Monday, March 19, 2012

The Gauntlet

Living in Switzerland is a lot like running the gauntlet. Not sure what a gauntlet is? Check out this video clip from the movie First Knight where Lancelot takes on the challenge of the gauntlet.

Now that you have a better visual, here's how Switzerland is much like the gauntlet. It's as though you go through each day trying to avoid being knocked down. Each day is mentally and physically taxing because you are constantly in survival mode. Often the hits are coming fast from all sides and all at once. But the only way out is to go through it. To keep moving forward.

We're in it right now. Dodging blows. Trying to keep our heads up and taking it full on. I don't belly ache about our troubles publicly because I don't like to complain as a general rule...but I can tell you that the past 2 years have been a extreme challenge. There have been many periods during that time where surrendering to defeat sounded like a viable option. Giving up and going home sounds so good especially in moments of weakness...we've had thoughts of buying plane tickets and getting the heck out of here even as recent as this morning. But God's word resounds in my head every time I feel like I can't take one more step or endure one more day here.

I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13) 

Did you know that the Bible mentions strength over 200 times in the bible? When God mentions something more than once...particularly that many times...he really wants us to get it. He is encouraging us for our moments of weakness because He knows those moments will come. We are weak, but HE IS STRONG! He wants us to draw from His strength.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

There's that word 'content' again. I wrote a blog post about contentment a few weeks back. Contentment and strength seem to go hand-in-hand. Contentment is an illusive commodity today. In fact, much of the business world works hard to breed dis-content so that we will buy their product. They tell us something is "new and improved" so we will feel that we have less than the best and are somehow "behind the times." They are deliberately trying to make us feel dis-satisfied with life by playing to our greed. They want us to believe that we are not significant if we don't have the best and the newest.  

The problem with this mentality is that you are never satisfied. And if you are never satisfied, then you are unable to enjoy life fully because you feel deprived. Let me give you a definition of what the Bible means by contentment: Contentment is a state of satisfaction that is anchored to our confidence in God that results in a joyful celebration of life. 

Contentment is not something that comes naturally. Naturally, we are prone to: compare ourselves with others, to always want more than we already have, to interpret someone else's good fortune as coming at our expense, and to complain.

You don't have to teach any of these things. They come naturally to us.  Not so with contentment. Contentment is not instinctive. It is often our weakness and it is something that we must learn over time.  It is something we learn gradually. We likely will not just wake up one day feeling content.  We need to have a new perspective, a new attitude, a deepened faith. These things must be developed...they cannot be bought.

However, it is somewhat to our advantage that contentment is a weakness because God says that His power is made perfect in weakness. If we acknowledge our weaknesses and need for God we actually open ourselves up to receive God's grace and strength. But doing that takes humility and courage. It's something I personally struggle with, along with many of you.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:10-13)

When we finally make it on the other side of the gauntlet I am not looking for the applause that Lancelot received. I'm just looking forward to being embraced by our family and friends and being able to say "With the grace of God....we did it!"

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