“struggle”

Struggle. I learned this past year in Fantasy Football that a “struggle” refers to a time when most of your best players just aren’t getting the big stats you’d expect them to.  I came back across this word recently (in a different fashion) in my Scripture readings, a word I feel all-to-well sums up many of my days in life (as a husband, a dad, a family-member, a friend) and in ministry.

This is why we work hard and continue to struggle (or ‘suffer’), for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers (Who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth). _1 Timothy 4:10, 2:4

It seems to me that the word “struggle” is often seen more negatively than positively, serving as some type of indication you’re in the wrong place in life or that you’re possibly wasting your time in some way. Now, I’m a huge proponent of seeing people discover their strengths and giftedness, and I personally long to find myself living in my “sweet spot” on a daily basis and seeing others do so as well. (Recently, we had several people at Awaken participate in StrengthsFinder Assessments, and I’ve be absolutely blown away to see folks learn more about their uniqueness, as well as our community affirm one another in those strengths) But when we bring up words like “struggle” and “suffering,” it can often seem to be contradiction to a life lived to the full, to someone truly living in their “sweet spot.”

Now, I’ll be honest here (and this may raise some big questions for some of you reading this blog or cause some concerns in your confidence in me as a pastor) – I’m still not really sure if I’m truly in my sweet spot in life. What has caused me to think this over the last several months has had to do with the daily struggles I’ve encountered personally as a church-planter and in attempting to guide and shepherd a new church as a lead-pastor for the very first time in my life. Some may see it as courageous, but most days I’ve seen it as no more than a struggle.

I think that raises a great question for all of us here: If we’re finding ourselves struggling in some area of life, is that some kind of indication I’m not in my “sweet spot?” We’re all familiar with what it’s like to compare ourselves with others who seem to be “living the dream,” who seem to be right in the middle of their own sweet spots…and oh, how we long to find ourselves there too. However, I believe we often overlook the fact that nearly everyone around us has their own struggles…some just cover them up better than others…

I’ve been learning recently more about what it means to find yourself “struggling,” and yet at the same time in a “sweet spot.” We’re all aware that there are good struggles in life. That’s the difference in asking yourself, “Why must I continue to struggle like this?” verses “What’s the purpose of my struggle? Why do I choose to put myself through this?” But when it comes to a life of following Christ, we often forget that “struggling” is part of the journey. Check out these words penned by the Apostle Paul in Philippians 1:29…

For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ, but also the privilege of suffering for him. We are in this struggle together.

I want to know today that my struggling has a purpose. I want to know that I’m not alone in this struggle. And as I’ve been brining before the Lord in prayer, I want find myself fully alive in what I do, no matter how much of a struggle it may be, no matter how exhausting it may be at times or how much suffering may be involved.

I love something Rob Bell pointed out recently about the word “suffer” in Philippians 1:29. It comes from the Greek word pascho, which describes a ‘redemptive suffering.’ A suffering, or a struggle, that has a purpose.

My encouragement today (which I hope will be yours) is that although I may continue to struggle and even question whether or not I’m really in my ‘sweet spot,’ I know that at least for today there’s a glorious and redemptive purpose to it all. I know I have the privilege of both trusting in Christ for my future and struggling alongside others to see His life formed in the people around me.

That’s why I choose to struggle…knowing that we’re standing side-by-side, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. (Phil. 1:27b)

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