Saturday, October 31, 2009

When “Angry” is not “Mad”

“‘Don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.”

–Ephesians 4:26-27 (NLT).

How often do we see people lose their tempers and end up ruining a career, committing a crime or damage their families in the process? It appears, too often. In his classic book, Making Life Work, Bill Hybels[1] contrasts a beautifully biblical concept regarding anger and how we’re best to deal with it, so we don’t get “mad.” It is okay, after all, to become angry—it’d be too bad if it wasn’t; we all get angry.

Managing Anger & Learning – the Life Skill

Solving intrapersonal problems such as negative approaches to anger is about a mode of learning—the most innate and most important kind of learning. It has to be the most critical imperative of our lives.

One of the most important (and most interesting) considerations involved in anger is it’s perhaps God’s way of forcing us to own up to the fact we have much to learn in this life. And if we can’t embrace this concept of learning to manage our anger it could well forever plague us.

The key question seems to be, can we learn from that which angers us? Secondarily, can we learn how to respond (more) appropriately? And if we can learn and adapt our behaviour, experiencing anger without ‘bottling’ or ‘spewing’[2] (as Hybels puts it), chances are we’ll be learning and adapting in many other ways.

Perhaps at its core is the reality that mismanaged and inappropriately directed anger harms, whereas processed anger soothes and heals. All of our anger can probably be stemmed back to some injustice(s) we faced, but couldn’t deal with, when we were very young.

Again, it’s a process of learning and no one can learn in this way unless they’re prepared to be honest with themselves about their past; a past where we were largely victims of circumstance—therefore, how could it be our fault?

Enter also, forgiveness. This is when we can finally lay to rest our former grievances and move onto greater happiness in life.

The end goal: to be able to get angry without getting mad.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

[1] Bill Hybels, Making Life Work: Putting God’s Wisdom into Action (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1998), pp. 173-91.

[2] When we direct our anger inwardly as bottlers do it corrodes us from the inside out. When we direct our anger outwardly like the spewer we corrode our relationships.

Passing and Failing the Identity Test

As I reflected with a friend recently over a coffee we both mused about the respective people in our midst’s who’ve undergone extensive identity crises—notwithstanding ourselves! I’d indeed met this friend in the grip of my own crisis years back, and my friend had dealt with theirs too.

It seems to be one of life’s key tests this one of identity—and at times in an ongoing sense. No one goes through life without at least once or twice profoundly questioning who they are and what they’re about. It’s part of being a human being with a sharp, inquisitive mind and a heart capable of feeling both pleasure and pain.

And, so there it is for us…

The moment of truth looms and we find ourselves with the choice either to fight resiliently (in truth) or run toward whatever myriad of distractions there are in this life that promise to keep us from addressing the truth about ourselves, and importantly, passing the identity test.

We cannot underestimate the power of this stage of life in sowing for us a future that’s both palatable and healthy.

Someone who’s continually running from their real lives as painful as they might be—be it from addiction, failed relationship etc—robs themselves but they also rob their loved ones and those close by; a part of everyone’s identity is the poorer because this one person cannot embrace the truth.

The more people in our circle of influence that are real about their own issues—at true, meaningful peace with themselves—the more our own sense of identity (with them) will be reinforced.

This is the idea of interdependence—one of the truly great conditions of our humanity. Interdependence is the power of spiritual life and death.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Job – the “Anatomy of the Soul” All Laid Out

Not one person could ever correctly say that the Bible is all sunny day reading, describing the journey with God as a wonderland of prettiness. Most of the Old Testament (OT) is grossly stark in its approach—I mean, there are plenty of bloody battles, ghastly murders and torture; even rape (Judges 19) and much pillage.

John Calvin wrote his commentary on the psalms and was struck by the tremendously vast landscape of emotions on display in those 150 literary works of the soul—indeed, the entire anatomy of sentiment, bone for bone, laid there bare before the unsuspecting reader; the studier of the Word of God.[1]

Don’t stop there at Psalms; Psalms has a predecessor did you know? The very previous book in the OT corpus is Job and this reverse fairy tale (which ends up in true fairy tale fashion) has just as vast a bony structure of variant passions as Psalms does.

