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Dec. 8, 2021

Episode 3 - Why Do We Have To Struggle?

Episode 3 - Why Do We Have To Struggle?

Do you feel like you come through one challenge in life only to face another? Why does it have to be hard? This episode digs into why we go through so many 'wilderness' experiences in our lives and how that process can benefit us. Melissa provides five strategies to build your life when you encounter times of struggle. Are you ready to lean into those challenges in your life and overcome them? This episode is for you.

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Do you feel like you come through one challenge in life only to face another? Why does it have to be hard? This episode digs into why we go through so many 'wilderness' experiences in our lives and how that process can benefit us. Melissa provides five strategies to build your life when you encounter times of struggle. Are you ready to lean into those challenges in your life and overcome them? This episode is for you.

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Welcome to the pursuing uncomfortable podcast, where we give you the encouragement you need to lean into the uncomfortable stuff life puts in front of you. So you can love your life. If you are ready to overcome all the yuck that keeps you up at night, you're in the right place. I am your host, Melissa. Epcon let's get go. Do you feel like life is one struggle after another. Is it your experience that as soon as you come through one difficult challenge in your life, there's another right on its heels. You are not alone. I'm Melissa. And in this episode, I talk about the value of struggles in our lives. So much of the good stuff we want lies on the other side of struggle. When we pursue all that uncomfortable stuff. When we really lean into the struggle, there is so much to be gained and it'll give us an even greater capacity to embrace. What awaits us on the other side. I will be providing five tips for you. Five things that you can learn and embody and grow in yourself on your struggles. That will benefit and serve you well for years to come last week as I was putting a sermon together, I noticed something newly. I was using a passage where John, the Baptist called people to repent. It's a common passage used this time of year. Part of my process in crafting a sermon is to ask a bunch of questions of the passage. For instance. If it's a passage about healing. I want to know everything about that context. I want to know who was present. Who was not present. Is there anyone there who should not be there? Or vice versa. I want to know what does the room or the place they are in look like. Is that hot? Is it cold? What does it smell like? If a person is sick, have they been anointed with oils and ointments that are still able to be caught on the nose? Does their illness produce an odor in itself? Or if it's as passage about teaching. Where are they? Are they in a temple? Are they on a mountain side? The seaside walking along the road? Who is there, who wasn't there. Who is speaking. Who is silent. Is there anyone missing in the story? Or is there anyone unexpected in the story? Is the sun out? Is it nighttime? What does it look like? Are there other people around. What can I see? What can I hear? Who was talking, what does their voice sound like? Is it inviting? Are they angry? Are they passionate? Are they confident? All of these questions, help to paint a picture. About what is happening. I would imagine these are questions that a filmmaker might ask. And often I put myself in a position of being a filmmaker. If I had to stage this passage or this scene or this conversation, what would it look like? What props are present. Where is it located? It does the time of year have a bearing on this? Is there water nearby? If so, can you hear it? Is it running water? Is it freshwater? Is it saltwater? Is there a briny smell in the air? Are there a lot of people. If there are, what are they doing? Are they working? Are they gathering? Are they angry? Or they sweaty, what is it? Smell like in that spot. What does it look like? Are there birds flying around. I asked a thousand questions. Every time. I look at a passage when I prepare. To speak about it. On this particular passage. John the Baptist. Was calling people. Out into the desert, into the wilderness. To talk about repentance and baptism. One of the questions I asked this passage was. Why did he drag everyone out of town and into the desert wilderness to talk to them? I have not worked. As an event planner, but I do know. That when one is planning an event. That it's really important to make the accommodations or the venue for the event. As comfortable. As accessible and as user-friendly as possible. Are there signs. Giving people clear directions where to go. Where to find what they're looking for. Are the bathrooms clearly marked. So why is John the Baptist? Calling people out of their village, out of town and into the desert wilderness. So, what does this desert look like? Does it look like the Sahara? Or more like scrubby wilderness that you might find in Arizona. What time of year? Is it our plants in bloom or is this a dormant time? Does reign happen with any frequency in that area? Because if there's rain, that, that means that there are plants that are growing. It might be a desert wilderness, but there are still scrubby plants and other things that grow in those environments. How do they add to the experience in this story? And then how did people know. To go out of town. Out into this wilderness to listen to him, speak. If I were planning that today. I would create an event on Facebook. I would tell all of my friends about it. I would invite them to the event. On Facebook, where they could answer if they were going, if they were interested, if they couldn't make it, I would have it there so they could get all the information they needed to know. About how to show up. To get the most out of this event. I would maybe print out flyers or business cards and spend some time sharing all of these materials with other people. So they would know. When the event was happening and how to get there. I can't picture any of this happening with John the Baptist. I mean, obviously. There wasn't Facebook or online or a best. Place to print your flyers at none of that existed in that day. And I get that. So, how did people know. To go and find him out there. Did they go to the wilderness frequently? No, it dawned on me that if he was doing baptisms, if he was calling people to repent, And to be baptized, it would