The Struggles of Life

Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

James 1:2-4

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

I Thessalonians 5: 20-21

This past week Sheeva, a senior in high school, faced her classmates, a mere 48 hours after the unexpected death of her mother, and delivered a sincere message of hope and joy.  I walked into the classroom brokenhearted and left –  still very sad-  but with a supernatural peace.  I had been deeply touched by a student I thought I would be ministering to.  Instead, in the face of deep struggle,  she ministered, in a profoundly way, to everyone else in the room.

Blessed in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saint.

Sheeva began her message by quoting Psalm 116:15– choosing to stand on God’s word. Like her precious mother, she will not question God nor cease from rejoicing in all things.  She is carrying forward the legacy of her dear mom, whose life had been refined by fire, whose walk was made steadfast through major challenges, and who influenced many of us deeply with her restful mindset and peace filled heart.

Sheeva is carrying her mother’s legacy forward– to rejoice in all things- to be anxious for nothing – and allow the peace of God which surpasses all understanding to guard her heart and mind through Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Death has now ushered Venus, her mom, into eternal rest where she abides in perfect peace.  She is free from the struggles that life on earth requires. She is home. While we mourn and weep with her family in this time of sadness,  we also rejoice in the life of a godly woman who had discovered the secret to true rest and peace.  Venus genuinely knew what it meant to be in God’s will for her life; regardless of what she faced, she chose to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing and in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  (I Thessalonians 5:16-17)

I will miss Venus very much.  Her wisdom.  Her steadfast joy in the LORD.  Her restful spirit.  The supernatural peace she radiated.  I wish I would have told her how much she meant to me and how much her humility spoke to my own heart.

For some, like Sheeva and her family, the challenges in life are enormous.   When I consider the individuals who have influenced me most deeply, they are often ones who have walked (or are still walking) through deep struggles and challenges, but have found the joy of the Lord to be their supernatural strength.  (Nehemiah 8:10)  For most of us, the challenges we face are pale in comparison.  Like Venus – and like Sheeva – I want to learn how to “count it all joy when we fall into various trials so that the testing of my faith will produce patience, so that patience can have its perfect work….” (James 1:2)

Tcaching Kids how to Respond to Daily Challenges

(by initiating  a “daily challenge” conversation)

While we certainly don’t desire tragedy to strike, I see great value in teaching our kids how to face daily struggles with strength and positive vitality.  I want them to learn how to not crumble when adversity strikes- regardless of how big or small. One of the best ways we teach our kids how to face challenges  is to share with them how we ourselves handle struggles and adversity. Daily life often provides many opportunities to practice (and model) handling challenges – which are really opportunities to learn and grow.  I have started a new kind of conversation with my family, asking them daily to share something challenging they faced in the course of the day as well has how they responded. I want my grandchildren to think about struggles in a new and productive way. It is already led to some interesting conversations and opportunities to share how we as adults deal with our challenges as well.

Example: Having previously defined “challenge” to be anything – however large or small – that tempts one to react poorly but also gives one a learning opportunity to think and grow wiser, I asked Joey, my first grade grandson, what challenge he had faced that day at school and how he handled it.  Joey had previously  been facing a form of peer pressure  with a classmate teasing him for not knowing how to play certain video games.   Joey responded by telling me that this teasing was no longer really a challenge because he now ignored the taunting and did not let on that it bother him and as a result the teasing had largely stopped.  Having previously reacted in anger and retaliation, I was pleased with the growth in Joey who went on to say that his greatest challenge of that day turned out to be about whether or not to eat a birthday cupcake during a week in which he had already eaten lots of sweets.  He chose to eat one but at least he is thinking!

Thinking about how to respond to even very minor challenges promotes growth. And learning how to respond well to minor challenges each day can grow the ability to handle larger challenges down the road.

So share your daily challenge with your kids- whether its about meeting a work deadline, losing a check, or dealing with a sick dog – and start a discussion about the challenges they face in their day as well.

I would love to hear your examples and what impact you see coming out of this type of modeling and resulting discussions!!!

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