I’m preparing a talk while at a coffee shop, one of the cool ones with people busting out of the seams doing all the important things while drinking fancy beverages and eating yummy breakfast sandwiches. The topic given was “overcoming adversity” and after a good 90 minutes of prep I am lifting my head to consider how this might fall on the average Joe or in this audience’s case, Jolene.
The good news about this talk is that I feel qualified to speak on adversity, having walked through not-so-lovely pregnancies (see: blog title), colic-ridden youth, and a miscarriage. Adversity is our common human experience, which is one motivation to be kind and dig to access your empathy genes when walking with someone facing it. The length of time, depth, and breadth of the difficulty or misfortune may have quite the range, but this uninvited guest visits us all at some point.
But how do I talk about the overcoming part? Here is where I begin to see our common misconceptions begin to unravel, because to me overcoming adversity looks like a hero in a cape with a bright white smile and a home-cooked meal with well-behaved children. In actuality it looks much different. One of the very best lessons that comes with getting older is that the shiny veneer begins to fade and get chipped and buffed out by plain ol’ life rubbing up against you. The good news is you begin to see the breathtaking beauty in what is real.
So as I violate coffee shop code by looking at people and not just hiding behind my screen, I think these two words, overcoming adversity, are in fact good. In my inherent nerdiness I always like to look up the definitions of words. The ones for adversity are not too shocking: misfortune, distress, calamity. But when reading the definition for overcome I begin to hear the song Eye of the Tiger pump into my subconscious… to defeat an opponent, prevail over, to overpower or overwhelm.
Then I look at the meat of my argument, the verses that hopefully will begin to wrap us in truth and love and release the need to tie the cape and pretend that we’ve got this on our own. There are a myriad of ways to prepare a talk, but for this one I googled verses for overcoming adversity. Then I pictured myself in my more painful seasons receiving one of these verses in a text and consequently chucking my phone against the wall. You see, giving someone the prayer heisman and sending a text to someone who is weeping, weary, and dying in a pile, advising them to not be anxious about anything is actually…wait for it…. anxiety producing.
So on Tuesday we are going to walk through the top seven biblical “quick fix text” verses and we are going to flesh it out. Are the words encouraging? If so, why? If not, why not? What are our honest hopes and expectations and do they have anything at all to do with what has actually been promised? We will talk about being hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; being struck down, but not destroyed because we are still pushing back against the dark and we have plans to get. back. up. We are going to talk about why we don’t lean on our own understanding of situations because we are limited and have wounds that we cannot see around. We will talk about where true strength comes from, whether it is possible for God to work the ugly in your life for good and who it is that actually gives peace. And after this 24 hour adult lock-in (j.k. I’ve been given 30 minutes) we will rejoice that peace guards our hearts and minds. What a gift.