As Christians, we aren’t exempted from the difficulties of this life, even if some think we should be. If we have the expectation that our faith should shield us from problems, struggles, and suffering, this can lead to somewhat of a martyr complex when things go wrong, until we start to wonder, How could anyone possibly have it more difficult than I do?
They’re not coming back!
I remember how I felt when it finally hit home. Alone. Afraid. Unsure. For years I had been working on a social service project in an impoverished South Asian nation. I was busy and made a contribution to the work, yet it didn’t depend upon me; I was a cog in the overall machine, and that suited me just fine. I felt secure benefiting from others’ years of experience, not to mention their financial backing. There wasn’t much for me to worry about.
The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him.
—Psalm 37:23 NIV
Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
—Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968)
As much as we would like it, life is not always as wonderful as we’d wish, and we sometimes find ourselves having to brave the tumult of experiences that are hard to bear. Sometimes, when our patience and faith are tried, when all our attempts to do the right thing end up caked in the mud of problems and troubles, it seems impossible to find a sense of value in what we’re doing.
All the performances of human art, at which we look with praise or wonder, are instances of the resistless force of perseverance: it is by this that the quarry becomes a pyramid, and that distant countries are united with canals.
Faced with a major project or challenge? You probably have a general idea of where you want to go, but it takes a strategy, a plan of the steps to take in order to reach that objective.
Planning is an investment. To plan wisely and well takes time, effort, patience‚ good research, and counsel—and for those of us who include a spiritual dimension, time in prayer—but a well-formed plan will pay for itself many times over.
For my ninth birthday, I got an instruction book on watercolor painting. I was thrilled and eagerly flipped through its pages, only to frown in disappointment—the entire first quarter of the book consisted of tonal exercises and descriptions of brush strokes and color mixing. How boring! Sighing, I skimmed the book’s next section: advice on various paintbrushes and grades of paper. I don’t need all this. Where’s the fun part?
I love Psalm 23. Perhaps it’s because I especially love the verses about being in calm, beautiful, and peaceful situations: “He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”1
Walking through a botanical garden in Kolkata, India, I was enthralled by the vibrant and vivid colors of the flowers. For a few hours, I felt like I’d been transported away from the hustle of the city and into a world of beauty. On my way out, I popped into the office to compliment the staff on the good job they do in arranging and caring for the plants.
Some people have been so discouraged when they’ve failed to meet their goals that they’ve given up on having any at all, so that they aren’t disappointed by the “inevitable” failure. There’s a lot of advice available today on this topic, and there isn’t actually anything too tough or mysterious about setting and reaching your goals.
Here are five easy steps to follow for success.