Several years ago, my lovely sister Melissa (aka: Angel Princess) got a tattoo in Arabic that says, “the only way out is through.” Most of our family’s ethnicity is rooted in the Syrian and Lebanese cultures, so I thought the tattoo was really awesome. But I’ll be honest, I never gave much thought to it’s meaning… until now.
I’m an American, and after traveling to multiple countries across the world, I’ve realized that Americans have a stigma for being task-oriented, fast-paced, and overly-confident individuals. We like to get things done, and we like to get those things done quickly (even if that means sacrificing quality for quantity and/or our health for immediate results). The South Africans i’ve met in the Western Cape have more of a people-oriented, chilled out, “it will get done when it gets done” kind of vibe to them. People will always tend to think and act differently from one another, so I’ve had to learn to embrace those differences (just like people have learned to embrace mine).
If I compare this thought (and my sister’s tattoo) to my Christian walk, when I want to get from point A to point B with God—I personally like to take the fastest and simplest route possible. I want to skip all of the suffering, the waiting, the detours, and the failures. I want to pass over the sicknesses, the injuries, the fights, the mistakes, and the wrong decisions. But I’ve learned that God doesn’t work that way.
There are two particular passages in scripture that make me want to throw my miniature black leather-bound bible out of my car window. The first one is Romans 5:3-5 which says, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” The second passage is James 1:2 which says, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.”
You see what I mean? Don’t you just want to smack me right upside the head for typing those words and making you read them? The struggle. It’s real.
God’s path from point A to point B is not an easy one. In fact, He promises that it’s going to be a challenging route that very few people will be willing to walk across. He promises hardships, difficulties, sacrifices, suffering, and loss. But He also promises provision, hope, joy, and protection. If I am not willing to walk through the tough stuff, then I will not grow, learn, or mature. If I try and take the easy way out by avoiding “life’s everyday problems,” then I will end up being a very weak and wobbly woman. My character will be shallow and my faith unrefined. And that, my friends, is no bueno.
Think of it this way: I can’t run a marathon successfully if I don’t train, I can’t heal an injury if I don’t rehab, and I can’t get a warm chicken tender Publix sub if I don’t stand and wait in the ridiculously long line.
The only way out… is through.
When I feel beat up or beat down by the struggles and battles occurring in the world all around me, I must remember that they have a purpose—and that their purpose is ultimately for my good. Instead of “praying away” the hard things, I need to pray to find a way to make the most of those hard things. Because if I am really honest with myself, the failures I’ve walked through have always taught me more than the successes I’ve experienced. Just like the many moments of weakness and dependence have taught me where to find my true strength.
So I guess the real question isn’t whether or not I will have to walk through suffering, but instead—how will I handle the suffering that’s promised to come my way? Will I duck and hide, quit and run, or face it head-on with a joyful heart and with the Lord of Angel Armies by my side? No one likes to suffer and no one enjoys feeling uncomfortable, so it won’t be easy. Those things never are… but with the right perspective and proper focus, I know that the Lord will help me come out on the other side as more than a conqueror.
My challenge for you (and for me) is this: Push Through. No matter how difficult or discouraging the challenges in your life may seem at the moment, move forward. Don’t take any short cuts and don’t turn around in fear. When we walk through the tough stuff—we never walk alone. So to find the best way out, you must go through.
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are Mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through the rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”