It’s the beginning of a new year, and I’ve been thinking about resolutions, change, and everything else so many people think about when Jan 1 rolls around.
I’ll fully admit that I love the new year. I love making new goals. I love assessing my past year. And I love marching forward. This doesn’t mean that I’m great at keeping goals. I’m not. I think that my strength might be that I’m not a perfectionist – I don’t get caught up on what I haven’t done or how I’ve failed. I just look forward to what I can change.
So…it’s that time of year, and I’ve been thinking about my resolutions – what I want to change about myself and how I want to move forward. Interestingly enough, it has me looking at my weaknesses and struggles.
It’s an interesting word. I think that we say it a lot. I know I do. We say things like, “I struggle with my weight.” “I struggle at keeping my budget.” “I struggle with reading my scriptures.” “I struggle …fill in the blank…”
I don’t know. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve said it because
- It seems like a humble thing to do – admit to my weakness and struggle.
- It’s a reminder. I can give myself a break because I struggle with something.
- It’s practically an excuse. – It is hard to change because I struggle with that.
In the past, tended to think of a struggle as some kind of force I was absolutely powerless against.
Recently, I was meditating and praying, pleading with the Lord to help me with my struggles. As I did, the words, struggle and surrender, echoed in my mind. They left an imprint on me, and I decided to find out why.
What is a struggle? I wondered. Well…here it is – the definition:
I had an epiphany. Struggling is my choice. I don’t have to do it! I don’t have to struggle with my weaknesses. My struggles often feel so much bigger than me, but they aren’t. In fact, my struggles were of my own making. I was the one choosing to struggle!
Now, I think that it is important to make a clarification. Weaknesses and struggles aren’t the same thing. Weaknesses are parts of our personality that often make our lives more difficult. A struggle, however, is what we do with that weakness. And, I have spent many years struggling against or with my weaknesses. Weakness is what I was born with. Struggling with them is my choice.
Sometimes there seems to be a lot of stress with weakness – like there is this big responsibility we have to “turn them into strengths.” Well. That’s simply not the case. The Lord teaches:
The Lord gave us weakness not so that we would struggle against it and try to “fix it” ourselves. He gave us weakness so that we would be humble.
He gave us weakness so that we would surrender.
It’s also important to recognize what surrender means in this instance. I’m not suggesting that we would surrender and “give up” in this fight against our weakness by giving in to them. On the contrary, we surrender ourselves, the natural man, or our wills to the Lord.
I’ll give an example – I’ve been struggling (there’s that word again) with my hands. I have a serious issue of dishydrotic eczema. My hands are swollen and itchy. Sometimes they even ooze. I’ve been on Prednisone four different times in the last year because of this condition. It has taken me some time to figure out the cause of it – mostly dietary.
My favorite foods – wheat, nightshades, and almonds seem to make my skin go crazy – my hands will blister, burn, itch, and sometimes I even get hives on my arms. This situation with my hands has been difficult on me, and I have spent many hours in prayer concerning them.
I knew that I needed to change my diet, and I was working on it, but I struggle with that. I struggle with it! Like it’s some carte blanche excuse. I would often plead with Heavenly Father that He would heal my hand condition, while I still ate the things that I knew triggered them. I wanted him to be magic. All because I struggled with giving up wheat and nightshades.
I sat, meditating, and I knew that instead of struggling, I needed to surrender. Struggling was my choice. Instead of struggling because I refused to give up my precious foods, I simply needed to surrender and say, “Okay. I do love wheat-based foods. I do love tomatoes and peppers. I do love almonds. But they hurt me. And if giving them up is what it takes to heal, then I’ll do it. I’ll give them up for thy help.”
The Lord wants to heal us physically and spiritually. And He will. The trick is that instead of wrestling against God, we simply need to submit ourselves to Him. When we finally choose to surrender the sins and habits that we are usually quite fond of, then, finally, His grace can begin to heal us.
One final analogy. Have you ever played with those Chinese handcuffs? I remember getting them from dollar stores when I was a kid. You put your fingers in, and the harder you pull, the stronger the hold.
It is when you finally surrender – when you stop resisting – that you find liberation.
Likewise, it is not when we struggle, but when we surrender to the Lord that we will find liberation, peace, and joy.