Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. (Rom. 12:15)
Let’s begin by considering how to share our struggles. In the opening lines of Scot Peck’s book The Road Less Traveled he says, “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it.”
In other words, life is filled with struggle. We can avoid that reality, or we can embrace that reality. I find that living in a mind-set that life should not be difficult often causes me to think I am a unique victim of a struggle that I should not have. In a discipleship band, we name and acknowledge our struggles. Some struggles we have control over, others we do not. It might be helpful to think of struggles in three basic areas:
- Family or relationships: This could be marriage, parenting, family, or important friendships. Sometimes we hesitate to be honest about these areas because we do not want to speak badly of others. Your band, though, is a safe space and an opportunity to be honest about your experience in these relationships. The intent is never to harm others with our words or lay blame upon them. Often processing our relationship struggles gives us insight into our own possibilities for growth and can help lead to healing for everyone involved.
- Vocation, calling, and purpose: These are challenges we face at work. These are places we find ourselves sometimes struggling with our worth, our identity, or our performance in certain areas. Sometimes our struggle is wrestling with a future opportunity.
- Ourselves: The internal struggles we wrestle with are seemingly endless—at least mine have been! I find my greatest points of struggle come when I am hungry, angry, lonely, tired, bored, or stressed. My responses to others, my feelings about myself, my thought life can all be deeply impacted by my own self-care or lack thereof.
When you share your struggles, you are naming the challenges you are facing right now—in your family, in your relationships, in your school, in your work, in your parenting, and within yourself. Remember when someone shares a struggle it is not our opportunity to fix, give advice, or propose a possible solution. Just listen.
Now let’s consider successes.
Did you know that there is a deep connection between struggles and successes? We often think of success as recognition, fame, or prosperity, but we are not using this word in that manner. In the band context, success is the ability to accomplish an aim or a purpose. It is setting your sights on something and getting there, even if slowly. Often our successes are in overcoming an area of struggle. Rick Warren says, “Humility isn’t denying your strengths; it’s being honest about your weaknesses.” We need not be worried that we lack humility when we name our successes. It is simply an opportunity to celebrate what is good. It may be helpful to consider the same three categories of struggles when naming successes:
- Family and relationships: Share when things are going well in marriage, with children, with friendships, or when you want to celebrate new connections.
- Vocation, calling, and purpose: Share victories in work, when you accomplished something or finished a project you have been working on, or when you receive insight into something you love to do. Share when you feel affirmed in who you are or what you are doing.
- Ourselves: Share where you are doing well with caring for yourself, such as getting good sleep, eating well, getting exercise, or establishing consistency with spiritual practices. These are all successes to share.
Consistency or growth in any area of our lives can be great places to name success. Naming successes on a regular basis actually helps to cultivate gratitude. This is never boasting. It’s also not an opportunity to compare ourselves with others. Consider Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” This is the posture we want to take as people share with us their struggles and successes.
Today, I want you to take out a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle making two columns. Take five minutes and write down any struggles and successes that come to mind. Do not attempt to address or fix them, just practice naming them.
God, I give you thanks today for each and every area where I am experiencing success. I am grateful for growth and consistency. God, help me to embrace the reality more deeply that life is difficult. I invite you into my struggles and ask you to help me overcome them. Where the battle is out of my control, bring strength and healing today. In Jesus’ name, amen.
For Band Interaction
Which is more challenging for you to identify in your life, your struggles or your successes?