Even more so, there’s a place for the perplexed who finish up at their dearth simply having to trust God—for that’s all that’s left. The plain fact is Job (the book) asks questions that are not (i.e. never) easy to answer. And this is one reason why the Bible is well beyond the way slayer intent on revealing it as not able to tackle the tough stuff of life.

It’s as if God needs a supreme example to show all, once and for all, that he alone is Sovereign—that certain many things are constantly beyond our comprehension.

The Bible, in this 42-chapter book, if not in Psalms, puts paid to any idea that it can’t empathise with our every struggle. We’re not unique after all! We’ll never truly understand the calamities that oppress us, just as Job experienced—but his were a hundred times worse it seems.

Being troubled and knowing a spectrum of emotional anatomy as far as east is to west is not altogether a bad thing. We find peace in reading our Bible, flicking through books like Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes and Lamentations.

We’re not alone in our pain. Many have gone before us, and many will follow. We know and find comfort in God’s thoughts and ways being far above our own (Isaiah 55:8). We learn to lean on him and we’re safe, able to handle life.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

[1] Derek Thomas, The Storm Breaks: Job Simply Explained – Welwyn Commentary Series (Durham, England: Evangelical Press, 1995), p. 178.

Boxing Day’s Coming – the Hope of Nicer Things to Come

We’ve all grown tired of the term, “Christmas is coming,” surely, so I’m proposing a new one—“Boxing Day is coming.” Most people use the former saying as a way of pressing people to finish a task they started in February that remains to be finished in June. Well, mine’s a literal hope.

Boxing Day is all about the relaxation of ‘sitting in’ and reflecting over the day before; all the hype of Christmas Day. This is a hectic day for families where people inevitably travel large distances on the day in order to see each other. For us, there are numerous trips on the day, and provided it’s not too hot, these trips too allow for some light reflection.

So, what else is it about Boxing Day? Well, there’s day one of the Boxing Day cricket test from the Melbourne Cricket Ground to look forward to. There’s also the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. It’s got a really tangible holiday festive feel about it has Boxing Day.

But, there’s more to it from a spiritual angle. The very act of taking time out to view a distant event—a time not normally thought of this far out—helps the mind engender for the heart feelings of imminent joy and hope, even in the midst of other hurrying activities in our present day.

And we mustn’t forget hope. Hope buoys our faith and keeps our lives afloat. If we tend to be the ones scooping pails of lapping water out of our boats of faith from time to time, we’ll recognise just how important this ‘little thing’ of hope is.

This exercise of reflection and day-dreaming: as we can see, it’s important; we need to find time for it.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A World of Blessing – Yes, for You!

I see a vision of you, of me… an image of infinite potential; one tantamount to dreaming, but a vision issued in resplendent truth and light—a blazing reality; something beyond compare. There’s lots of blessing ahead for you; you’ll love life and live it full of hope. You just wait and see.

For this vision is a vision of you in this world; imperfect sure, but a world set up for you, custom and purpose made, supplied for your every necessary convenience—even those you’d not expect serviced.

Think… a world where the possibilities are vast to tap into; and as you skate past the dire unfortunates on the upward spiral of intrapersonal success—an express train to the halcyon of inner freedoms—not a ‘Weetie-box’ freedom—but an expansive, rubber-rafted freedom where exigency will be swiftly adapted as bliss—you’ll reach out and grasp their arm, energetically seeking to bring them with you.

You’ll experience the wasteland of wonder; the salve of euphoria; sweet jubilation!

And, why? Why this sense of perfect, inimitable bliss?—the constant antithesis of cruel, harsh, exigent realities. The answer is simply that it’s possible. It’s possible for you, and it’s possible for me—even in the abyss.

We both live a life presently where bliss occurs but in the mind and heart; a nanosecond from reality—it’s a chosen reality, in spite of whatever tumult is happening and even in the inevitability of that fact.

Is it a rank denial? No. You choose to deal appropriately, always; yet in felicity (an old-fashioned word for “happiness”)—a paradigm of spiritual nirvana exists. It hardly feels possible—yet it’s ancients old.

See your reality, truly. See it consist of truth and light—a fabulous mode of bona fide ecstasy envelopes the soul. You’ve won the battle of life, now and forever.

