A few weeks ago, a friend asked me if I was interested in getting a P.H.D. I told her not if I had to pay to get it, but I should have said, "I already have one." I have a P.H.D. in overcoming obstacles. I have overcome the obstacles of being bullied as a child and as an adult, experiencing various forms of abuse, rejection, racism, sexism, health challenges, divorce, marital problems, low self-esteem, anxiety, motherlessness, fatherlessness, loneliness, anger, fear of public speaking, having a learning disability, working in a toxic work environment, financial problems and one of my most recent obstacles was breaking my femur. I fell and was home alone; I had to crawl to the back of my house to get my phone and then crawl back to the front of my house to unlock the door. The pain was excruciating, but I did it! After completing left hip replacement surgery, I worked very hard in physical therapy to attend my son's wedding two weeks later in another state. I know how to overcome obstacles!
What I have learned about overcoming obstacles is not buying into the illusion that I will not have any obstacles. Scripture clearly says, “…in this life, you will have trouble.” (John 16:33b).
Being upset that an obstacle shows up in our lives only creates more suffering. The obstacle often will create enough suffering on its own. Obstacles generate a crisis. A crisis is a time when your normal is interrupted. The crisis that is produced thru the block can be a crisis of limits where your resources run out, like loss of finances, or a crisis of forced detachments which happens when we are forced to let go, like the death of a loved one, loss of a job, kids going to college, getting married. Every obstacle invites us to transcend and move beyond what limits us. Every obstacle is an invitation.
I love how Paul describes his invitation to transcend his limitation in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 in the Message Translation.
"Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn't get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan's angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn't think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it's all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ's strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become."
I also love the New Living Translation of 2 Corinthians 12:8-10
Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness." So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That's why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul said that through his suffering and limitation, He discovered that God could give him the power to transcend. It is the obstacle that reveals God's power, and it's through the obstacle that he is empowered to transcend! This is our good news!
So when an obstacle appears in our lives, we must not yield to the temptation to believe the lies it brings; it’s an invitation to believe the Truth about the One who empowers us to overcome every obstacle.
In every obstacle that God empowers you to overcome, you will see the splendor of your unique communal life call, the virtues of humility and detachment will be cultivated, and you will begin to appreciate your suffering because your obstacle would have transformed you. So the next time you experience an obstacle, don't resist it. Greet it warmly and say, "Well, hello, obstacle; in what ways will God's grace use you to empower me to transcend my limitations today?"
1. What are the obstacles in your life that God is inviting you to transcend?
2. What virtues are being cultivated in you through your obstacle(s)?
3. What scriptures combat the lie(s) that the obstacle brings?
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