The Struggle Is Real
October 29, 2018
Verse for the Week: Philippians 1:29-30; “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.”
In this scripture, Paul is speaking to a church in Philippi; to a colony of retired Roman soldiers who had become his friends and supporters. Knowing they were experiencing a lot of opposition, he appeals to them by way of his own example.
We see Paul, as a mouthpiece, instructing a new way to approach struggle by magnifying the servant attitude of Jesus. I guess you could say, Paul was a pioneer ‘Influencer’. Today, his influence of servant leadership continues to carry through our Christian culture as a map to follow; a prototype to model.
And yet, no matter how you cut it, suffering stinks.
As it relates to suffering in this verse, the word—granted—seems to be an odd choice of words, so I did a little research. In the original language, the word ‘granted’ (charizomai from Thayer’s Greek Lexicon) means to bestow with grace and favor; as a privilege.
Wait a minute. Is this saying that suffering is a privilege? A gift of grace and favor? He can’t be serious.
Ugh. That is a hard pill to swallow. And yet, in the deep parts of my soul, I get it. And for those of you who have also seen it, lived it, and learned this paradoxical principle of embracing struggle, you get it too.
The struggle is real, my friends. Especially when life throws punches, we want to believe it’s the work of the enemy. And by all means, a lot of it is. Yet, just below the surface of struggle is a rogue current flowing with purpose. One that has the potential to take us into deep waters where we are forced to sink or swim.
Although this doesn’t sound much like a privilege, it is. Because it is often in the deep waters where God reveals something new. I believe this is what Paul is teaching us here. And perhaps, it’s time to shift our perspective on the struggle.
As a metaphor, the incongruence of struggle Paul is painting here is kin to a riptide. A riptide is created where two currents flow in opposite directions just below the surface of the ocean water creating a vacuum of subtle danger. When this happens, it carries its victim off course as they fight against the current, only to find themselves panicked, exhausted, and dangerously close to drowning.
Spiritually speaking, we too can be victims of the rogue riptide of hardship that challenges our faith and carries us aimlessly off course during times of struggle.
The experts’ directive to survive a riptide—resist your urge to fight the current and float out of the zone. In one word—relax! Easier said than done, but it’s the only way.
A funny thing happens when you relax and float, not only do you change your perspective, you change the dynamic of the struggle itself. By shifting your line of sight from outward to upward and assuming the posture of submission, you are displaying the sign of the cross. Literally, your body, when in full float, is in the form of a cross!
In essence, you are telling the struggle in whom you are trusting. Now that’s a visual worth remembering!
Personally, the struggle that has threatened to carry me into deep waters this year has been in trusting God with my kids. I desperately want to intervene and stop the train wreck before it happens. My adult brain knows they have to walk their own path, but I can’t help but anticipate danger and try and ward it off.
We, as parents, have a heightened perspective on danger because we’ve walked a pretty hard road ourselves, and we are well aware of the harsh realities, hard lines, and evil intentions lurking around corners.
The problem with trusting our vantage point is that it is painstakingly deficient. We see the here and now. God sees the then and there. We see the surface; He sees eternal. There’s just no comparison.
Whatever your struggle may be at present—a wayward child, a painful relationship, a failing career, or a faltering faith—hang in there. God is showing us something here that will alter our experience and ultimate outcome. It’s the Kingdom way. Paradoxical, yes. Unattainable, no!
The fact is, struggle will happen. It will come, and it will go. The lesson to be learned is in the posture we take in the struggle. Jesus modeled this for us when taking on the cross—“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me, yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42). And Paul was the mouthpiece that taught this to the churches, and to us.
In the end, we have a choice to make— our will or His.
Is God calling you to abandon the struggle? Burn the ships of self-sufficiency that you’ve been trusting in? To rest from striving, and float for a while?
Next time you find yourself being carried dangerously off course, don’t panic. Resist the urge to fight the struggle, and take on the posture of submission. Rest knowing it’s in the deep waters that God is working in you so He can do something through you.
The struggle is real, but God has a good plan. Let Him show you a new way.
A prayer from 1 Peter, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you an make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power forever and ever.” In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
What is your current struggle? Are you frantically treading the same ground, and getting nowhere? Maybe it’s time to give up the fight and change your posture. It’s a new day. Let’s try a new way!
Burn the Ships by For King & Country
Hugs for a great week and remember, you are not alone. Be blessed, open your arms wide and release the struggle. God is working in you to accomplish something through you to a watching world.