Do you know anybody who doesn’t face challenges, trials, tribulations, frustrations and even downright failures from time to time? I don’t! Challenges happen in any area of life. It could be a once-off challenge such as a shy person having to make a speech at school. It could be an on-going one where you must live with a difficult close relative. It could be a challenge in studies, health etc. This is a part of life. However, you can learn to navigate challenges in your lives, as you trust God to overcome them eventually, and in some instances learn to live with them. You can also teach the people you have influence over to do the same.
Young people are not exempt from challenges; they may even have more.
This is because they are still growing and finding their place in this world. Add to that trials and tribulations, and it can amount to a lot of pressure. As adults with influence over young people, you need to be role models in how you manage challenges in your own lives as you interact with them, in addition to instructing them in the same.
Others are in the same boat
Many people are walking around looking fine but most, if not all, most likely have at least one challenge in their lives. Throughout my own life I can identify with having had to deal with challenges. There are times in my life when it has been, “Yay, this is wonderful, it’s a miracle!” and I couldn’t wait to jump out of bed that day. And then on other days it has been like, “I can’t believe this! This is too much, it’s terrible, it’s overwhelming, how am I ever going to get over this?” Believe me, the last thing I wanted to do was to get up that morning. I felt like just covering my head with the pillow and going back to sleep so that certain things could just go away. But they didn’t just go away because I wished them to. The same has been true regarding my children and their challenges. They have been real! I am sure that many of you too experience these ‘valley’ experiences in life from time to time.
Deciding to survive and not succumb
An assortment of emotions and feelings tend to accompany challenges, depending on the severity: confusion, disbelief and shock, discouragement, shame, fear, embarrassment, pain, an inability to cope or even depression. Not least of these is denial and pretending there’s no challenge.
The answer to navigating challenges lies in understanding that you can handle them with God’s help.
The first thing is to acknowledge that the challenge is there: it exists. Pour your heart out and tell God how you feel (Psalm 143:5-12). Next, decide to carry on with life. Many fail at this stage and decide that life is over for them. They sink into a web of depression and hopelessness, which sees their lives plummeting. Some may even commit suicide. This is very important to discern, and it is not to be taken lightly.
Deciding to carry on involves literally getting out of bed each morning. This is a small yet big thing. Get up – even if you had until that point delayed. Regina Brett puts it like this, “No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up”. From there, there will be a positive ripple effect.
Introspect and ask yourself questions that help you cope. Are you going to let the circumstance consume you? Should it now dictate to your life or control you? What would Jesus do? How did people with challenges in the Bible cope? Are you going to trust God and be resilient?
Developing the right attitude
Although challenges are part of life, the truth is that your attitude towards the challenges is what will determine what happens next. This speaks to the saying, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters” by the Greek philosopher Epictetus. So, regardless of what is currently in front of you, threatening your peace of mind, your self-talk and outlook should be one of hope and trust in God.
Remember too the small and big victories you have had and are having in other areas of your life. Why not focus on these for encouragement, and praise God? A grateful heart is one sure way to put things into perspective (Philippians 4:6-7).
God never promised that there will never be any challenges in life. In fact, he highlights that there will be suffering, but that he will be with you if you stand with him (John 16:33). We also know that though not everything that happens to us is good, God will use even the unfortunate for our benefit (Romans 8:28).
Some ‘set-backs’ help you later in life (Exodus 23: 28-30). In this passage, God delayed the children of Israel’s victories to protect them.
The Bible refers several times to overcoming and conquering. How then can you be an overcomer if there is nothing to overcome (1 John 5)? How can you be more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37) if there is no conquest? And how does a testimony arise when there is no test?
God does love us deeply and care about what happens to us. But he is primarily interested in who we become. Realise that challenges exist to train, mould and shape you, extract the good character God wants, and help you have godly attributes and character required for your calling and destiny. Challenges have a way of pulling out the potential in people (James 1:3-4). We do not go out in search of challenges, but there is a time when it’s necessary to go through the furnace and become like refined gold, though it hurts.
To survive challenges, you literally must hold onto God’s word. No challenge is too great, with God on your side; it cannot destroy you (1 Corinthians 4:8).