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Two and a-half years of living with uncertainty unquestionably tests our patience, endurance and resilience. It is so easy to stop seeing the big picture when everyday events relentlessly demand our attention, draining us of mental and emotional stamina.
Many people are doing it tough right now. Every great endeavour or achievement involves navigating challenges, requiring tremendous determination and perseverance. It’s taking too long, costing too much (actual and personal) or is far more challenging than ever envisaged. By now it’s usually too late to back out. Incredibly, this route is necessary to develop the character we need that will underpin our future success. There are no shortcuts. We must build greater capacity.
World and life events can hold up our plans or hold to ransom our desired timeframes. So ... what if instead of seeing these challenges as barriers, we see them as vital for increasing our capacity and character, accepting them as the building blocks of our (eventual) achievements?
Successful architects pay a lot of attention in designing the structural foundations. Thus, the architecture above the ground is sufficiently supported by the structural reinforcement under the ground. So it is with us.
Is our character sufficiently developed and "integrous" enough to carry the weight of our success? Sadly, some people reach great heights of public life only to find their private lives, their character and integrity, damage or destroy their reputation and the good they did. "I didn’t think" just doesn’t cut it.
Identifying character weaknesses or personal challenges today helps us to identify the skills we need to equip us to build character and integrity. As Romans 12.3 (NLT) puts it, "Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us".
Whether we accommodate too much ego (arrogance, "better-than", narcissism) in our lives or too little (low self-esteem, "less-than", lacking self-confidence), our aim is for healthy ego that translates into confidence with humility. Would your behaviour pass the integrity test: What do your words and actions look like on the front page of the Otago Daily Times? Or online or on TV?
Thankfully, we do not have to take this journey of personal development alone. As we find our identity in the Lord and not in our own estimations we have a blueprint for developing our character. Thus, we gain an accurate self-assessment, secure in ourselves. We will not need to put others down, or berate or belittle ourselves. Dawn Hill said, "Something beautiful happens when we can keep our eyes on Christ in the darkest of times and in our brokenness. We not only learn how to lean on God and to understand the importance of prayer, but we learn from where our help comes."
This is not a season to retreat. We must diligently keep sowing to the future during difficult times so that there is always a new harvest ahead, even though we least feel like sowing during challenging seasons. Yet this is the strategy of success! Psalm 126: 1-6 (NKJV) puts it, "Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. Those who continually go forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing their sheaves with them.” We need a determination to never stop sowing to the future.
It’s the season between tears of sorrow and tears of joy that is the toughest. The season we are in with Omicron and other influences on society, and the stress we are all experiencing, necessitates perseverance. The Apostle Paul writes, "...when we run into problems and trials, we know that they help us develop endurance that develops strength of character, which strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment" (Romans 5.4-5, NLT). I like Paul’s use of the word "when" not "if" we run into problems.
Let’s reflect on our life right now and take our struggles to the Lord in prayer. You may have never prayed before. No worries. Get some time on your own, and simply say, "God, help me, what should I do?". You might then talk about your situation in more detail with Him.
Even though it might be a bit scary, you can be confident God is listening. He says, "Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete" (John 16:24). Then take a step of faith and ask for His perspective. He might speak to you through his living word the Bible or lead you with a sense of peace and certainness. Embrace this opportunity to build your capacity, character and confidence.
- Lesley Gill is an associate professor at Otago Polytechnic and an elder at Dunedin Elim Church.