Jerry Duncan

Jerry N. Duncan, Ph.D., ABPP

We apparently have a choice about some of the struggles and difficulties we have in life.

Some would say, “Of course you do.

If you make bad choices when exercising your free will, you will naturally have to deal with the negative consequences that result from those choices.”

Others would say that a choice to become an obvious and genuine follower of Jesus makes you a prime target for extra problems.

They would support C.S. Lewis’s position that in the ongoing battle between god and evil, our enemy is out to dissuade and discourage those who would choose to turn to God.

I read of a man that verbalized his struggle with the issue of whether to prefer the “mountaintop” experiences with God or the “valley of the shadow of death” experiences with God. He could not decide.

He said he absolutely appreciated and looked forward to those episodes of pinnacle spiritual highs during church revivals and retreats when God felt so close that the internal thrill of it was overwhelming.

He said he also felt God’s presence in a tangible and meaningful way during his times of greatest circumstantial struggle.

He believed he learned more about God and grew more intimate with Him during his difficult circumstances.

He described his discovery that when life circumstances were good, he spent less time praying and listening to God, and his relationship with God became cold.

When circumstances were the most overwhelming, his need for God drove him to a more purposed and meaningful relationship.

He did not know which to prefer.

It is interesting that the physiological process of muscle growth in our body requires that muscle tissue be torn first. and then, as the body repairs the damage, it creates excess muscle tissue- thus, a larger muscle. I also have been told that when the body repairs a broken bone, the previously broken site becomes stronger than the rest of the “undamaged” bone.

We may not have much choice over whether our circumstances are consistently good or bad. Our preferences may come in to play when we decide how we will deal with circumstances.

Exceptionally good circumstances can and should be enjoyed for however long they last. Our response to these “good times” is key. To be grateful for them is appropriate. To see them as gifts, not entitlements, is crucial. To be on guard against allowing them to distract us from our time and relationship with God and his people will be in our best interest in the long run.

Thinking correctly about the rough times is just as important. We must choose to understand that in a place that is not our real home (Earth), good circumstances are an exception to the rule. We must then decide if we will learn from God and go to God for specific and promised direction and strength during difficult times. Our relationship with Him can get stronger.

How you think and what you do determine how you feel. It is not the circumstances.

Which do you prefer?

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