Is struggle a choice? When I struggle the advice I receive from acquaintances is: “Go with the flow” or “Walk away from it.” Many times to struggle is a choice. Sometimes it is not.
When I struggled through menopause, it was not a choice. When I struggle to learn something new, it is my choice. When someone else’s harm causes me to struggle, it is not my choice. When I struggle to walk God’s path it is my choice.
Scripture is filled with examples of struggles people of God faced. The strength of their faith and devotion kept them on God’s path. I’m thinking of Abraham with his son Isaac1, Job’s suffering2, Esther facing King Ahasuerus3, Jeremiah’s messages to a careless people4, and Jesus in the Garden called Gethsemane5. This is just a few off the top of my head. They are examples of men and women who stood for what was Godly and right. The scriptures detail not only the actions and results but, the struggle they had to work through.
These Godly people did not ask for these struggles. Most asked God to take it away from them. He knew they could handle it. They felt they could not. This is where I connect with them. This overwhelming sense that I lack the ability makes me like Jonah6. I want to run away. Obviously God needed Jonah because; he was the man for the Nineveh job! Just like Jonah when I run, I get myself into trouble.
Though I’ve never been swallowed by a fish! I’m still off the path and even when I say no (like Jonah), God does not give up on me. He gives me chance after chance to get it right. He knew Jonah’s heart. He knows my heart too.
Struggle is good. If the chick doesn’t struggle out of the shell it dies. If the butterfly gives up its struggle it never leaves the cocoon. If the athlete does not struggle to go farther, lift more, swim faster, the muscles do not develop for competition. If the seeds do not struggle to push the soil back, food supply dies. If Christians don’t struggle with “principalities, against powers, rulers of darkness of this age, spiritual hosts of wickedness7,” the message God wants for someone is thwarted.
Esther and Jonah struggled with fear. Abraham struggled with loss. Job and Jeremiah struggled with loss and frustration. Jesus struggled with dread. “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me8;”
A close friend reminded me today: It boils down to that phrase in the prayer given to us by our Lord Jesus: “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven9.” In Gethsemane’s garden Jesus prays a second time, “Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done10.”
Because of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only heir, his descendants cover the earth. Esther’s cry to conquer her fear saved an enslaved nation. Jonah’s repentance and obedience saved an entire city. Job and Jeremiah’s long suffering encourage me to continue on my path no matter what I see happening around me. And Jesus’ obedience in the face of a horrible outcome saved my soul.
That is what God’s people do, they struggle, pray, and follow. These are the spiritual examples of how it works. From Abraham to the Messiah, to the apostles, then to us:
“Thy will be done…”
Don’t give up. I’m learning the struggle is the way to growth and strength on God’s path.
- 1Genesis 22
- 2Book of Job
- 3Esther 4
- 4Book of Jeremiah
- 5Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, John 18
- 6Book of Jonah
- 7Ephesians 6:12 NKJ
- 8Matthew 26:39
- 9Matthew 6:9-13 KJV
- 10Matthew 26:42