- - Sunday, January 8, 2012

Culture Challenge of the Week: Impossible Odds

Have you ever felt as if you’re working as hard as you can, not making much progress, and people are telling you that you’re wasting your time?

The reality is, you’re tired. Discouraged. You want to quit because you face impossible odds.

But you persevere.

Perhaps the problems in your marriage seem insurmountable, the relationship irreparably fractured. Or you’re working harder than ever, but the debts keep piling higher. Maybe you’ve been pounding the pavement for months with no job in sight. Or you’ve reached out time and again to an estranged parent or sibling, only to meet repeated rejection.

Sometimes we face impossible odds. When that happens, the test of our character is in how we respond.

Last week, the Iowa caucuses offered some lessons about how to face down impossible odds. Both success and loss have something to teach us.

How to Save Your Family Through Faith and Fortitude

Whether you are a fan of Rick Santorum’s politics or not, his whisker-close-to-first-place finish in Iowa — he came in second by a margin of just eight votes! — is a testament to the power of hard work, conviction and unrelenting purpose in the face of overwhelming odds. “Purpose” is the key word here.

Mr. Santorum put in months of grueling work, traveling around the state in a pickup truck, shorting his sleep, eating on the run and projecting his message to anyone who would listen. Sometimes, “anyone” equaled a handful of people.

During the days when his 6 percent level of support remained stubbornly low, his efforts must have felt futile. But he persevered in the face of those overwhelming odds because he knew that was what God wanted him to do.

In the end, his hard work brought results. But Mr. Santorum knows the victory is God’s — and he gave Him the credit Tuesday night.

But it doesn’t always work out like that. Sometimes, persevering in the face of challenging odds seems to go unrewarded. For Michele Bachmann, also tireless working on the campaign trail, Iowa held a different end — not one she wanted, but one she accepted.

She, too, made the rounds, county after county. She delivered her message, worked hard and stayed faithful to her convictions. As the lights went out on caucus night, however, she had failed to win enough votes. But having been purposeful in her campaign — following God’s will for her at that time — she is at peace.

And this is the lesson in Mr. Santorum’s success and Mrs. Bachmann’s loss: Each one of us is called to be a person of purpose, to discover and fulfill God’s will for our lives. Once we know what God wants us to do — in the present, here and now — we must do it, persevering faithfully until God shows us a new plan.

Mr. Santorum’s real purpose was not to win more caucus votes than his competitors. His real purpose was to do what God asked him to do. So far, that has meant campaigning for president. That may change, or it may continue to be God’s call straight through to the election, regardless of the odds.

The value of what we do is not measured by metrics that spell success or failure. The only metric that counts is whether we are faithful to God’s call in our lives: Are we doing what He wants us to do, today, to serve Him? Are we pressing on, persevering in our mission to do the right thing, no matter how daunting the odds?

Don’t give up on your marriage, your job, your child or your finances — whatever your challenge is. Be strong and persevere. But pray like crazy — not so much for success as measured by others, but for the strength to keep going and the wisdom to see God’s plan.

As Mrs. Bachmann said in her speech bowing out of the presidential race, “I have no regrets.” She, too, fulfilled God’s purpose, though the result was not what she had anticipated. But with a servant’s heart, she can turn confidently to follow His leading: “I look forward to the next chapter in God’s plan. He has one for each of us, you know.”

God has a plan, so be strong. “For with God, nothing will be impossible.” (Luke 1:37)

Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at rebecca@howtosaveyourfamily.com.

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