make sense to do it there because there's a body of water. He went out to the river. Uh, town had to be located by a source of water in those days. No, he couldn't do it in the middle of town. Because where would you have a body of water like that in the middle of town? You didn't turn on the tap. And get water in those days. Obtaining water was work. It required going to the well and lowering down buckets or whatever vessels you had. They were probably made out of clay. And those are heavy to begin with. And then you fill it with water. And you do the work of hoisting it back up. And setting it aside or pouring it into another vessel. That you used for travel. And you repeated this process until you had the amount of water that you needed. This was difficult, strenuous physical work. People did this work to get the water that they needed to survive. To eat, to drink, to cook. To clean, however they needed to clean. I don't know. What's cleaning standards were in those days. But using water meant planning ahead. It meant exerting yourself. So John wouldn't plan baptisms in town because the resources required to pull that off. I would be a lot. And it would probably prevent a lot of people from coming. So he was out in the desert. Out by the river. He might've even been standing in the river. And talking to them. So they would have been on a bank. Generally that's a little higher elevation. So he's standing in this water and looking up to people and he's talking to them. And the. New insight. I had. Was the role of wilderness in all of these stories. Earlier. In the Bible we read about how God. Liberated the slaves in Egypt and took them on a journey through the wilderness. To the place where they would eventually settle and build their lives. They were called through the wilderness to this place. Now as the Crow flies, that place wasn't that far away. But they spent two generations in the wilderness. We're going to stick a pin in that one. And then later in the stories. When. The people were in exile in Babylon. Again, they were called to leave exile in Babylon and go through the wilderness. PAC to Jerusalem and rebuild their lives. Through the wilderness. John was calling people to the wilderness. In order. To turn their lives around. And have a different existence. And it came to me that this journey in life. It always involves the wilderness. We always are called to travel through the places of desolation of loneliness of challenge. We are called through these places of struggle. In order to get to the places where we can settle and build a life and experience the fruits of our work and our journeys. Have you ever felt. Like you were facing one wilderness after another. Have you ever felt that once you got your feet steady on solid, grounded in one area of your life? That there was another area of your life that you were starting through the wilderness all over again. Benny Lewis says the difference between. A stumbling block. And a stepping stone. Is how high you lift your foot. The difference between an obstacle or a stumbling block and a stepping stone is how high you lift your foot. There is some wisdom in that. We are called through various places of struggle in life, again and again, and again. In order to get to the places that we want to be. And sometimes. That wilderness looks like. An obstacle. Sometimes it looks like a stumbling block. Sometimes it's a stepping stone. The difference. Is how high we raise our foot. In other words, when these difficulties present themselves to us in life, The way we respond to them will determine. How they helped to build us into our reality. When it comes to going through the wilderness, it seems to be hardwired into life. To bring a baby into this world. Requires struggle and effort. Whether that baby comes through a C-section or through a natural birthing process, there is struggle and pain. When a caterpillar emerges from a Chrysallis. There is. Difficulty challenge struggle or a chick coming out of an egg. Struggle. There's intentional focused effort required. Have you ever played a sport then you know about struggle. I remember going out for basketball. I thought it would involve, you know, a basketball. But to my shock, I did not see a basketball for a week. Year after year as the season began and the practices would start up. There was no need to bring a basketball out onto the court because we were not going to use one. That first week of the season, each year involved conditioning. Running lifting weights. Pushing ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally. To get to the point to use that basketball. First we had to go through the struggle. Of preparing our bodies. And our mindsets. To play the game. Maybe you've had a similar experience. When you've taken up a new job or a new hobby. Or a new phase in life. When we experienced something new, there's always a struggle at the beginning. When we get married. There's a real awakening. On how to exist. As a couple in a relationship. When we experienced divorce. There's a real awakening to how we are going to go through life. And experience each day again, in this new way. When we start a new job, there's a whole lot of training and it involves all this stuff we never knew about that goes along with that job. Every job has a lot of stuff involved that we would never even think about The path that leads to contentment, to happiness, to joy, to the reward. Always passes through the wilderness. Through the desolation, the chaos, the struggle. The process of refinement. I know some people who sculpt they can take a lump of clay. And they can make it into something magnificent. I can take a lump of clay and I can form it into something. And it's. Might be useful. Depending on your definition of usefulness. But there are people that I know that take that clay and fashion and form it into something that's truly beautiful. Genuinely a piece of art. And before they put it into the Kim. It looks good. It looks nice. They've made a nice sculpture. But. It doesn't become a living item until it is placed into the kiln where it is fired when it experiences that high heat. And it's forced to change itself from its very molecular structure on out. Then it is ready to be utilized in a life-giving and purposeful way. So that is a great metaphor for all of us. Uh, everything that we do in life that is rewarding. Is going to involve a path. Through struggle. Through chaos. Through wilderness. Marian Wright Edelman once said, don't feel entitled to anything that you didn't sweat and struggle for. So, what can we take from this? Knowledge