Rush hour isn’t just an issue on the roads. Try going to a gym just after 5 p.m. Fitness freaks fight for equipment like middle-aged moms at Walmart trying to get their hands on Tickle-Me-Elmo on Black Friday. Some days it seems like every piece of equipment and weight I need for my routine is in use.
Since I am not the model of patience, I generally try to find a way to speed up the process. If I can’t get the weights I want, I use a different weight. However, I have one rule of thumb: I can never use less weight than I am scheduled to use. That means I either push myself and throw it up or drop a dumbbell on my face.
Historically, these workouts are some of my most productive. When forced to push myself and lift more weight, I rise to the occasion. In this, I think there is an important application for life and our walk with Jesus: you never know how strong you are until you know how strong you have to be.
If I wasn’t forced to push beyond what I think I can handle with heavier weights, the process of upping my weight and getting stronger would likely be slower. God uses trials in a similar manner. When God wants to grow us, he adds weight.
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” Romans 5:3-4
When we suffer, we grow. With every additional pound we take upon our shoulders, we learn what we are capable of enduring. As we endure, we grow in our character.
Some of these challenges can and should be self-inflicted. You may not think you can memorize a long piece of Scripture or process a book that is over your head until you push yourself beyond what you think you are capable of and do it. The fruit becomes evident.
All the while, I think we learn an important lesson about the God we serve as we face these challenges. You don’t know how strong your God is until you know how strong He has to be.
I recently had the privilege of listening to Tom Doyle speak. Doyle is the author of the book “Dreams and Visions: Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim World?” He is also involved with e3 Partners, where he ministers to pastors in the Middle East.
In his speech and book, he shared numerous anecdotes describing how the Lord is moving in the Middle East. Individuals are forced to walk away from their families to follow Jesus and do so with joy. People are being tortured and laying down their life rather than renouncing their faith. Others are being wooed by Christ through dreams and visions before ultimately hearing the Gospel and converting.
The gut-wrenching realization I had was that I don’t see that God over here in the buckle of the Bible Belt. I was moved to worship by how great and mighty our God is, but I was also grieved at how I failed to regularly see Him for who He is.
God puts us into difficult situations so that we can see those aspects of his character that aren’t as evident to us when we are on cruise control. We have to be in positions that allow God to show off and flex a little bit.
I don’t think we need a knife to our throat for Him to do that. We run into no shortage of opportunities to acknowledge our shortcomings and God’s character. Every day we can set a lofty goal and lean on God to help us go above and beyond the perceived constraints we place on ourselves. We just need to be aware of those moments, look for those moments or even create those moments.
When the weight gets heavy, He shows how strong He is and how strong we are when we lean on the strength of His might.
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12