“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12 (NIV)
Challenged. To choose one word describing my year so far, this would be it. I’ve been challenged at work, personally, spiritually, in leadership, in relationships, and emotionally.
What’s funny is I shouldn’t be surprised; this is exactly what I asked for at the beginning of the year. For the past several years I’ve set aside the first week of the year to pray, fast and go before God with an open heart and life. I always have a list of items that I’m looking for direction on, but more than anything I usually just listen. I quiet my head and my heart before the Lord and open my ears to what He has to say.
This year was no different. I spent plenty of time just soaking in and being still. But I also came with a list of things that were on my heart, like a desire to see the young professionals ministry I lead expand, for opportunities to share my faith journey, to be stretched as a leader at work, to be more open with my heart and life to the people around me, and to grow in my understanding of God and His plan for me.
I was praying to be challenged. And at first it seemed like everything was the same, which was a bit unnerving, but then things started to change…
– Transitions at work created a greater level of stress – I was challenged professionally.
– Family members faced medical struggles – I was challenged personally.
– I began meeting regularly with a mentor – I was challenged spiritually.
– Growth and change happened in ministry – I was challenged in leadership.
– Friends unintentionally spoke out of line on behalf of one another – I was challenged emotionally.
Through it all I resolved to stretch, grow and learn. Each challenge has simply been an opportunity to be daring in my response. Will I run from problems, get derailed in my faith and integrity, and react instead of respond? Or will I trust that God heard my prayer at the beginning of the year to be challenged, and in turn grow stronger, open myself wider, and be stretched farther? I chose and will continue to choose perseverance and personal growth.
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” James 1:2-4 (Message)