Do you ever intentionally seek out adversity?
There are two kinds of people—those who can picture the scene when Rocky Balboa shouts, “Yo Adrian, I did it!” and those who have better things to do than watch cheesy boxing movies.
Like many sports movies, the “Rocky” story incorporates a recurring theme. A “nobody” rises from obscurity to stardom, becomes too comfortable with wealth and material advantage, loses the competitive fire, and loses to the next “nobody.”
At that point the hero faces a choice. He can retreat to the mansion and live off his accumulated resources … or he can go back to the beginning. Going back means surrendering position and privilege.
Why? When one has abundant money and fame and comfort, why return to a smelly arena to pursue a prize you’ve already won? Why go back to the sweat and pain and sacrifice of a life you fought so hard to escape?
I think it’s something inside, something others cannot see or comprehend. It’s an internal desire that’s fueled by something bigger than riches or cheers or trophies.
You can’t buy that internal will, and nobody else can go out and find it for you. Going back means choosing to become a nobody again. It means intentionally, consciously choosing adversity.
See the parallels?
If you think about following Jesus, there’s a lot of eerily parallel language. We face a battle with a relentless spiritual enemy who’s always looking for an opening, an opportunity to take us out.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been at the bottom a couple of times. I identify with that feeling of “nothing to lose, nowhere to turn.” I reached out to Jesus, and He helped me off the spiritual mat each time.
But I wonder: does my enemy savor watching me comfortable and contented, lacking that edge that came with desperation. That next challenger will show up, because it always does. I know that the world will send adversity my way at some point.
So how do I prepare for the adversity I don’t choose? I have to develop the habit of choosing adversity. Just as an athlete trains his body, I must train my heart and soul. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
This isn’t about living in fear of the next calamity lurking around the corner. In fact, it’s precisely the opposite. When an athlete has trained and prepared, he enters competition relaxed and confidently. He knows he can deal with adversity he doesn’t choose because he habitually faced the adversity he chose.
The competition begins
I’m picturing two spiritual athletes confronting difficult, gut-wrenching, soul-searing adversity.
One has a Bible somewhere, and he used to pray occasionally. He kinda-sorta has some social ties to a church community, but hasn’t talked about Jesus with anyone in years.
The other talks to God regularly and spends time digging meaning from the Bible. He has a few deep relationships that include authentic conversations and real questions about how God works in life.
Both of these folks may get challenged, hurt, and knocked down. Both may wonder where God is, why this has to happen. Depending on the situation, they both may be rocked with a body blow that leaves them staggering and gasping for air.
Sometimes, life does that. Sometimes you can’t avoid that punch in the gut.
Question is, which guy has the better chance of taking the punch and moving forward?
What’s an area in which you’ve chosen to get a bit too comfortable? What’s a small change you can make to begin a new habit?