We all face challenges as we travel along the journey of our lives. As the seasons of our lives change and unfold, do we view those difficulties as obstacles, or do we view them as seeds of opportunity?
“Every adversity contains, at the same time, a seed of equivalent opportunity!”
As you know, I had the opportunity to travel to North Carolina this week to spend time with my son, Gary. After spending 11 years in the United States Air Force, the time had come for him to retire. Over the course of 11 years he been deployed four times. His last deployment damaged his back, shoulders, and knees so badly that he is now permanently, partially disabled. As a result, the time has come for him to leave the military with a medical retirement. Even though his career was relatively short, far shorter than the normal retirement of 20 years of service, his command felt that his record had earned him a full retirement ceremony. I flew back to North Carolina to be a part of that special celebration.
At Gary’s request, I had the honor of giving the Invocation. Part of the Invocation was, “…we look forward with hope, anticipation, and joy to the unfolding of the next phase of his life’s journey.”
Visiting with Gary and participating in his retirement ceremony started me thinking about life, the plans we make, changes that occur, challenges that arise, and the choices we make. And, the more I spoke with Gary about his feelings, the more I realized just how much of an inspiration he is – to me, and to others facing challenges.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:”
Gary’s career began while he was still in high school. While a member of Junior ROTC, he made the decision to serve in the Air Force. He was so sure of his decision that he signed a commitment through DEP – Delayed Entry Program – a year before he even graduated. Having made the decision to “go career” and serve at least 20 years, upon graduation he immediately enlisted for six years. Never wavering from his goal, at the end of that six-year enlistment, he re-enlisted for another six years. Every decision he made, from buying a home to planning his wedding, was based on his plan to have a 20-year career in the Air Force. He had a plan, and his path was certain.
During his time in service, Gary was blessed with fairly rapid promotion, achieving the rank of Technical Sergeant in only 10 years; he had earned the respect of his subordinates, peers, and superiors; and was totally committed to, and passionate about, the Air Force – especially Security Forces. That all changed with the disability. His dreams were shattered, and the blueprint he had drawn for his life was completely and totally changed forever. His life’s journey, that was once filled with a fair amount of certainty, had now become one of incertitude. He would no longer be able to continue in the career he loved, until he finds another position he’ll be unemployed, the disability will limit his career options, his income has been drastically reduced, etc. Yet, through it all, he has remained confident and positive. And, although he mourns the loss, rather than dwelling on what has been lost, he looks to the future with excitement for, and anticipation of, the new opportunities his journey will now present.
Gary could easily sit and stew over how unfair it all is, focus on “why me,” and complain about all that he’s losing. Instead, he acknowledges the sadness and the loss, and makes the choice to focus on the possibilities that now await his discovery. He remains cheerful. And, he remains thankful for the wonderful career and opportunities he’s had, as well as the blessings he has in his life – his home, his friends, his family, and his beautiful fiancé, Sarah.
All of us can relate. We’ve all been faced with life-changing circumstances and events. The question is not whether or not we’ll face them, it’s how will we face them when they occur?
As I said, Gary is an inspiration to me. After spending time with him this week, watching as his life literally changes before my eyes, and seeing how he is facing the challenges, I began to think about all of us and how we face our challenges. Do we face them with fear and doubt? Or do we face them with a sense of anticipation and hope?
The passage in Ecclesiastes reminds us that everything in our lives, indeed, our very lives, have seasons. God’s plan for creation includes four seasons – what we call Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall.
Those seasons are based on the earth’s rotation as it revolves around the sun. The seasons change, but the sun is constant. Our lives have seasons, too; and God has given us a constant as well – His Son, Jesus Christ. We are assured of Christ’s constancy through Paul’s words in Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
And, in Matthew 28:20, Jesus assures us he will always be with us when He says, “”…And remember, I am with you each and every day until the end of the age.”
Throughout Scripture we are advised to turn to God and to our Lord, Jesus when challenges arise:
- Psalm 46:1-2 – “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…”
- Psalm 55:22 – “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you…”
- 1 Peter 5:7 – “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”
- John 14:1 – “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me.”
- Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Like Gary, we’re all facing challenges or changes of some sort or another. Perhaps we’re looking for a job for the first time in a long time. Maybe we’re faced with a move we’d rather not be making. Or we might be plagued by financial worries, health concerns, or troubled relationships. Regardless – the question remains the same…do we let our sadness, fear, or doubt paralyze and trap us; or do we see our challenges as Seeds of Opportunity to experience life in new and exciting ways?
Every challenge we face provides us with the opportunity to turn to God; and to allow Him to guide us, encourage us, and fill us with strength. How? Through prayer. By taking time to be still, to be one with Him. In that stillness, He will guide us, comfort us, strengthen us, and fill us with His peace.
Our prayer doesn’t have to be anything spectacular. We can simply pray, “Lord, remove my fear and doubt, guide me to make the right decisions, and fill me with your strength.” Slowly but surely, our path will be made clear, and we will proceed with boldness and confidence.
Challenges, relationships, material things, careers, health, etc. come and go. The question is not whether change will occur, but how we will face it when it does. When we’re faced with our challenges, are we filled with doubt and fear. Or, do we see those challenges as seeds for change from which new and exciting experiences will grow? Do we get let ourselves get mired in looking back at what we’ve lost, trapped in fear, dread, doubt, and sadness? Or do we look forward to the unfolding of the next phase of our lives felled with a sense of anticipation, joy, and hope?
I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to share such a momentous occasion with Gary. And, I am thankful that I have been blessed with a son who, besides being an awesome young man, is such an incredible inspiration, not only to me, but to those who know him. when I’m faced with my own changing seasons, I hope and pray that, with God’s help, I face them with the same courage, strength, dignity, and grace he has shown.I’d like to close today by sharing these thoughts from The Daily Word (May 8, 2014):
I meet every challenge with strength.
Strength enables me to persevere when I am challenged; yet I don’t need to endure it alone. The presence of God strengthens me whenever I need energy to meet any adversity.
Just as I nourish my body at mealtimes to remain physically strong, I nourish my spiritual strength through prayer and meditation. Prayer reminds me that God and I are one, that everything I need is already available to me. i connect with God’s mighty presence by affirming: My resilience comes from Spirit within. My strength is the energy of God.
As I partner with God in prayer, I become stronger physically, mentally, and emotionally. I meet any challenge through the presence of God that strengthens me.
Scripture for the day: The Lord is my strength and my might, and he has become my salvation. (Exodus 15:2)
No matter what challenges you might be facing today or in the future, I invite you to turn to God; and let Him fill you with courage and strength. Spend time with Him each and every day, turn your cares over to Him, and let your adversities become Seeds of Opportunities from which a beautiful, wonderful, and exciting life will emerge. And, as our hymn reminds us, in those times, let Jesus be your rock and your anchor. And so it is. Amen.
- Ecclesiastes 3:1
- Hebrews 13:8
- Matthew 28:20
- Psalm 46:1-2
- Psalm 55:22
- 1 Peter 5:7
- John 14:1
- Philippians 4:13
- Exodus 15:2
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