Challenged? Be thankful for the giants in the land!

All of us at one time or another have self-doubt. We look at the challenge before us and wonder if we have what it takes to overcome. As leaders, we may look at the organization we lead and wonder if our people are up for the challenge and/or equipped to face it.

My business partner and I have coined a phrase to repeat when we face difficult challenges and/or long odds: “there are giants in the land”. This simple phrase serves to instantly remind us of the need to be strong and courageous when our emotions might otherwise get the best of us and diminish our capacity for change. It also serves to remind us of the larger picture, and our role within in it.

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” Viktor Frankl

Many resiliency theorists point to the need for an understanding of the transcendent: the call to serve and to impact something larger than self. Self-gratification will always suffer from the law of diminishing returns. The more we get, the more we want, and the more it takes to satisfy. Paradoxically, when we choose to lovingly support and nurture, or otherwise positively impact the lives of others, we facilitate the opportunity to experience a deeper sense of our “why”, which results in a sense of peace and fulfillment.

“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” Viktor Frankl

The world would be better off if all lived to unselfishly serve and to positively impact the lives of others. What is not so obvious is that we as individuals would also be much better off. To live transcendently, to serve this call beyond ourselves, we see ourselves as playing a role within a larger story.

Another principle at play here is that of growth through challenge. Physically speaking, this is easy to understand. Our physical bodies benefit enormously through exercise. If we do not elevate our heart rate or push against gravity (lifting weight, ascending hills, etc) our physical self does not have what it needs to grow stronger. In a similar way, every challenge that we face in life holds the opportunity for growth and future achievements. What would Nelson Mandella have been without his many years in prison? What would the world have lost if he had not emerged with a strengthened character and a heart of forgiveness for his captors?

“If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.” Viktor Frankl.

As I spoke with a good friend about these principles, he responded by saying, “I can say with assurance that without times of deep challenge, of doubt and hopelessness, there would be nothing to over come. Without anything to overcome there would be no strengthening of faith.” It is also possible that these times serve as our opportunity to discover the call to live transcendentally beyond our selfishness to discover our role in the larger story and to experience peace.

There are two historical accounts of leaders facing giants in the bible, with very different outcomes. First we have the people of Israel journeying from Egypt (approximately 1446 BC) to the promised land. Though they wandered the desert for forty years, they had the opportunity to enter much sooner than this. When spies reported to the leadership that there were giants in the land, the heart of the people grew faint and they shrunk back. The result was many more years of trudging through the desert.

The second account is of David, (800 BC). Hearing that a giant (Goliath) had the entire Israelite army shaking in its sandals, he courageously steps up to face him, and wins. The nation is saved from the opposing army as David selflessly steps into his role within the larger story. David also grows. In fact, he eventually becomes King of Israel. Looking back into David’s life, we can see that this was not the first giant that he had faced. Previous to this he had faced a lion and a bear while tending his father’s sheep. Each of these challenges had served to provide growth within David and to prepare him to face Goliath.

Whatever we conquer on some great day (2016 A.D. or beyond) will be the result of the sum of what we have become up to that day.

There are giants in the land, and this is a good thing, for without a giant, David, king of Israel, might have remained a shepherd. We would also be missing the example of selfless leadership, the pathway to growth, and the transcendent calling to serve.

What giants are you facing?

What are you learning?

Need encouragement? Reach out.