The yellow ball bobbed in the water as my son swam behind it, pushing it forward with urgency as he sprinted the length of the pool. A player from the opposing water polo team was closing in on him fast. Suddenly, my boy’s body jerked to a stop and he appeared to be swimming in place. His opponent had reached out underwater and grabbed his ankle, pulling him backwards to keep him from getting any closer to the goal. I stared wide-eyed and turned to my husband, “Are they allowed to do that?”
He smirked before answering. “Well, not exactly, but sometimes it’s better to get a foul than to let someone shoot on the goal.”
Water polo, it turns out, is all about the teams creating hindrances for one another. I’ve often sat in the stands wincing as I watch one player put a hand on the shoulder of his opponent and hold his other hand high in the air, attempting to hinder him from scoring or passing to a team mate. I wouldn’t last five minutes, but my son seems to be energized by that kind of opposition. I’m amazed as I watch him pivot his body to swim around an opponent and drive toward the goal. For water polo players, moving past the hindrances seems to make a shot into the cage even more satisfying.
Could the same satisfaction come from getting around our own hindrances for God’s glory? If you’ve been doing Beth Moore’s study on 1 & 2 Thessalonians, you already know the answer is “yes.” She discusses several hindrances Paul identifies that can impede us from moving forward in our faith.
“14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last! 17 But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, 18 because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us.” (1 Thessalonians 2:14-18, italics added, ESV)
Beth explains: “According to 1 Thessalonians 2:14-20, both people and Satan had authentically been successful at hindering Paul. But that’s just it. He kept pressing forward and refused to let the hindrance itself become a hindrance. He kept his squinting eyes on the goal. He didn’t get furious with God over all that had been permitted in his path or demand to know why God would make His will so utterly impossible to fulfill. He just stayed at it. He believed. He persevered” (Children of the Day, p. 70.)
In water polo, coaches use two terms as they shout directions to the players. During defensive plays, they’ll yell “press” when they want defenders to put pressure on offenders. The opposing players jostle in pairs, each trying to gain the advantage. During offensive plays, coaches yell “drive,” spurring players to move toward open water and to find a position near the goal to score. Good players don’t let up on either one of these things. They press until they avert a goal and they drive until they score one.
Perhaps we can borrow some of their strategies when faced with our own hindrances in the spiritual realm. Rather than letting hindrances and the hurt that often accompanies them shut us down, we can use them to grow in our spiritual maturity and ability to be used by God. “What if, instead of fixating on taking the hurt out of our hindrance, we prayed for God to take the hindrance out of our hurt?” (Children of the Day p. 70)
Beth lists several “equations” to illustrate her idea. A few that resonated with me were:
Heartbreak – hindrance = depth
Disappointment – hindrance = faith
My pain – hindrance = my passion
I even added a few of my own to the list:
Insecurity – hindrance = authenticity
Self-consciousness – hindrance = sensitivity to others
Any hindrance we’ve experienced provides an opportunity for God’s transformation in our lives. When we lay them at His feet, He uses them to bless others. Consider Paul’s words: “3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5, NIV)
When we give God our hindrances, He matures us even as He heals and comforts us. The ways we learn and grow enable us to become a blessing for others facing similar challenges. In the process we are reminded that we are beloved children of the Almighty God, Who is hindered by nothing.
Click on the link below to watch Jason Gray’s music video “Remind Me Who I Am.” It provides some great visuals to help you remember that our hindrances do not define us. After watching, add your own equation to the comments section below and share the hindrance you need to relinquish to God so He can use your hurt for His glory.
Your Hurt- Your Hindrance = Your Opportunity to Impact Others and Glorify God.
(Moore, Beth; Children of the Day; 2014; Lifeway Press; http://www.lifeway.com)