Finding Your Strength in the “If Only”

Written by Gilbert Ackerman

Attention: Minor geekiness inbound with this blog post.

If you know me, you know I’m a big eSports (professional video gaming) fan. My favorite team is called Cloud9, and my game of choice is a strategic, five man game called League of Legends. I bleed their iconic blue and white colors, and have watched every match for the past two years.

However if you asked me about my team loyalty on the evening of July 22nd, I would’ve confessed to it with an uncomfortable look on my face. Cloud9 sat in dead last with a pitiful 3-7 record, and were plagued with a slew of management and player issues. It was a dark time for my favorite team, and it affected me emotionally far more than I like to admit. I felt every negative emotion in the books several times over, and went to bed often upset for a few weeks.

While ultimately I am able to (mostly) shrug off this kind of frustration, I recognize there are a lot of deeper, negative situations in life that aren’t as easy to move on from because they actually matter to us. There are a ton of things in your life and my own that can leave us feeling discontent and frustrated. Sometimes we stare at our lives, and think, “if only this ONE thing would change, I’d feel better!” or “If only Cloud9 would win ONE game, I’d feel better!”

Maybe your one thing is a daughter that’s beginning to rebel. Maybe your one thing is the nightly fights with your spouse. Maybe your one thing is feeling like you don’t fit in at school. Or maybe your one thing is that you feel like you don’t have any life direction.

While I believe there are always practical things that we can do to improve our reality, I recognize that the devil doesn’t primarily deal within the practical; he deals within the spiritual. He wants you to feel that your life will always be stuck a certain way. He wants to dangle the carrot of “If only” in front of you until you feel defeated and depressed.

If only I was smarter.

If only I was better looking.

If only I had more money.

If only my first husband hadn’t left me.

If only I had a better family.

If only.

If only.

If only.

If.

Only.

The good news is that God knows what the devil wants to do in our lives, and has given us the ability to fight against it. Paul writes about this specifically in his letter to the Philippian church, and if anyone was qualified to speak about frustrating circumstances, it’s Paul. He had been flogged, whipped, jailed, starved, and even shipwrecked. Some of those multiple times over! He mentions some of his experiences in Philippians 4:12 when he writes;

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

But after that verse, Paul hits the Philippian church with some truth. In verse 13, Paul says;

“I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”

Notice how Paul here says all this through Him who gives me STRENGTH.

The devil wants you to view strength in this verse as a ‘meager’ strength. A strength that is ‘just enough’ to barely get by, but that’s not the context of what Paul was trying to communicate. The greek interpretation of this word is one that is deep and powerful. Not small, not diminutive, but broad and authoritative.

God doesn’t want you to be trapped in the ‘If only’ mentality; He wants you to feel the fullness of His strength each day in your life. He has peace, joy, and faith planned for you every morning that you wake up, and all we have to do is choose to put our trust in Him. You will get through the pain, the dread, and the sorrow, but you must choose to put your cares into His hands. You must choose to believe that He will get you through, not just barely, but powerfully.

God has not made us mice in a field of lions. God has made us conquerors in the face of adversity.

All we need to do is choose to put our worries, fears, and doubts on Him, and He’ll carry us through whatever storm may come.

P.s. For those concerned about my present emotional state with Cloud9, I’m happy to say that since that awful July night we have solved our team issues. We have since been on an eight game winning streak that allowed us to finish the regular season at 2nd place with a first round bye into the playoffs. 🙂

Gilbert Ackerman works in the kids ministry department at the Deer Lakes Campus of Allison Park Church. When he’s not working, he enjoys researching personality assessments, reading fantasy books, and playing video games