Seeing right, seeing straight; seeing true—a wonderful gift for the one with a heart after Jesus; only and ever. No fear overtakes or overwhelms; not now. No unpleasant realities that absolutely can’t be dealt with; not now.

Sombre, unadulterated, sweat-drenched, ruddy truth—the pacification of the godless state. Our future is secure and we are in him.

We really must remember when our worlds are crumbling under the weight of mental torment, or emotional despair or spiritual attack; the world is still a gorgeous—a majestic—an amazing, place… a place we’ll inevitably have to say goodbye to well too soon!

Why is it that we hardly ever take the time to marvel about life?

The best thing is we can! Right now; right this moment.

Call open your new life—that vision you just saw of yourself. I love that “you!” You inspire and amaze me. Please do.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

Way to Power, Love, and Self-discipline – Fan your Spiritual Flame!

One of the earliest hits for Madonna way back in the 1980s was Burning Up. The lyric and clip ooze a passion for a partner that is so totally irresistible, in only a way that Madonna (and few other artists) can achieve. The song talks about the sort of rejection of unrequited love—that burning desire that only simply stirred and fanned the flame of passion and infatuation in our hearts.

Some will find it strange to connect this imagery of having an insatiable burning desire with God i.e. to burn with passion for him and his spiritual Presence.

The subject of “burning” in the Bible is, after all, normally associated with either sacrifice or damnation. But, we’re literally asked to fan our spiritual flames into a frenzy consuming all temptations to evil in our paths. Consumed by holiness—I like it!

Let’s hear Paul invoke this in Timothy:

“This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

–2 Timothy 1:6-7 (NLT).

Now, some well-intentioned and particularly charismatic believers of Christ might see this process dependent on some sort of Holy Spirit ‘capture’; the anointing of the Holy Spirit. And to a degree that’s truth; but only to a degree. God has already given these gifts to all people through Jesus’ work on the cross. All we need to do is receive.

We see that God here wants everyone to burn for him; not simply those who’ve ‘been anointed.’ “Everyone”; did you really mean that? Yes, everyone. It is our sole, overriding purpose in life—everything else comes from this, and is secondary.

We have here in these two verses of Paul’s opening stanza to Timothy, I think, a strident cause and effect statement. The effect is dependent on the cause. It’s a conditional statement.

We cannot reap the power of God’s all-available power, love and self-discipline if we haven’t first been whipped into a frenzy for God; for an uncompromised truth. This tripartite power is wonderfully congruent—the first time we feel it is the first time we feel truly alive!

Yet, flip this thought on its belly and what do we see? Ambivalence towards God means, via cause and effect, we welcome a life of manifest fear revealed in either timidity or aggression, and most particularly, both. (And, yes, aggression always emanates from fear.)

God restores the balance that every human being was hardwired with the potential for.

The divine (spiritual) seesaw is evened out as we fervently and unashamedly seek him.

Do we see now how the purposes of God in our lives—relating to us burning solely for him—are there only for our own good? God doesn’t need our praise and accolades; we’re the ones who need to do it. We’re dependent on him all our lives in this way.

Is worship for God? Does he require it from us? A big fat “NO” to both those questions—it is we who need to do this; it is our way to block out any other thing of falsity, distraction and inherent evil to the glory of God alone!

Got a flame?

How much do you want him?

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Above All Things – The Summum Bonum – The Supreme Good

I’m recalling just now some of the many saving graces that have acted throughout my life, particularly for the 2003/04 period, when life was unusually dark for me. Henry Drummond’s 19th Century The Greatest Thing in the World essay proved one of those saving graces—a tall cedar in the spiritual resurrection of a broken man. I dictated the essay neatly onto 90-minute audio tapes and played it over and over, giving copies also to friends. At the time I needed a lot of love and hope as my faith was slowly rebuilt, from firmer foundations, starting from the ground up.

But the message of this essay is not only for those ailing; it is a sweet monologue from God. Let’s take a little gander at its fundamental premise.

What hinges this classical piece is the central aspect of the summum bonum—the Supreme or Highest Good. The Latin word “summum” gives it an ‘end’ flavour—it could otherwise be viewed as the ‘summary good.’

