Timely Obstacles

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?


Grace & Such strives to advance Christian growth among women. While we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, we also recognize human interpretations are imperfect. Grace & Such encourages our readers to open their Bibles, pray for wisdom and study for themselves what the Word says. For more about who we are, please visit the About Us page.
Cole Smith
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  1. Becky Preston on January 23, 2019 at 7:52 AM

    Thank you for your wise words of encouragement. The obstacles can so easily become mountains of discouragement, but I’ve always felt they were purposeful – still that doesn’t make them any easier to climb,

  2. Sarah Robinson on January 23, 2019 at 9:39 AM

    So true, Nicole. You captured my same angst over writing fiction, too; creating obstacles for my main character goes against my grain!
    I often think of King David’s obstacle to right living—his lust of the flesh (among other things) and mine can be weakest when I’m hungry, angry, lonely or tired. HALT! I’ve always got more learning and growing to do where all of that’s concerned, but thankfully we serve a mighty obstacle-moving God!

  3. Sarah Eshleman on January 30, 2019 at 8:01 PM

    Two things:

    1. Thank you for giving me a new perspective on Zaccheus. I’ve never thought of his how his height might have played a role in his personality and actions.

    2. I’ve been learning this truth lately, about not balking against change. Let’s get this straight: I don’t like obstacles and challenges. I don’t know that I ever will be able to embrace them with joy when I first encounter them. But I HAVE been learning, after the initial fight has subsided, to find the purpose and the positive in them. I was recently given what I felt was an unjust, unreasonable assignment at work on top of my already busy work load. I raised my concerns about it and balked, but later I realized that this new task will allow me to put to use one of my abilities: content generation for a newsletter. I’m thankful that God has allowed me to be able to see the positives in a challenge. Maybe someday I’ll be able to count it joy when I see a challenge coming.

    Thanks so much for your post.

  4. […] 1. I loved the new perspective on Zacchaeus in Cole Smith’s Grace and Such blog post “Timely Obstacles.” […]

    • Diane Tarantini on April 28, 2019 at 9:32 AM

      Cole, I just read this excellent post of yours because Sarah linked to this post from her excellent post on Mary and Martha.

      Ladies, thank you so much for your perspectives on these various Bible stories and characters. I loved both reads!

  5. DianeK on March 4, 2019 at 11:27 AM

    I loved the way you used Zaccheus to teach this obstacles truth. He didn’t know they were obstacles until they were removed so he could see what it was he was really missing. I think that’s what frustrates me the most about obstacles – that they are stopping me from seeing the real lesson, which is the one God has for me to learn. I sometimes get too caught up in what I was prevented from doing or seeing, when sometimes it’s not even close to what God wants me to learn from the obstacles…

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