I chose the seventh station of the cross to look at during this fifth week of Lent. This is the moment in Jesus’ journey where he falls for the second time. Despite help from Simon of Cyrene, despite the presence of his mother, and despite the compassion shown by the stranger, Veronica, Jesus’ strength, both mentally and physically, was beginning to falter.
Though it may not seem unique, there is a difference between Jesus’s first fall (which we examined a few weeks ago), and his second. Most of us, especially in leadership positions, have become adept at overcoming frequent difficulties. We expect obstacles and setbacks in our work; in fact, they feel familiar. We’ve learned to cope with normal difficulties and disappointments in our lives.
However, there are moments where we are pushed past what we cope with. Life-altering changes like the death of a loved one, the separation from a partner, the loss of a job, are not merely obstacles to overcome–they are seasons of life. They can feel like a long trudge up a slippery hill, where we feel like we are sliding backwards more than pushing forward. There will be moments we believe we can’t go on, maybe even weeks or months of waking up feeling like it’s impossible to keep fighting. It is in these moments we can resonate most with Jesus’ second fall and the perseverance that our Savior had to keep on going.
More work needs to be done in the area of crisis prevention. Imagine if we could impact a critical dilemma in our society, like divorce. Roughly 50% of marriages in the U.S. end in divorce; sadly, that statistic is about the same within the church. With all the energy that goes into recovery ministries like Celebrate Recovery (addictive behavior is a major player behind the disintegration of marriage), divorce statistics have remained about the same over the last several decades. What if churches began to work more on the preventive end? What if more and more energy were focused on new and creative solutions to address the high percentage of marriages that end in divorce? If the church continues to do the same thing, expecting different results, the church must realize change is necessary.
One ancient-future suggestion is to help Jesus followers do the deep work of following Jesus before a crisis develops. The deep work of following Jesus is a lot like dealing with the root issues of a plant. This might require a larger pot, or watering it less frequently, or using a different fertilizer to enrich the soil (I once over-fertilized a beautiful Strawberry Tree that I literally burned from the inside out). The cause isn’t always immediately clear, and the solution isn’t always a quick fix.
Over the last four blogs I’ve gradually introduced various ideas and resources to integrate spiritually formative activities into your life. Below is an example of a few of the spiritual disciplines that have been handed down through the ages:
Here are some main disciplines of abstinence helpful to Christ-followers over the centuries as offered by Dallas Willard. This Spiritual Disciplines List features some main disciplines for life in Christ with concise definitions for each. You will notice disciplines of abstinence here and next blog, disciplines of engagement.
Disciplines of Abstinence (Self-Denial)
These are ways of denying ourselves something we want or need in order to make space to focus on and connect with God.
Solitude: Refraining from interacting with other people in order to be alone with God and be found by him. (Solitude is completed by silence.)
Silence: Not speaking in a quiet place in order to quiet our whole self and attend to God’s presence. Also, not speaking so that we can listen to others and bless them.
Fasting: Going without food (or something else like media) for a period of intensive prayer — the fast may be complete or partial.
Sabbath: Doing no work to rest in God’s person and provision; praying and playing with God and others. (God designed this for one day a week. We can practice it for shorter periods too.)
Secrecy: Not making our good deeds or qualities known to let God or others receive attention and to find our sufficiency in God alone (e.g., see Matthew 6).
Submission: Not asserting ourselves in order to come under the authority, wisdom, and power of Jesus Christ as our Lord, King, and Master. (If you think of this as submitting to a person as unto Christ, that is a discipline of engagement.)
- Which disciplines do you already have experience with?
- Which disciplines are you curious about?
- Which disciplines would you like to try-out?
To develop the ability to discern God’s voice in your life you must exercise your discernment muscle much like you must exercise your physical muscles. And just like having a buddy when you exercise, having a spiritual director or a wise companion to come alongside you is beneficial. Take a moment right now and think who might be a good companion for you during this season.
Demonstrating perseverance means that, despite being pushed down again and again, we are choosing each time to get back up. It’s hard work, and nearly impossible to do without a deep, meaningful drive. Jesus knew that our eternal souls relied on his choice to get back on his feet. He knew it was his mission to endure this pain and humiliation, and to sacrifice himself for us. That was his drive.
“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Philippians 3:12-14)
I’ll close with a quote from Theophan the Recluse (1815-1894):
“When you retreat into yourself, you should stand before the Lord and remain in His presence, not letting the eyes of the mind turn away from the Lord. This is the true wilderness —to stand face to face with the Lord.”
Questions for reflection:
Think back to the most difficult times in your life:
- What led to this situation?
- How did you feel in the midst of it?
- Where did you feel God in these times?
- Where did you struggle spiritually?
- What drove you to keep persevering through these difficult moments? (It may be the same drive, or several different ones.)
Our latest book, Christian Coaching Essentials is now available for purchase on Amazon! This book is truly as titled—the essentials you need to learn to become a quality Christian Coach. It’s laid out to help you learn and includes bonus links to dozens of resources to help you get started. We are really excited about it and can’t wait to get the resource in your hands! Please pick-up a copy, do the self study guide online, and consider participating in a Christian Coaching Essentials cohort.