CLEF Newsletter - October 2018

“Consider it all joy my brethren when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). “The Everlasting God, the Lord… gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power… those who wait upon the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary” (Isaiah 40:28-31).

Having read through the book of Job in the Old Testament recently I was pointedly reminded of how much man is indeed born unto and toward trouble, “as surely as sparks fly upward…” (Job 5:7). It finds us daily, whether we’re looking for it or not. We’re either stepping into it or getting splattered by it from another. Often it’s an irresistible puddle we just can’t refrain from jumping into, and then we’re left to clean up the mess. We really cannot help ourselves, as it is necessarily a part of our nature. Avoiding trouble becomes more of an art form as we age and mature, becoming (hopefully) wiser and more patient. But sooner or later there we are again, splashing around in it and getting everyone around us soiled as well. Words we wish we could take back, decisions made too hastily or avoiding too long, missed opportunities, playing fast and loose in relationships or role responsibilities, acting out of fear rather than faith, or shrinking in character by enlarging our ego. Or perhaps we’re just simply targeted for trouble through no real fault of our own, a victim of circumstance or mal intent, or faced with a searing loss, serious disease or shattering failure. Life comes at us pretty fast sometimes and we’re hit and thrown to the curb, not quite sure how broken up we are or whether we can recover… or even wish to.

If you live long enough, all of this catches you at some time or another. Much of it we have to admit is a result of our own doing. Stephen Covey (7 Habits of Highly Effective People) states “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” He also says there are three constants in life: change, choice, and principles. We cannot avoid adversity and trouble in life, but we can learn to leverage off of it and use it to grow. The adage that it’s not what happens to you, but how you respond that’s important, is a critical understanding. Yet we are by nature faulted and insecure, and we allow our pride and fears to govern our behavior, valuing ourselves more than those around us that we’re inherently charged to protect and serve. It’s a lose-lose.

We like to think we’re in control of most that affects us; and there is a lot we can do to generate such security. Working hard and making wise decisions about employment, relationships, health and future concerns net a general stasis of peace and relative prosperity, yet there go those sparks again. When we become smug or complacent about our circumstances is when we are vulnerable to the danger signs, and we start to take life for granted in our cocooned routine. That’s when unexpected tragedy, loss or terrifying threat looms large and imposing, and we fall apart because we thought it couldn’t happen to us. Yet adversity, whether self-imposed or circumstantially infused from life’s tea bag of trouble does not have to be life impairing; rather, imbibed within a paradigm of preparation, it adds to our potential.

The point is that though life is inherently troublesome, our place and position in it should not be. We are by God’s grace and design intentionally trained by experience in failure, recovery, reassessment, character growth and a more mature, selfless definition of ourselves, to face off directly with the circumstances we are delt. That may be an interdiction rendered physically, financially, emotionally, spiritually or by all four, but we’re all born unto trouble, yet not to run from it, but to learn by leaning into it. One who, challenged to a fight, becomes concerned about getting hurt is, first, not a warrior, and second, destined to lose the fight. A true warrior trains and factors into every mental scenario both injury and possible death. The goal is not to avoid injury (not being stupid of course), but resolved to neutralize the threat. Translate that into everyday problems and it becomes a way of life. Expect problems, face them, deal with and then grow from them. A victim mentality expects to be attacked and to be taken down by it, and so instead of training and preparing spends time running and avoiding the unavoidable, and predictably falls when confronted with the inevitable. No rational person looks for trouble, but one who is mature and mindful is situationally aware, prepared, and with confidence embraces the grind for the grist that it yields for grace. We emerge the stronger for it.

Life’s change-ups shouldn’t catch us looking. The choices it presents are mastered by sustained principle, not selfish pride that weakens resolve and resilience. Stay in the fight with faith through change, hope in your choices, and love as your principle.

“Do not fear, for I AM with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I AM your God. I will strengthen you, surly I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (41:10).