier; a loyal citizen; a faithful friend (except for that Bathsheba incident); an artist; and a man God himself said was ‘after his own heart’, despite his many personal failings. The Messiah was forever to be known as ‘The Son Of David’.
What did this same David say about suffering and hardship? After all, he was well-acquainted with it. Davide had to go ‘off the grid’ while on the run from his own government when his king (Saul) became paranoid and tried to kill him. At one point he had to flee the country and fake insanity.
What was DAVID’s take on adversity? It’s nothing you’d find on Christian television where we are supposed to be overcomers all the time, in a life of rainbows and lollipops.
No, David lived in the world as it IS, not as someone on TV might wish it to be. Can you imagine anyone putting THIS quote from the Psalms on a coffee mug or a bumper sticker?
It is good for me that I was afflicted,
that I might learn your statutes.
Not going to be a top seller, is it?
But David is saying something important here, something we might easily miss if we go to quickly past it.
Life’s detours have a way of taking us beyond ourselves, to a point where we need to lean on God. Where God can challenge the things we think we know about ourselves. Where he can clip off the unfruitful parts of our lives; leaving more of our vitality for what actually matters.
That we grow not just in the strength to overcome the obstacles we face — that’s part of it, surely — but more importantly that we grow in mastery of ourselves as well. Our passions. Our weaknesses. Those dumb choices, patterns or habits we like to default to when we get stressed out, discouraged, or otherwise drailed.
The wisdom we need to not only become successful at a career but to win at life itself.
What’s the difference between the two? Ebenezer Scrooge is the difference between the two. The miserable miser had ‘success’ and wouldn’t care what he had to do to achieve it, but he didn’t have wisdom.
Through those sorrows and terrors on Christmas Eve, Ebenezer was confronted with his true nature, and inward bankruptcy, despite all his apparent wealth. Those sorrows and terrors motivated him to a changed life.
Was he just a literary figure? Of course.
But like all great literature, it holds a place in history because of the truth it tells in its story.
The list of real people who have had to hit ‘rock bottom’ of one kind or another to realize who they are, and how deeply they need the wisdom of Almighty God to guide them through life, and a redeemer and savior to wash away their sin is a long one.
Long enough to assure us that his was no mere ‘story’, but a picture of a changed life that many of us have known first hand.
Sometimes the best way forward isn’t just to try harder, but to ’embrace the mace’, and look for key lessons in the middle of our hardship.
It might surprise you what light can be seen in even the darkest of places.
Get Doug Giles’ new book:
Rules For Radical Christians is not a survival devotional designed to help the young Christian adult limp through life. Rather, it is a road-tested, dominion blueprint that will equip the young adult with leadership skills and sufficient motivation to rise to a place of influence in an overtly non-Christian culture. Rules For Radical Christians gives the reader the keys to become strategically equipped to move into an anti-theistic environment and effectively influence it for the glory of God.