It’s been said that when the going gets tough the tough get going. But let’s face it: it’s easy to say we believe until we face a faith challenge.
Only when we face a challenge do we discover what our faith is made of. Only then do we realize that growing our faith will take some work.
It might help to think of our faith challenge as a growth curve. When we first begin to step out by faith and test both ourselves and God, we’ll meet resistance.
Resistance doesn’t mean right or wrong, it just means we’re moving in a new direction. Easy doesn’t mean we have God’s green light. In fact, if we’re trying to grow our faith in response to a faith challenge, we should expect it to be difficult at first, especially early in the curve.
When I first started on the path to becoming a professional writer, nothing was easy. I mean nothing.
But I realized I had a choice about how I would respond to the faith challenge. And as I observed other people who’d gone before me, I understood not all options get the best results.
When confronted with the reality of the faith-challenge growth curve, you can choose from one of these most common responses:
- Avoid it. I call this the Jonah option. Instead of confronting a difficult life transition, the renegade prophet took a cruise. He split. Ran away. Hid. Or tried to. The trouble with this approach is that wherever you go to hide from the curve, another one will always be waiting. If you’re not growing you’re dying. If you don’t want your faith to die, you’ll have to deal with the challenge eventually.
- Dip and quit. I hear this one all the time. The person who chooses this option strolls to the edge of the shore, tentatively dips in a toe, grimaces, and decides not to go for it after all. They might even tell themselves a few familiar lies:
- I can always do it later. Some other time, when life finally returns to normal. Whatever normal is. We easily forget that what doesn’t get scheduled, usually doesn’t get done.
- I could do it if I wanted to – I just don’t want to. Of course not. I believe you. Don’t you? Truth be told, we’ve all used that excuse since Kindergarten.
- If God wanted me to do _____, He’d have given me _______. This one sounds so pious. But shifting the blame to someone else, especially to our Maker, doesn’t let us off the hook. In fact, He’s probably the one trying to get your faith growing with the challenge in the first place. If you are His child, He’ll make sure your faith grows. You can choose either the intentional path or an unexpected crisis. [ See my post Why You Should Create a Crisis to Grow Your Faith. ]
- Begin the journey – then drop out. Those who choose this option actually make it into the water and flail around for a while before calling it quits. They might even appear to have made some progress up the curve before nimbly jumping off. Of course, they’ll now be talking about the experience as if they were expert FaithWalkers, even though they quit when the going got tough. One other thing is certain. If you choose this option, you’ll have plenty of company to affirm your reasons for failing as you all work up a sweat on the treadmills at God’s gym. You’ll find no shortage of people who will commend your wise decision to get out while the getting was good. But deep down, you will always know the truth — that you should have been out on the trail living an authentic life of abundant faith. [ I develop this faith metaphor more in my new book A Story Worth Telling. You can still claim a free chapter here. ]
- Survive the challenge. If you make it to option four, you’re getting into rare company, to be sure. The person who chooses to survive the curve is the one who not only takes the plunge, but also perseveres through the waves, and staggers – gasping for breath and numb from exhaustion – onto the opposite shore. To their credit, at least they made it. Of course, it’ll take a week or two to regain any feeling in their limbs and recover from the pneumonia, but at least they survived. Sort of. And you’ve got to love the smile they keep fixed on their face the entire time. Grin and bear it. That’s the key if you choose to settle for surviving.
- Thrive by faith. This is what you were made for. This is where your story really becomes worth telling. Here’s where the explosive faith growth takes place. To thrive through the curve is to press forward in the day of adversity. You keep moving forward, trusting that God will work all things for good as He promised. Instead of just trying to survive the challenge, you lean into it, knowing that it’s only for a season, that his strength is made perfect in your weakness, and that your faith will grow because of it.
Contrary to what most might think, adversity is an opportunity for God to show Himself strong on your behalf. Far from being a time to dial back and prepare your excuses, it’s the perfect time to turn it up a notch — and grow your faith.
The greatest potential for the most explosive faith growth is found only in the curve of the faith challenge.
Question: Which response to a faith challenge have you found to be most common? Which way do you tend to choose when the going gets tough? Share your thoughts by clicking here.