“Summertime and the living is easy…” right? That’s the way the song goes anyway! Maybe these words point to one of our deepest desires: easy living. Yet the reality is that we face challenges regularly, unexpectedly, unhappily, sometimes confidently. But did you know that we actually need to be challenged in order to be more vital? We think we’d enjoy a string of stress-free days or a whole month without drama but studies have proven that we would actually be diminished as a living being if we found ourselves in too much calm and quiet!
One such study involved creating the “perfect” conditions for an amoeba to survive. Researchers controlled the temperature, moisture, and nourishment on behalf of the itty bitty organism, believing it would heartily respond. Instead, it died. “The conclusion of the experimenters was that living things need to be challenged in order to survive.” That’s a line from the book, Stilling the Storm; Worship and Congregational Leadership in Difficult Times by Kathleen S. Smith. Smith also cites the surprising discovery of Biosphere 2 in Arizona: under presumed ideal conditions, fruit trees were dropping their fruit before ripening. The absence of wind weakened the stems and they couldn’t hold on to the increasing fruit! “Living things need to be challenged, and they need to adjust to changes in their environment to be strong and healthy… Congregations that have lived through a few difficult times are generally stronger ones.” (pages 14-15).
Sure, we prefer stability and ease but apparently we grow stronger through stormy seasons and turbulent times! And yes, we’ve known them as living things and as a congregation! Maybe that’s what Paul meant when he wrote “we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” (Romans 5:3b-4). If so, that’s some fruitful produce to hang on to!