Monday, June 17, 2024

Devotionals for the Heart: How difficulties help us grow stronger

Don’t Deviate from the Difficult
A devotional by Sharon Musgrove

“Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete.”
—James 1:2-4 (TLB)

When my son, John, was around eight months old, he was making strong headway toward being independently mobile by pulling himself up from sitting to standing. Not really crawling yet, still he was making progress. And then Zachary arrived.

Cousin Zachary was six months older than John and he was walking. In those weeks while Zachary stayed with us, John quit trying to crawl, devoting all his energy to becoming ambulatory. John was no longer content with his unhurried pace of development, suddenly a fire was lit to be upright.

But it turns out that crawling is beneficial to both muscular and psychological maturity. Skipping this stage is thought to inhibit full brain development. When we, like my young son, see someone succeeding at something we want for ourselves, we can be tempted to take the shortcut. However, bypassing the difficult route requires of us a couple things: deviation and double-down.

Deviation might look like shifting priorities, shirking responsibility, quitting current tasks, and avoiding accountability. It might mean breaking promises, or not being completely honest. Maybe deception...even if just self-deception.

Double-down is the extra energy required to get somewhere faster than normal. Symptoms could be longer work hours, skipping breaks, feeling driven, irritability, or feeling put-upon.

Achievements arrived by shortcut methods are typically short-lived because they lack the muscle of steadfastness to maintain the level of success attained. The shortcut is also short-sighted. Our maturity requires that we go through the challenges that build strength of character. While it’s human nature to choose the least painful routes or be tempted to skip ahead, the very process of falling down and getting back up develops the stability we need to withstand the next level of growth.

In his letter to fellow followers of Jesus Christ, James suggests that we can consider the hard way through life as the best way due to the amount of spiritual muscle we achieve along the way. Difficulties produce patience. And patience helps us endure through every future challenge. It’s a strength we take with us on the rest of our journey.

My little son John took many tumbles in his efforts to walk. At some point, though, he found himself on his hands and knees and realized he could crawl after all. He didn’t stay on all fours for long, but it was there that he got what he needed to advance toward his next adventure.

When we find ourselves knocked down, it’s best we be honest with ourselves about where we are and why. We are not completed yet. And there’s no shame in continuing to be a work-in-progress. Rather we can be happy about the opportunity to practice a while longer! Before we know it, a greater level of challenge will come and we will be glad God was developing such strength in us.

Let’s Pray:
Heavenly Father, You know what is best for us and You direct us to walk in the way we should go. Help us to remember that Your ways are higher (wiser) than our ways and that we do well to trust You...always. Thank You for walking along side us in our challenges. Thank You for not abandoning us...especially in our foolishness. Continue to guide our steps and to bless our spiritual muscles as we follow You. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

Song of Reflection:
“Walk With You” by Michael Bethany. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Sharon Musgrove has a diverse background in business, fitness, and health industries. This background led her to a unique position writing curriculum and teaching for two private, Christ-based, residential recovery programs. Both programs primarily served women in the homeless community. 

Sharon has traveled multiple times to Kenya, serving on medical teams and teaching in the rural Maasai communities. She was privileged to participate in leadership camps for maturing young women. These annual camps have a mission of encouraging and empowering the impoverished, underprivileged, and often abused young Maasai girls.

Identifying personally with the brokenness of the women she’s served, Sharon sees the great need for encouragement and connection. Within ministries served, Sharon has witnessed the transformative power of loving words spoken to the broken-hearted. Sharing God’s love and building cross-cultural communities has become her passion.

In her leisure time, Sharon enjoys nature, deep conversations, and a good story. She and her husband, Jeff, divide their time between Oregon and Hawaii. They have two grown children.

Currently, Sharon is encouraging others via her inspirational blog, writing devotionals for other websites, and is working on a nonfiction book titled The Whole-Of-Us: Putting Church Back Together.

Connect with Sharon:

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