The other day I had a test-drive in a lazy-boy chair; the soft leather aroma filled the air as my bones sunk into the sumptuous foam. It raises your legs as it reclines, and has an array of remote controls:-like Captain Kirk’s chair on the bridge of the Star Ship Enterprise. Unfortunately for the salesman, I suddenly remembered Sir Ernest Shackleton and his men fighting for survival in the Antarctic ice floes a century ago and called to mind a Japanese saying that “luxury is a menace to authentic manhood”.
The current generation of men seem bent on making life soft, convenient, safe and comfortable. Philosophies akin to the American dream point to an earthly paradise and rest after labour with the unspoken suggestion that a cure for sickness, old age and death can’t be far away now. Life’s meaning has become focussed on success, wealth and ease and the avoidance of all woes and challenges. Any obstacle or adversity or departure from the carefully crafted comfort zone is met with horror and ultimately disappointment.
As a pilgrim people passing through life on the journey to our ultimate goal and destination, we have the opportunity to achieve a different kind of success. I read an insight that changed my thinking about my own trials and sufferings; that the difficulties we encounter are really a way that God initiates us into an authentic Christian manhood. He wants to see us reach our full stature as men and as sons and so will put us through whatever is necessary to achieve that. Even those things which happen to us, which can only be regarded as evil, can be transformed by grace (and time) and become our glory; “We know that all things work for good for those who love God”(Rom 8:28) We can resist this process or embrace it; but it will be lighter if difficulties are accepted as if from God’s hand because then we can prayerfully work through them in partnership.
Viewed from this perspective, and looking back on my own life, from childhood to the present, I can see how my heavenly Father led me through different challenges, trials and adventures; many I rather enjoyed, others are filed under ‘hideous abominations’ but in either case I grew through them, learned and relearned lessons, was hurt and healed and taken together it’s the hardships that form our characters the most. In time they are remembered fondly because of the fruit they bore and ultimately this toil is part of heaven’s price, and as we endure to the end our thrones await us!