I have been a student of story for the past few years now, and if there is anything that I've learned about it, it's that there is always conflict. Always.
If there is no conflict, then there is no story.
So it is with The Bible. Check out Numbers 13-14 and see for yourself. The spies from Israel were sent out to survey the promised land once they finally reached it after their arduous trek from Egypt. Much to their dismay, all of the spies came back with the same report; there were giants in the land!
This is something that, like the Israelites, I have learned the hard way; there are always going to be giants in the land. What I mean by this is that whenever we pursue anything, there is going to be conflict stopping us from getting what we want.
As Christians we don't like this, and our aversion to conflict in our lives has a huge hand in our decision making process. Many Christians are constantly asking, what is God's will for my life? I have noticed in the pursuit of the answer to this question, Christians often ignore the idea of "perseverance through adversity," and embrace a few other doctrines instead.
Follow the peace
This mentality is simply, "if it doesn't feel right anymore, if it gets too hard, if I'm too overwhelmed, then I'm not going to do it." Though God does promise us His peace and that He will be with us, He does not promise that we're going to be happy all of the time.
He also does not promise that following His will is some sort of suffering/failure immunisation. Look at Joseph; he spends nearly a decade of his life in prison for a crime he didn't commit. Jesus was so stressed out that he stress bled in the Garden of Gethsemane, and then dies a horrific and painful death a page later.
Paul is constantly running for his life, beaten near to death on several occasions, and spends half his ministry in various prisons. Then, as if he hadn't suffered enough, is eventually beheaded.
It would almost be more fair to say that if you're looking for God's will for your life, you should run toward suffering rather than away from it.
The open door policy
This prevalent line of thinking is as follows: if God opens the door, then clearly he wants me to walk through it. Conversely, if the door isn't opening, then it wasn't God's will for my life in the first place.
This is superstition straight up.
There is little to no precedence in The Bible for this way of thinking. In fact, I challenge you to show me ANYWHERE in The Bible where this logic is used in making a good decision. As in this story from Numbers, it was those who trusted God in the midst of adversity (Joshua and Caleb) who got to enter the Promised Land, not those who saw the giants as a closed door.
Another example can be found in the life of Jacob.
How many years did Jacob agree to work for Rachel to be his wife? 7 years. After 7 years what happened? He got tricked into marrying Leah. Do you think he took that as a closed door? Nope. He worked another 7 years and was finally able to marry Rachel.
Perseverance through adversity. By steaming through that closed door full force and with persistent tenacity, Jacob was finally able to power through. I could keep going with Bible story after Bible story about how the tenacious spirit is victorious in the end.
Not one of them were about people giving up and doing something else because the door is closed.
I get the hate toward conflict. As a conflict averse person, I would rather chill in a circle with my mates and sing kumbaya than deal with the realities of life. Sometimes I do.
However, I also have God-given dreams and goals like anybody else.
Particularly goals and dreams in one of the most competitive field in the world...filmmaking. If I made decisions based on peaceful feelings and open doors, then I would still be back in my hometown doing something uncreative and dreaming of what a life in film could be like.
My time preparing, training, and practicing film has been filled with caffeine induced anxiety, high stress situations, impossible obstacles, and relational strife from every angle. I've learned that in order to see my dream fulfilled, it's going to require a great deal of hardship and sacrifice.
Like the Israelites, sometimes the way forward isn't by staying in the comfort zone of the desert, but it means taking up a sword with a shaky hand and moving forward into unknown territory overrun with giants.
Because every story worth telling has conflict, and any life worth living does too.
Brenden Bell is working as a full-time missionary with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) a non-profit organization in Brisbane. He works as a screenwriter, editor and teacher with their film production team.
Brenden Bell's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/brenden-bell.html