For Drummond, Paul’s 1 Corinthians 13 exposé is “Christianity at its source,” and it’s there he starts and finishes (i.e. completes) his search for the summum bonum—the most practical; the “verb,” love:

The Spectrum of Love has nine ingredients:— Patience... “Love suffereth long.” Kindness... “And is kind.” Generosity... “Love envieth not.” Humility... “Love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.” Courtesy... “Doth not behave itself unseemly.” Unselfishness... “Seeketh not her own.” Good Temper... “Is not easily provoked.” Guilelessness... “Thinketh no evil.” Sincerity... “Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.”

It’s pretty easy picking right there. It’s commonly acknowledged that what sets Christianity apart from other religions—besides the unique item of God’s ‘grace’ in salvation—is the tripartite virtues of faith, hope and love. And these are central to Paul’s excursus on love, featured above, in the words of Drummond. Whilst these are somewhat unique to Christianity, it appears summum bonum is not.[1]

I also found that Augustine had many things to say about the summum bonum. He cited Plato—who revealed the summum bonum to be God; Augustine asserted that:

“[T]he true philosopher is the lover of God, since the aim of philosophy is happiness, and he [or she] who has set [their] heart on God will be happy in the enjoyment of him.”[2]

But, then, I think Augustine clarifies the role of summum bonum in the context of the Christian’s life (and hence also in the non-Christian’s life too) by stating later that ‘happiness’ in the truest sense is only possible in eternity with God—and we know this already; none of us are happy all the time whilst here in the ‘body and mind.’

Yet, we then instantly gain access to overwhelming happiness as we approach the Ultimate Good—the temporary state. Now, without getting into the philosophy of the Cynics and Stoics and all manner of desiderata, it can be plainly said that the Supreme Good may only be truly found in God.

Others might find happiness in the every-day material thing i.e. without God. But it’s a delusive happiness, as Augustine would put it,[3] because they do not see what is plain for every eye to see—the majesty and comprehensive virtue of the Supreme Good.

Like Drummond, Augustine takes us on a free and sweeping ride through the canopy of virtue—and it’s a vain attempt to bring us close to God; for God is Virtue—every good thing. And this is our very human reaction; to try to struggle with God in this way—we need to play with and explore what this means. And virtue is the simplest way there. But it brings us little closer to what we seek to ameliorate.

Now, the abiding thing in a cursory look at the summum bonum is hope; projected forward to perfect love—the love received, and not rescinded, in eternity. For as Augustine cites Romans 8:24f, it is hope that saves us, and this hope is not something we already have—it is still some distance off. And the key is we wait ‘with steadfast endurance.’[4] This sense of hope makes us happy. We can be content in our hope.

So, this summum bonum idea is another of the ‘now, but not yet’ genre. But critically, the Supreme Good—and therefore true happiness—is only attained by those who approach God, both now—temporarily from an experiential viewpoint—and more fully after the death event—if we’re saved through faith in Jesus Christ; for there is no other way.

True and delusive happiness abound; it all depends on the source. So, where are we looking?

But let me now finish with the essence of Drummond’s summum bonum message:

“The words which all of us shall one Day hear, sound not of theology but of life, not of churches and saints but of the hungry and the poor, not of creeds and doctrines but of shelter and clothing, not of Bibles and prayer-books but of cups of cold water in the name of Christ.”

Now what does salvation look like?

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

[1] For more information, see: “summum bonum.” Wikipedia. Retrieved: 28 October 2009.

[2] Saint Augustine, City of God (London, England: Penguin Classics, [1467], 1972, 1984, 2003), p. 311.

[3] “... so they attempt to fabricate for themselves an utterly delusive happiness by means of a virtue whose falsity is in proportion to its arrogance.” (p. 857).

[4] Ibid, p. 857.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Compromising Standards: To Remain Steadfast or to Buckle

At times I just don’t know what to do. Confused by a range of both known and unknown stimuli, perhaps an overly burdened mind, indecision reigns—but not for as long as it used to. Indecision, a key stressor, is just one reason why we might find ourselves compromising... our authority; our reason; our standards; and finally, what’s best for all.

