“Take care, you will face many tribulations in the world for my sake.” – Jesus
“Apparently uncertain seasons are usually the most powerful God-moments we experience. They often put God on display more than other seasons, demonstrating that God exists and rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6).” – Jon Bloom, Desiring God Ministries
If you know me well, you know I only achieve that through great discipline.
The trouble is, I’m like many people who live a largely undisciplined life. I have an adopted unthinking acceptance of comfortable American living. I also tend toward an overly critical spirit. I get too often focused on being overly critical of others, which shows I’m also blind because half a second’s consideration would reveal I’m the one in need of my attention.
Like most people, I get distracted by all the things I see out there. And the truth is, without facing real struggle I don’t take risks; I get too comfortable and end up staying safe. Fearless writing is impossible from that position. I really don’t like admitting this, but I fear my sins of omission are doing more damage than those afflicted with the world’s evils.
A particular kind of anxiety is a gift when pursued in trying to grow and live well. This kind is guided by 3 principles.
1. First, pursue your dream expecting to fail.
2. Second, be an advocate for love and freedom, expecting opposition.
These three are the primary gifts and we don’t naturally possess them. Even when we’re gifted with them, they remain in short supply and are soon burned up. This is why I’m collecting a list of “Love Words” to define the sort of passionate, curious, confident love I’m always in need of:
- Selfless Longing
(The last one is special, and I see it as a paradoxical yearning for someone’s best. It contains a dissatisfaction, a desire for who you love to live freer and fuller. And it most distinguishes real love from its opposite.)
When I struggle to accept my questions, when I want to fix instead of suffer uncertainty (which is often), this list helps me determine how we accomplish anything kingdom-valuable. The accomplishing is God’s, but he waits for my volition. And the meager talents we’ve been allotted are sufficient when transformed by the mystery of God’s indwelling.
When I wander again, this list will help me return to wonder: Ah, that’s right. This is how I live!
Of course, we’re too critical to accept it’s this easy. At face value, that list looks thin, not very spiritual. We fear, so we require some heftier words, some holier-sounding words. Loving is messy and there’s nothing we can do about it, but we don’t like that. We know all too well how weak and unprepared we really are and we believe that means we need some words from the other list.
This other list has a different name and it’s been a problem for centuries. See if you can recognize it. No one likes it, but its influence is profoundly destructive and inescapable. These words are literally everywhere…
These are the results of a deeper anxiety that comes when I don’t accept the first kind.
Sometimes I’m all about this list. I even promote it often when I’m unaware it’s guiding me.
In living, writing or creating of any kind, trying to control the process is avoiding the “good anxiety” and leads to a different kind of anxiety.
“Kierkegaard referred to anxiety as our best teacher because of its ability to keep us in a struggle that strives for a solution, rather than opting to forfeit the struggle and slide into a possible depression. It would be nice if our lives and our Christian faith did not involve any struggle. But to believe that—and to perpetuate the belief to others that somehow the struggle with anxiety is un-Christian—is a mistake.” – via Relevant Magazine
Absolutely fascinating and life-changing research is being done on how our beliefs about facing difficult tasks helps us manage and actually benefit from the inherent stress of them. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal says,
“Stress can be our friend. Caring and connecting with others creates resilience to stress in your body. When you do this, you’re saying you can trust yourself you can handle life’s challenges and you don’t have to face them alone. Chasing meaning is better than trying to avoid discomfort.” – via TED
I’m not good at this. But I’m thinking of it more and more as my primary job.
And with practice, I’m betting it’ll become easier.
What might happen if you practiced this…?
How easy it is for me to live with you, Lord! How easy for me to believe in you, When my spirit is lost, perplexed and cast down, When the sharpest can see no further than the night, And know not what on the morrow they must do You give me a sure certainty That you exist, that you are watching over me And will not permit the ways of righteousness to be closed to me. Here on the summit of earthly glory I look back astonished On the road which through depths of despair has led me here. To this point from which I can also reflect to men your radiance And all that I can still reflect – you shall grant to me. And what I shall fail you shall grant to others. – Aleksandr Solzhenitzyn