As part of my son’s post-chemo physical therapy, we’ve been taking him to a local gym that has a large “lazy river” in its pool area.
In the early morning, this concrete river is essentially empty of people, which gives Aaron the opportunity to stretch out and get his body moving. At this point, any bodily movement is beneficial, as his body was essentially sidelined for 4 straight months.
A lazy river is typically meant for people to go with the flow of the current. You jump in the water or get on an inner tube and let the river carry you along. It can be really relaxing. But it won’t do much for your conditioning.
The quickest way to engage one’s muscles in a lazy river is try and walk or paddle against the current. It’s amazing how a little pressure causes the muscles to work way harder!
I think the same principle applies to life. A life that never faces any resistance rarely gets stronger. Going with the flow and avoiding any pressure means we will miss opportunities.
Now, I don’t think we need to go out looking for pressure. The way life is designed, pressure will find us. Job challenges. Health challenges. Relational challenges. Financial challenges.
Sometimes we attempt to avoid the pressure these challenges bring about. In his book EMOTIONALLY HEALTHY SPIRITUALITY, Peter Scazzero writes:
“Our culture routinely interprets trials, challenges and losses as alien invasions that interrupt our “normal” lives. We numb our pain through denial, blaming, rationalizations, addictions and avoidance. We search for spiritual shortcuts. We demand others take away our pain.”
But when don’t face challenges with courage and perseverance, we miss out on the lessons such trials offer us.
One may ask, “What type of lessons do trials provide?” Two scriptures provide some answers:
First is James 1:2-4: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
The takeaway of these verses? That we can become more steadfast by facing our challenges. I picture a tree with deep roots being able to endure storm after storm.
The second passage is Romans 5:3-5: “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.“
Beyond endurance, pressure can build character and hope! These our two qualities that our vital to a person’s well-being.
Regarding trials, theologian Edmund Clowney said: “Trials should not surprise us, or cause us to doubt God’s faithfulness. Rather, we should actually be glad for them. God sends trials to strengthen our trust in him so that our faith will not fail. Our trials keep us trusting; they burn away our self confidence and drive us to our Savior.”
It’s easy to go with the flow. But there’s little growth gained by floating along with the current.
Life’s trials are not easy. But in God’s will, each has a purpose. Allow the pressure to do its work in order to make you stronger, wiser, and more humble.