Let’s look at a particularly sharp example of biblical compromise:

[Jeremiah] is in your hands,” King Zedekiah answered. “The king can do nothing to oppose you [in placing Jeremiah into the cistern].”

–Jeremiah 38:5 (NIV).

[After Jeremiah was placed in the cistern, and at the urging of Eded-Melech] the king commanded... “Take thirty men from here with you and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies.”

–Jeremiah 38:10 (NIV).

What we see here is an apparent backflip from a characteristically morally-weak, though God-believing, king—one fearful of the imminent Babylonians. He bowed to the whims of one party and then bowed to the other, like a sunflower follows the sun, dependent on its rays of goodness. Of course, Jeremiah was unjustly put in the cistern to begin with, but that’s beside the point here.

People who continually compromise their standards, bowing each and every way, will tend to have the same level of success as this king; they’ll not get what they want, for they don’t know what they want.

And worse, they can receive exactly what they don’t want—which is any result, simply because anything they receive (good or bad) will be seasoned unexpectedly. It’s a neutral outcome at best, a negative one at worst.

James has some great advice about wisdom. The unfortunate thing about indecision is it often leads us to wisdom’s rank opposite, folly.

Let’s hear the word from James:

“But when you ask [God, for wisdom], be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.”

–James 1:6-8 (NLT).

I’ve long thought there are three “comp” words that I need to gradually, though comprehensively, eliminate from my character. These are to not complain, not compare myself with others, and not compromise on many certain standards.

And it’s this latter one that underpins the former two in many underhanded, covert ways—as certain things slip under our radar of conscious guard. But, all three of these “comp” words lead us to folly.

No one lives this life to continually miss out on what they desire. We take our time to decide, by all means, yet we decide—and do not continually waver. We can change our minds—in the prudence of wisdom—sure, but we do not continually waver.

And we do not weaken to the overweening pressure of others, unless it is good for all.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

DISCLAIMER: The sense of relational compromise is not the subject above. Relational compromise is virtuous and should be practiced. The subject discussed above is really about self-compromise, and the compromise of wisdom.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Unspoken Language: LOVE

“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

–1 John 3:18 (TNIV).

Life has so many ironies and paradoxes. Think of this one: love. We tell someone that we love them. Cool; that got their attention. We told the truth of how we feel, and it feels good—both in how we feel and how they feel. But words have a funny way of revealing an intent that can often not be backed up in action.

True love is not about words at all—in fact, it’s the dead opposite. Love is about fear and how we deal with it. Love and fear are both overwhelming and paralysing forces, respectively. When we pretend that love is simply about words we denigrate love to some touchy, feely subject; hardly a shadow of the great power she truly is.

Love manifested in loving someone authentically and openly—against the fear, and in spite of rejection—reveals situational awareness and the courage to face an onslaught of emotions, possibilities and realities we’d not ordinarily want to face up to. This courage takes faith; and an abiding hope fuels this faith. We can now see the engine room that surrounds and supports and embodies love, powering her on—in action.

Love is the unspoken language because, despite all of the energy and support and virtue love has behind her, she still must act. There are no excuses. And love, a chief virtue, looks for no excuses. She must do her work.

Practically, it’s just like this:

An expression of love is generally either courageous or selfless (or both)—both actions are seemingly difficult, requiring support.

ü We show our love via an act of affection—we must go with our heart, denying our fear just for the moment—in effect, acknowledging the fear yet going on in any event.

ü We show our love via an act of kindness or genuine love-felt sacrifice—we must have faith to do and just do, without hope or want of return—the loveliest love.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

Emptied Again: A Result of Faith Against Denial

There’s one fact of life many people either don’t consider or don’t think about much, but they deal with it in chagrin—that also is conditional on their embracing of truth over denial. Every now and then we feel empty. For an hour, or a day, perhaps even longer, we’re reminded we don’t have the box and dies sorted.

During a period like this recently I sought God on why I felt this way—after all, it always feels foreign, though sometimes I just accept it. Then he told me it was for my own good.

We hardly ever see what is good for us (especially when it feels wrong) unless we seek God in prayer and ask him; he then often reveals these things to us in our own self-awareness; simply by asking a question i.e. we ask ourselves. And by praying I don’t mean the ‘hands ‘n’ knees’ deal. We ask him simply, silently, sub-consciously.

