I enjoy a good reading challenge. When I was twelve I read my first George MacDonald book. The writing style and vernacular language usage were both a little a little too much for me at the time, but two years later I came back to it and loved it. To this day, George MacDonald is still my favorite author.
But several months ago I picked up a book that I just couldn’t finish.
Many of my friends are enormous Pride and Prejudice fans. So, a few years ago I thought I would try to read the book until the day came when I joined with my friends to actually watch the movie. The reading didn’t last long. I just couldn’t get into the writing style, so I knew it wasn’t going to be a quick read for me. It was a library book and we were about to move. So, the book was returned and I never bothered to borrow it again.
Many Jane Austen books are free on Kindle, so when we got our Kindles, Doug downloaded several of her titles onto my Kindle so I could try again. Sense and Sensibility was a movie I enjoyed. So, I thought maybe I could get into Austen’s writing style by reading Sense and Sensibility and then move on to Pride and Prejudice later.
I was wrong.
It’s not that I just gave up on the challenge. I was actually making it through the book fairly quickly. But, I was far from enjoying it. The only reason I had any inclination to finish it is because I couldn’t remember how some of the details fell into place. I finally came to the conclusion that I would just have Netflix send me the movie instead. (And I enjoyed watching it!)
It just came down to the fact that the challenge of reading that book wasn’t worth my time.
Now, reading a Jane Austen book really is a piddly little thing. It hardly even qualifies as a true challenge. But, the reality is that real challenges face us all the time. It is essential that we stop and contemplate them before we just dive in. Some are worth facing boldly and with the fullness of our efforts. Others are simply not worth the energy, time, and effort it takes to work through them.
So how do we tell the difference? We look at the end goal. The purpose. What will the result be if we follow through with the challenge?
For me, reading Sense and Sensibility would have simply resulted in the ability to say I’d read it. Another challenging book – even one I found no enjoyment in reading – could have resulted in a learning experience or a helpful review.
There are also some times when pushing through a challenge is right in one time frame but not in another. For example, I am not naturally gifted to teach children. Most of the time, I utilize my talents by teaching youth or women and let those awesome people teach the children. But, there have been a couple of times in my life – one of them being right now – when God has explicitly instructed me to go ahead and teach children. He has a reason, whether I can see it or not. I struggle with it. It exhausts me. But, I will do it and I will find joy in the challenge because that’s what God has laid on my heart to do.
Sometimes we have no choice but to tackle a challenge head-on and keep fighting until we’ve conquered it. But other times we bring challenges upon ourselves that we are not meant to struggle through. May we be faithful to stop, contemplate, and prayerfully consider whether a challenge is truly worth our effort. And may we be readily willing to both walk away from the worthless challenges and boldly stand up to those that are worth our time and energy.