Recently, I read a comment made by one of the greatest chess players of our time. After having won several high ranking tournaments at a very young age, he looked far into his future and examined his present state. He said he had come to the understanding that his future would be an “open ended struggle.” He realized that if he chose to continue to contend in the world of chess and become the world champion (which he later did), it meant adopting the fact that there would be a constant struggle. One struggle to get to the top and another to stay at the top.
Mountain climbers are no strangers to this reality. They struggle for long grueling hours to reach the peak of a mountain and once they arrive they wrestle against the altitude, which fights the climbers for every breath they take. Somewhere in the mind of the competitive athlete, business man, and successful person there is a respect and acceptance for the open ended struggle. It is too easy to want to ignore this critical element of the human enterprise, but reality dictates that if one is going to have any level of success it will come bathed in struggle.
While the patriarch Jacob was sleeping on a rock, he had a vision of the relationship between heaven and earth. The central figure of this vision was a ladder. This ladder hosted all those who would be engaged in the on going battle of life on earth. Those on the ladder would be subjected to the tiresome motions of ascension and dissension. One day while lecturing His disciples, Jesus announced that he was the Ladder that Jacob envisioned. This should help us understand why our lives sometimes seem framed by a series of ups and downs. Everyday we wrestle to balance and hopefully ascend another rung, but the dictates of Christianity obligate us to sometimes go down, one, two, and maybe three rungs before going back up. This should not discourage us nor cause us to implore defeat. Struggle, static, stress and friction should by all means be adopted into our thinking because any success in life or the life to come is impossible without them.
Even Jesus was faced with struggles from the day he was born to the day he died on Calvary. As a new born babe wrapped in his mothers arms, he was carried from country to country running from them that sought to take his life. As a grown man who was both honest and full of integrity, a day hardly passed by where he was not challenged on the content of His message and character. He was almost stoned on more than one occasion and betrayed by His own disciples. Yet to Him, this was all par for the course. He insisted that if we were to be His disciples, there was no possible way for us to escape the struggle. If Jesus struggled with devils, than we can expect the same. And if Jesus overcame with great success then we will overcome too. We are not only partakers of the fight, but we are also partakers of the victory. We're not only subject to see the fog of war, but we are privileged enough to see and live in the glow of victory… if we fight.
None of us like to have a fight on our hands and often we are more than happy to cave into defeat because defeat itself relieves many of the tensions we feel. This feeling is due in part to the idea that whatever is challenging us will take note of our surrender and leave us alone. Sadly though this is not true. Adversity is not a pacifist nor is it rich in mercies. Time spent ignoring our problems compounds them and in some cases mutates them making them even worse than what they were originally. We must stand strong and downright defiant in the face of our struggles. We have to challenge it in prayer and fasting if need be, but we must by all means possible never give up and never give in.