I had a very complicated relationship with the word ‘challenge’. When I was younger, I was not too fond of the thought of it and I would rather hide my head under the covers than stomach the idea of being challenged. I disliked conflict and being outside of my comfort zone.
Hiding away would make me feel like I was safe—if there was nothing to challenge the way I lived or if I never challenged others, then there would be no conflict to deal with—but this ultimately caused me way more harm than adversity ever would. Challenge is how God can grow you—feeling like a situation that you are facing is impossible is the perfect opportunity to rise up and meet it in God's strength instead of your own.
During His life on earth, Jesus constantly challenged others—He flipped tables over and stirred conflict amongst those who operated out of self interest. ‘Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, "'My house will be called a house of prayer,' but you are making it 'a den of robbers’" (Matthew chapter 21 verses 12 - 13)
He didn't do this to cause trouble and conflict without a reason, He did this because it is essential to challenge what needs change. Challenge is necessary for us to grow into better versions of ourselves.
Fear is not of God
I have recently been searching for a new job, and every time I would go for an interview, I would face the same challenge of fear slowly rising within me, thoughts such as 'what if I'm not good enough?', 'what if it's too much for me to handle?' floods my mind. Every time I find myself in this situation, I have to remind myself that fear is not of God. "For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline." (2 Timothy chapter 1 verses 7)
When we are fearful, it's because we are facing what's in front of us with our strength alone—our thoughts become self-focused, and it is all about what we can do within our limitations. But when we face the fear and rise to the challenge, whatever that may be, and acknowledge that God is with us, pray the Holy Spirit before our situation, then we start to see it through God's strength, and suddenly nothing is impossible.
Throughout my life, I had found that the moments when I grew the most as a person and where my relationship with God became deeper was when I was in the midst of a challenging time. When I decided to go on a mission trek at 19, I had anxiety. Just the thought of going to an airport, let alone another country entirely by myself, seemed impossible to me. I heard God tell me to go, I received words of confirmation to go and so I knew it was something God directed me to. I have never been the same since. Another challenging time of my life was when I was looking for a job and was unemployed for six months—God kept closing doors to positions that seemed like a sure thing. I knew by leaning into Him during this time that He was waiting for the right one to come along. By focusing on Him and trusting Him in this, my relationship with God grew and I am now in a full-time job that is perfect for me.
How we choose to handle challenges can result in different outcomes. We can choose to hide, be fearful and let it weigh us down, or we can choose to face them knowing that God is with us and see them as our opportunity to grow in ourselves and in our relationship with God.
Seek out Challenges
There is an excellent quote from C.S Lewis from his book "God In The Dock" (1970).
"Jesus Christ did not say, 'Go into all the world and tell the world that it is quite right.'"
God has called us to challenge the way the world operates. We have a mission to bring in a culture of love, grace, caring and sharing, compassion and kindness. To be brave men and courageous women who are uplifted, where the world looks at us and sees a glimpse of God in us.
To bring that change of culture into our world, we need to face our challenges and adversity. With the strength of God behind us, and not backing down from fears, we can arise to these things and, as iron sharpens iron, challenge ourselves and each other so we can grow into this culture.
"God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!" (Psalm chapter 46 verses 1 - 3)
Elise Williams lives on the Sunshine Coast with her family. She has a Diploma of Business and is currently studying a Diploma of Library and Information Services. She is passionate about God and has quite the creative streak. She has a heart for others and strives to encourage others to know God’s love and to understand how beautiful and valued they are in God’s eyes.