I've found myself pondering this question recently: How do I best prepare for difficulty?
Any way you slice it, difficult times are ahead. I've already passed through a few, and Jesus summed it up when He said, "In this world you will have trouble."
Sometimes when big and small things happen that create a storm in my life, I act surprised and even offended which is a tell that I have been believing that my choices are going to protect me from ever facing a challenge. When I stop and analyze my reaction, I notice a self-sufficiency that creeps in, dominating my thought life with an increasing reliance on myself to avoid things that are hard.
It's a tell that I have been spending time thinking through every possible worse-case scenario, imagining loads of conversations where I'll say this and you'll say that and he'll answer with this so then I'll come back and say such and such…building internal walls and creating plans for the what ifs and the outcomes I predict…
None of those things have ever protected me or truly prepared me for any difficulty I've passed through. Certainly it's never stopped an outside force from wreaking havoc on my "well-ordered" life.
That's not to say that planning is bad or thinking through scenarios can't ever be helpful, especially when there are some pragmatic things to do for physical preparedness. And we definitely need to do some mental and emotional preparedness.
What I'm realizing, however, is that my way of preparing emotionally in the past has not really served me well when an actual hard time has come because my habitual line of thinking has led me in circles trying to figure out how I would solve the problem, fix the problem, and protect myself from the problem with no real effective answers.
So what to do?
I think the key lies in what Jesus says next: "Take heart. I have overcome the world."
In The Forgotten Way, Ted Dekker says this:
"The eternal realm of heaven has come into all darkness as the Light of the world. This Light does not stand beside darkness, or around it, or in one small corner of it. This Light has come Into all darkness, as John writes. Paul makes it clear when he wrote, In Him all things hold together. Every atom. All. Show me a place where you think Christ isn't, and He will show you only your blindness to Him there, because He is there." [p 113]
If I want to prepare for hard times ahead, then I need to take heart. Partnering with worse-case-scenario imaginations don't, for me at least, lead to finding powerful solutions to problems that may arise; rather it leads me down a path of hopelessness and despair and self-reliance which creates panic, fear, worry, stress, anxiety.
Taking heart means imagining Jesus present in every single scenario I can come up with. And then trusting that He'll be in the ones that I haven't thought of.
Taking heart looks like trusting that no matter what's ahead, the final outcome will bear the mark of Jesus because He has overcome the world.
It shifts something deep within me when I allow the truth of the Gospel to sink profoundly into the marrow of my bones and set my thoughts to marinate in the truth of His Presence within and all around me.
I confess my blindness to that Presence. I see and hear of things going on around me. I struggle with the news of atrocities here and across the globe. It's easy to see only the hard and the evil that oftentimes causes it, but I'm called to a different way of operating. I'm called to take heart and to look for the Presence of Christ in every situation.
So today I'm preparing by practicing the Presence of Jesus right here and now, imagining Him present with me here and present with me in the future and in every situation I will encounter.
I'm taking heart.
Will you join me?