from obstacles to opportunities

Yesterday I attended a meeting of the the Ajax Business Network, where Barry Shainbaum shared his story of overcoming obstacles (namely mental illness) and persevering through and despite limitations and setbacks to success. Although this was not offered as a religious seminar, it was very religious, very spiritual. The language of “but by the grace of God” and “belief in a higher power” was mixed together with luck and fate. Barry spoke to our ability to choose how to respond to what happens in our lives, and of the necessity to persevere. He shared stories of how he refused to take ‘no’ for an answer, and turned obstacles into opportunities. We were encouraged to re-evaluate life, not just to aim for financial success, but to aim for meaning and purpose, and life of inner peace and fulfillment.

I very much appreciated what I heard, though I filtered it through the sieve of my understanding of God, Jesus and the world. I do believe that his attitude and perseverance played a big role in where he is today, but I would place more emphasis on “by the grace of God”. If only we knew how much God does for us. If only we knew how much we depend on His intervention and guidance to get through life. If only we appreciated how costly our mistakes would be, if He didn’t restrain and redirect them. If only we understood how patient He is with our twisted and self-centered motives, our taking the credit for what He does. If only we knew how amazing it is that He absorbed our shame and failure on the cross, so that we could enjoy His love and blessing.

Our actions and reactions are important, but not the most important. At the end of our life, I believe God will graciously show us what our hearts and actions were really like, and how much He actually did for us. But I suspect only those who have developed a spirit of humility and God-confidence will be able to appreciate it. In the end, I don’t think God will reject people so much as I think they will reject Him. They will refuse to say “by the grace of God”, and stick with “by the effort of man”.

God-confidence trumps self-confidence, God-help trumps self-confidence. I could hear in Barrie that he was sensing this. And I also could sense that God is slowly but surely impressing this on his heart, and mine… and yours. May we all be humble enough to acknowledge our dependence on God, His mercy and forgiveness and help. May we all see Jesus, as the heart of God in the flesh, stretching out His hands and saying, “Come to me, and I will give you rest”.


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