that we struggle for things that are worthwhile in life. When we get a diagnosis of an illness. We may emerge from that illness stronger and healthier than we were before. We might emerge from that illness. With a better grasp on our body's nutritional needs. It's needs for exercise and rest. And joy and hobbies and hydration, all of those things. But before we get there, we go through a time of wilderness and desolation. So, what can we learn? From that time. I've put together five things. That we can learn. From our wilderness times. That will serve us well. When we emerged stronger. The first. What lesson or lessons can I learn here? When we are embarking on something new and we are going through that time of refinement, we are building muscles for that future. What muscles are we building in that time? What lesson? What lessons can you learn? Uniquely. Newly genuinely through that particular struggle. Number two. Is what I want is what I seek. Worth. The time. Uh, effort and struggle that I am going through here in this wilderness. In other words, that wilderness experience, that desert journey. Can be a refinement process to help us understand what our passions. Really are. What our purpose. Truly is. If what we are struggling through, doesn't inspire us. If we don't have that inspiration within us to see us through that difficult time. We may be focusing our time and energies in a place that doesn't serve us well. So ask yourself. Is what I want and seek worth this time. In this challenging place. Number three. Cultivating gratitude. Gratitude for the journey for the muscles developed on the way. I have. Learned. Different skills in my life. When I have gone through difficult things. I am grateful for the learning I have achieved. I may in. No, and that's a good thing. I'm not given a choice sometimes of the struggles I'm going to face, because I would tend to say. I'd rather not struggle. But there's something about going through that struggle. That gives us something we would never have. Otherwise it develops a skill within us. It enlarges our capacity to live, to love, to forgive. So have gratitude. For all day you are growing within you. As you go through this path. Have gratitude for the coming destination. Have gratitude for the guides along the way. Use the struggle as an opportunity to cultivate gratitude. Number four. Letting go. What do I need to lay aside? What baggage am I carrying on this journey that is just weighing me down and making things more difficult. What is it that I need to set aside? Is it expectations of others? Is it pleasing others and not focusing on my own goals and strengths where my people pleasers don't raise your hands. We understand. Maybe that's something you need to set aside. What about grudges? Now I got to warn you. I'm going to do my best to not start preaching here, but this is one of my biggest, biggest passions. When we hold on to grudges. Boy, they just weigh us down. They zap our energy. The stress that we have from holding grudges, activates that fight or flight process in our brains. And that's awesome. If you're in an zombie apocalypse and you're being chased by the undead with an ax. But that doesn't serve us well in the ordinary day to day life. That stress reaction that we hold on to when we cling to grudges. Ages our brains. It wears on our bodies and it makes us susceptible to so many. Uh, health problems. Let go of the grudges. What else do you need to let go of. Limiting thoughts and beliefs about yourself. Is it time that you set aside thoughts that you aren't good enough for this, that you aren't capable of this or that you aren't worthy or deserving of this. Is that what you need to set aside? Bernay brown says you are imperfect and you're hard wired for struggle. But you are worthy of love and belonging. Set aside, all of those limiting beliefs that have been holding you back. Let go. And this is a difficult one. Let go. Of relationships that limit you and don't serve you. If you have relationships in your life with toxic people that are. Limiting you. Maybe it's time to let them go. And I don't mean cut them off and ghost them and shun them. But what I mean is. You might need to set up a boundary. You might need to grieve the loss of that relationship and. Understand that sometimes relationships are for a season and not a lifetime. Maybe. It's time to let go of entitlement. What is it that you need to let go of? Make that a part of your journey. And number five. What will you embrace in this new place in life? When you have gone through this struggle and when you have built these new muscles and this greater capacity for life. What values, what purpose will you cling to? Where and how will you invest your resources, your time, your passion, and your energy and your money. Having gone through that difficult time. Where and how. Are you going to engage in this world? So to recap those again, one. What lessons. Can you learn in this place? Number two. Is what you want and seek. Worth your time and effort in that place. Is it in alignment with your passion and purpose? Number three. Cultivate gratitude. Number four. Let go. Of all the things that you need to let go of. And number five. What are you going to embrace? In this new expression of yourself. And your life. It's not fun. Going through difficult times. But all of the things that are good. In life, all the things that bring reward. All of those things that bring us happiness and contentment and joy and purpose. They are on the other side of the struggle. The struggle is not fun. It's hard. Why does it always have to be hard? Because we want the things that are worth it in this life. Don't be afraid of the uncomfortable pursue the uncomfortable. Pursue it and knock it down. Defeated. Overcome it. And then live into that new place, that new capacity for your life.

Melissa EbkenProfile Photo

Melissa Ebken

Pastor, Author, Coach, Consultant, Podcastor

Melissa is at home in the difficult spaces of peoples’ lives, willing to listen and to walk with those who struggle and suffer. She is a trained coach and has consulted with churches in conflict. Her current pursuits include founding a Virtual Assistant training academy, forming a ministry co-op to better serve small churches, supporting nurses to thrive in stressful climates through building emotional intelligence, and guiding people who are ready to lean into and overcome difficult challenges and experiences in their lives.
She authored a book Teach Us To Pray: An Ancient Model For a Modern Day, and hosts the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast.