” We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
(Much of this information about the Inverted U, while basic data analysis, is borrowed from Malcolm Gladwell’s book David and Goliath – Underdog, Misfits, and The Art of Battling Giants. How this data depiction applies to faith and connection to God was revealed to me while reading Gladwell’s application of it to class size and wealth.)
The Inverted U describes situations that improve as a factor (like time, money, or class size) increase..up to a point. After that point, the situation stays the same for a bit and then gets less good and eventually is as bad as when you started…if not worse. An example Gladwell gives is the quality of life as your income increases. Gladwell’s book was published in 2013. In it he states that, “scholars who research happiness suggest that more money stops making people happier at a family income of around seventy-five thousand dollars a year.” Beyond that and the returns are diminished. (Again, I will leave it up to you to read the research further.)
I would suggest that a similar graph will describe the relationship between hardship and faith, if the practice and application of one’s faith is applied to lessen one’s adversities. Before I get into examples, an aside was offered in Gladwell’s book on the 4 Phases of the Inverted U or, as I translate it, the 4 Phases of the Hardship/Faith Relationship:
- Establishing the Footing (as in a foundation): Becoming a believer: desire, repentance, baptism,…
- Flagging: Too much stress and hardship (financial instability, illness, toxic relationships, abuse, neglect, poverty, poor nutrition and self-care) Believer needs help; Believer turns to God; Life improves,…
- Flat (The Optimum State): Tolerable stress balanced with strong connection to God
- Falling: Too many blessings; Not enough Stress and Hardship; A lessened sense that one needs God
As Gladwell states: “All positive traits, states, and experiences have costs that at high levels may begin to outweigh their benefits.”
I would add, likewise, all adversities have potential benefits that, if utilized, can mitigate those adversities. Over time, however, with the decrease in adversity, the appeal and perceived value of those benefits also decreases. The benefits of adversity CAN be faith, hope, confessed dependence on (and frequent communication with) God, honed problem solving skills, stamina, desire to persevere, …
The key is to maintain the Flat: The Optimum State: retain the desire for the Presence of God, and the need and appreciation of blessings, when hardships decrease and life gets easier.
How? Increase your need for God.
How? By giving more of yourself (time and money); by helping shoulder some of the hardships of others… which, in turn, presents more need for divine assistance and continued connection to God…for your own strength and for wisdom concerning the other. For example, growing a prayer list of other fellow BiaFoCs who need God…and praying for the mitigation of their hardships will keep you busy.
It’s a delicate balance. Demons must be released which opens up connection to God; as demons revisit, they must be released again, and one’s attention must return to God. Note, blessings can carry demons with them such as pride of accomplishment, ‘free’ time spent dwelling on things that are detrimental to our connection to God, financial prosperity, …
A while back I wrote on keeping busy. That is how I deal with demons and keep focusing on God. If my deeds are validated, I give that validation to Jesus. If I am thwarted and I get discouraged, I give that discouragement to Jesus. At this point in my life, it is a constant dance to keep my demons at bay and to turn my attention back to God…but every time I do, it is more automatic and a stronger, clearer connection.
(Addendum: Tonight I am a bit thwarted; I am trying too hard and failing to get these ideas across as clearly and convincingly as they were presented to me. And I wonder what the point is. What difference is any of this going to make? In many respects, it feels as though it is too late. (Here, Lord. I don’t like giving this discouragement to you but I don’t know what else to do with it. I’m confused, uncertain, and vulnerable. I need protection now, please. You’re the only One I can talk to…the only One Who understands.)