Remember playing dodgeball in elementary school? If you’re under 30, maybe not. In some places this activity’s been banned because if played with malice, it can become barbaric. During my grade school days, our intentions didn’t involve mayhem.
If you’re not familiar with dodgeball, or didn’t see “Dodgeball” the movie, the rules are simple: Players divide into two teams, and using a large, inflated rubber ball, compete in a single-elimination contest. The aim is to avoid being struck by the ball, even a glancing blow. If someone from the opposite team hits you with the ball, you’re out. One by one, competitors are eliminated until only a single player is left standing.
Think of it as a variation on music chairs.
Except someone wisely realized throwing chairs wasn’t safe, so they substituted a ball. Quick and agile players, especially those that can toss the ball with accuracy and speed, usually prevail.
In some ways, everyday life’s like a game of dodgeball. Lots of things coming at us, many of them totally unexpected. For some, the secret to success is simply to avoid being struck. Unfortunately, that’s like attempting to survive rush-hour in some cities without getting any dents. Nice try.
My more aggressive classmates chose to refer to dodgeball as “bombardment.” Some days that seems an apt description for what life serves us. We’re cruising along, stress level at a minimum, when some emergency arises. Maybe a tire blows on the highway, far from the nearest exit. Our computer crashes at work – making that essential report needed for the meeting in 15 minutes inaccessible. Or frantically preparing for guests coming over for dinner, you leave the special dessert in the oven for too long.
We can think of countless other circumstances that cause us to want to duck and twist and squirm as the “dodgeballs” fly at us with machine-gun speed. It’s not fun being bombarded.
Some followers of Jesus Christ believe we should be insulated from such onslaughts. God loves us, right? Certainly, He wouldn’t want us to have to endure hardships. Right? We’re “children of the King” – that must mean we’re entitled to live in carefree, regal splendor. Right? Spoiler alert: That’s not what it says in my Bible. Or yours.
An interesting verse in the Scriptures finds the apostle Paul declaring, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10). I’ve been around quite a few people who are all in when it comes to knowing Jesus and experiencing the power of His resurrection. “Yup, I’m good with that!” But they tiptoe around the last part, the “fellowship of sharing in His sufferings” part. As well as the idea of “becoming like Him in His death.” Who wants that?
But as in dodgeball, we’re told in the Bible that suffering, hardship and adversity are inevitable. They’re included in the believer’s job description. Sooner or later, we’re going to get hit. It’s not a matter of “if,” but when – and how.
Think of it this way: If anyone could have succeeded at winning the “dodgeball” of everyday life, it would have been Jesus. Yet the Scriptures tell us, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Joy? Going to the cross?
That’s exactly what it says, and being called to “the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings,” we’re instructed to boldly face life’s onslaughts, not seeking them out, but also not expecting to dodge them all. That’s the application of Paul’s exhortation when he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).
Then he teaches, just two verses later, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
This is one of Paul’s recurring themes, since he also writes, “Be joyful always; praying continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
It’s almost like the apostle informing us, “Like it or not, you’ve been recruited to play a game of dodgeball – every day of your life – and sometimes you’re going to get hit. You can grumble and complain if you want, but you’ll find it much better to face the adversities that come your way with joy, and thanksgiving, knowing God is in control. If Jesus was willing to embrace the hardships He had to endure, He’ll help you in dealing with yours as well.”
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly re-published, “Business At Its Best,” “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. To read more of Bob Tamasy’s writings, you can visit his blog, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, or his website (now being completed), www.bobtamasy-readywriterink.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.