When writing a new novel, I’ve discovered a major weakness in my plotting. I don’t like to put obstacles in my character’s path. Sure, it’s fiction, but my poor protagonist has been through so much already. Can’t I just give her a little break, a vacation chapter, so she can relax and gather herself?
It’s a good thing God’s not like me.
He knows that our obstacles can be our biggest blessings.
Just like no one wants to read a novel in which the main character takes a break, an unchallenged life can be boring in the best case and nightmarish in the worst case. We are created to grow, and nothing grows us like an obstacle.
From the mountain and valley metaphors to the parables of Christ, the Scriptures are full of examples. Obstacles come for many reasons, but they exist to glorify God. Even if an obstacle is straight from the depths of the enemy’s dark dreams, God’s grace is sufficient to redeem it.
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When I was teaching my young Sunday school class about Zaccheus, I was struck by his immense hunger. I imagined he’d spent his whole life struggling to overcome his small stature; everything he did was to prove his worth, his bigness. He didn’t care whether any one in his community liked him, but he demanded they bow to his authority.
I think the moment Jesus saw Zaccheus in the sycamore tree and called out to him, the crowd groaned. “Doesn’t he know who that is? This will just boost that squirt’s power-trip.”
But Jesus didn’t care about appearances—not his own, not Zaccheus’s. He saw through the bluster, boast, and big deal. He saw that at Zaccheus’s very core, he longed to be enough, to be loved for who he was. Jesus called him from the small obstacles, and helped him wrestle with the biggie: purpose. When the Lord calls you, all the background noise falls away.
Esther was kidnapped by an oppressive totalitarian. Ripped away from her life with Mordecai, it must have seemed like a second orphaning. Surely it would be understandable for a woman in her situation to be bitter and exhausted from one obstacle after another. Instead, she chose to grow with each devastation until she was suited for a royal position. Even then, she bore the burden of her secret identity.
She could have chosen to engage in a power struggle with her king, but wisdom led her in another direction. Her grace and strong submission in the face of genocide stands as an example for us still.
Likewise, maybe you and I are given our obstacles for such a time as this.
Twice this week, I’ve listened to podcasts and heard different hosts say the same thing: God doesn’t see us the way others do. He allows us to struggle with obstacles we’d never choose on our own. But the outcome? He redeems our growing pains to make us into our best selves—stronger, wiser, and more powerful, according to His perfect plan. Not for our own sakes, but for the privilege to serve Him and play a part in His mission of love.
What obstacle are you fighting to overcome, and what has been its hidden blessing?