Emptiness is a golden reminder that we are his; it tells us to seek rest in him—and there is no lovelier place in existence. The vision of the soul cast down before the entirely grace-filled throne is a sight to behold—from the personal perspective. We reach truth in one foul swoop!

Emptiness dealt with appropriately is paradoxically the best experience; for hope is renewed through a process of accepting the very real and raw truth—a humbling yet compassionate truth—a truth we can accept, and easily so when we’re in this place.

Being emptied again is an honour. It’s faith’s reward for resisting the temptation to deny reality; to deny our feelings. To process emptiness, and to even love it, but not masochistically, is a great skill of life. It deals appropriately with the inevitable.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

When the Promised Angel Finally Arrives

“There are times in life when we’re left stranded and are seemingly all alone, and as the wolves begin to pick at the carcass of our given situation, we’re suddenly scooped up from their midst...”

And this is certainly my experience. At the darkest time in my life, with lots of godly people about me, I was still so vulnerable. It appears as a distant memory, but it’s ever so real as I reflect, even now.

It was a time when I began to be courted by the devil manifest in one human being. And as there was such a presence of darkness imminently threatening, God—I’m sure now as I should’ve been then—placed another person in my midst who was attracted to a very virtuous quality I had right then—I was still in love with my then wife.

The process of being cared for by this dear friend, an angel in disguise, was instrumental in the resurrection life that I began to take on more fervently; more assuredly.

Looking back, I’m led to ask myself, ‘Why me; why did I receive such an especially generous measure of God’s mercy?’ (It was generous by my standards, but no more generous in reality than what’s given the next person in a similar situation.) The answer’s not that difficult to work out actually.

From the moment the dark night of my soul started I securely (and at times, insecurely) clung to God—I knew him well enough to know he was my only chance at survival; and there are many forms of that reality. In this mix of my desperation he smiled graciously on me, just as the psalmist says:

“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.”
–Psalm 51:17 (TNIV).

The point is, however, God takes his own holy pity on us when we genuinely reach out to him, broken-spirited and contrite of heart—genuinely sorry and repentant; he sends us help in human form. And he also pours his Spirit out upon us, often helping us cling to life by the skin of our very teeth.

These are the promises of God: we wait in our distresses—he surely comes—many times in precisely the ways we couldn’t even imagine. We hardly ever realise there are angels (in skin) everywhere!

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

The One Key Reason Why It Pays to Embrace Our Troubles

“I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

–Jesus (John 16:33, The Message).

It is an indelible fact of life and we know it implicitly—but how many of us are doing something about it? This ‘fact of life’ is in fact, troubles, struggles, uncertainties and any other bad name we’d want to choose.

Yet, bad names intuit thoughts of things to avoid; even to the extent of curbing life-giving activities.

Think about life this way. As a baby and toddler we’re so dependent on our parents and we still yet don’t know anything of trouble, really. As we grow we have to assimilate in a world of people: school! We have to also do as our parents request. As we go through the teen years there’re the obvious struggles; but it’s in adulthood where we finally learn that troubles are simply the way of life.

We find a partner and it’s bliss... for a while. Then comes the hard work of making a marriage or partnership work (hard work, not without reward!—but hard work all the same). Along come children. More trouble in the form of hard work and stresses—we get to finally start to see life as God perhaps sees it. And if we’ve done neither marriage nor children, we don’t get off scot-free—there are a myriad of tangles set for the single person too!

The world of employment is a trap all its own—securing for itself an entire vocabulary of troubles, indiscretions and hassles. But, like all other forms of life, we must grow to adapt or we sink into a spiritual and emotional quagmire.

The key reason why we should learn to adapt to our troubles and struggles is that they’ll always be here; they’re such an obvious part of everyday life.

My parents used to say, tongue-in-cheek, ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.’ Now, we’d have to be careful where we applied that, but it’s clear to me, if we can’t defeat trouble in this life, why wouldn’t we seek to learn to embrace it? And this is the way of Jesus.

The moment we do this, and throughout the process of exploration, a whole world of resilience opens up to us!

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.