I could see the problem.
Bill was facing a mid-life career crisis. A giant of a man and a former US Marine, he had worked in a factory for years. With a downturn in the economy, the plant was closing, and he decided to become an over-the-road flatbed truck driver. At the time, I was his driver trainer, and I could see Bill’s struggle.
Every time Bill made a mistake, it created a cascade of worry. He worried that he wouldn’t get the job, and that he wouldn’t be able to pay his bills, and, mostly, that he would not be able to care for his son. And so, with every mistake came an avalanche that shook Bill all the way down to his deepest fears. He fought valiantly against it, but he was really struggling. During his third week of training, as every mistake brought a string of curses and a series of worsening mistakes, it finally came to me.
I asked him, “Bill, what’s your happy place?”
He was confused for a second, and asked, “My happy place?”
“Yeah,” I replied, “What’s the thing that makes you the happiest, that relaxes you and gives you strength?”
I could see this gruff giant of a man, covered with tattoos, soften as he said, “My kid. That’s what makes me the happiest.”
I explained to him that every time he made a mistake, he should go to his “happy place” and use it as a source of strength. You see, every time Bill made a mistake, it interrupted his mind’s ability to drive the truck correctly, and it just got worse. As his mind became more and more distracted, his performance suffered.
And it’s the same thing for Christians. We often get distracted by our present circumstances and this affects our ability to face problems. We pray for God to remove the trouble we are in; we ask Him to take away our financial problems, our illness and suffering. We ask Him to remove the difficult people from our lives. It is appropriate and right to pray for relief from suffering, but while we pray for relief, we must also pray in a way that develops our character.
Ephesians 3:16 says, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being.” Looking for the basic idea of this clause, you come up with: “I pray that… he may strengthen you… in your inner being.” And this prayer shifts our focus from the external problem to the inner strength of character that we need to face every problem. And as we allow God to strengthen our inner character, we increase our ability to deal with stress and our ability to serve others who are suffering.
Bill’s driving changed almost instantly. Every time he made a mistake, I could hear this burly man muttering about his “happy place,” and drawing on the inner strength that he never knew he had. Imagine how much more strength there is in the deep and abiding love of God for you, and for us.