Encountering Obstacles

“Life is difficult,” are the first three words of M. Scott Peck in his book “The Road Less Traveled.” I supposed you could add, “Then life gets more difficult.”

Obstacles are a part of life. Some are minor. Some are major. And some are of our own making. How we address whatever obstacles we face is dependent on our attitude. Winston Churchill reputedly put it this way, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Some people allow their obstacles, large or small, to define them. To deter them. And to defeat them.

Interestingly and ironically, some people rise to greatness in spite of incredible obstacles. In his book, Holy Sweat, Tim Hansel, shared a revealing study of 413 “famous and exceptionally gifted people” called Cradles of Eminence by Victor and Mildred Goertzel. They spent years attempting to understand what produced such greatness, what common thread might run through all of these outstanding people’s lives. Surprisingly, the most outstanding fact was that virtually all of them, 392, had to overcome very difficult obstacles in order to become who they were.

Michael A. Guido, evangelist, columnist, and author of the devotional “Seed for the Sower” wrote about “An artist in Mexico lost his right hand while working on a statue. But he did not give up his work. He learned to carve with his left hand. His beautifully finished masterpiece was called ‘In Spite Of.’

“A sound body, a brilliant mind, a cultural background, a huge amount of money, a wonderful education — none of these guarantee success, observed Guido. Then he shared the following insights about these people who encounter and overcame huge obstacles.

Booker T. Washington was born in slavery. Thomas Edison was deaf. Abraham Lincoln was born of illiterate parents. Lord Byron had a club foot. Robert Louis Stevenson had tuberculosis. Alexander Pope was a hunchback. Admiral Nelson had only one eye. Julius Caesar was an epileptic. But these men made history in spite of their handicaps. And there was Louis Pasteur, so near-sighted that he had a difficult time finding his way in his laboratory without glasses. There was Helen Keller, who could not hear or see, but who graduated with honors from a famous college.

As we run the Christian race, we will encounter many obstacles along the course to distract us, discourage us and defeat us. The Hebrew writer reminds us of the great heroes of faith who persisted through various trials, temptations, and troubles to fulfill their God-given purpose. From Adam to Abraham. From Joseph to Joshua. And from the Patriarchs to the Prophets. All of these challenges us to stay strong. Remain focused on God’s promise. And keep on keeping on. Then he urged his readers and us:

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:1-3)

Don’t dwell on past problems, failures, or disappointments in others, and allow them to become an obstacle in pursuing your heavenly goal. Purge your mind and emotions of toxic attitudes and actions that slow you down and divert your attention. Refuse to make excuses due to your circumstances. God gave you the ability to succeed spiritually in spite of your circumstances. Say with Paul, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).

Basketball superstar, Michael Jordan was right, “Obstacles don’t have to stop you, If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

The Lord promises to him who overcomes the obstacles of this life and remains faithful and focused, that he will receive the crown of life.