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Whack the Gopher

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Authored by Mara Hodler

If you have ever been to a county fair, Chuck E. Cheese, or a game arcade, you might have seen (or even played) a game called “Whack the Gopher.” You, the player, get a large sledgehammer and your job is to whack the gophers as they pop up from the “ground.” No sooner have you bashed down one gopher than another pops up somewhere else on the field. Keeping those gophers down takes all your concentration, and even then you can’t expect to be fast enough. In the end, the gophers always win.

This game reminds me of life sometimes. The gophers would be all the problems or “situations” that arise. I get my “hammer” and take care of that one. But it seems that as soon as I get one out of the way, there’s another, and then another. I feel like I’m continually whacking some problem or another.

Maybe you are getting a C in chemistry or math, so you work hard to pull up that grade. Just as you have earned your B+, it turns out that you’ve missed a deadline for turning in the paperwork for your English class or theater program. You finally get that done … and then you and your brother start having problems getting along because he embarrassed you in front of your friends. This happens right before the big party that you’ve been excited about but that you no longer feel like going to. And on and on it goes. These things can steal your joy, especially when it seems like it never ends.

Here’s the thing: Those “gophers,” or problems, will never completely go away. You can’t live your life waiting to become totally problem free. Just like whacking at those gophers, trying to solve all those problems in one shot will take all your time.

At any given point of your life, there is a mix of joy and struggle. Often the struggle seems to have the upper hand, and you wonder if it will ever end. Sometimes it all seems perfect except for one tiny thing. And sometimes that one tiny thing isn’t so tiny.

There will never be a time in life when you have everything under control, when you have swatted back all those gophers and have full control of the field. So the lesson to gain? Don’t even try. That doesn’t mean you don’t need to take care of situations as they arise, or even preempt them when possible. What it does mean is that you are not working toward the moment when your life is “problem free.” You are instead embracing each day as it comes, knowing that it will bring a certain amount of struggle, challenge, and triumph.

The Bible promises, “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”1 That is an amazing promise because it means that while you don’t get to choose your struggles and challenges, you are guaranteed the strength for them. It’s not based on how you feel or what you think you can handle. God measures out the strength and power according to how much you need.

That promise and similar ones found in the Bible enable you to be sure that you can overcome regardless of what wins or losses, successes or failures you face in your day-to-day life. How’s that for empowering! You’re able to take down those “gophers” as necessary, and still enjoy some great moments of triumph, relaxation, and fulfillment.

I think what’s helpful here is a paradigm shift in the approach we take to problems. Instead of working feverishly to eliminate all problems from our lives, we can try to take on the attitude that there will always be some challenges, but we are not going to let them steal our joy. In fact, we can even allow the struggles to enhance that joy.

A good cook will always play with contrasting flavors. You can’t really develop a good dish without some contrast; the sweet needs to play off the salty, the spicy is more appreciated with some cool notes, and on it goes. The combinations are endless. And just so with life. Maybe the problems you have with getting along with your brother leads you to examine your relationship. You realize how much he means to you and take the time to talk about it with him. After you two make up, you feel even better and more confident about the upcoming party because you’ve got each other’s back.

Picture your life as if it were a train moving along on a track, one rail representing struggle, the other representing joy. These two rails run parallel and the train can only go forward with one set of wheels planted firmly along each rail. God knows every detail about the course the rail follows, down to the design of the train and the speed at which it runs. There’s no unforeseen mechanical failure, storm or avalanche that is beyond His omniscience and that He can’t work to our good somehow.

Sometimes your train might seem more like a roller coaster. At other times you might be chug-chugging through a gorgeous savannah with amazing wildlife. Just know that your journey contains no surprises to God, and He has promised you the ability to overcome everything you encounter along the way.

When you play “whack the gopher” you have to be waiting and watching for where the gopher will pop up next. The game takes your full concentration, and you have to tune out most of what’s going on around you. It’s absolutely the same if you spend all your time waiting for the next problem to surface so you can swat it. Walk away from the gopher game of waiting for and trying to immediately solve every crisis that may arise. Instead, engage in all the other exciting, fascinating, and fulfilling parts of your life.

Tuck deep in your heart God’s promise to give you sufficient strength for each day and grace for any challenge it brings, and live that day to the full, and then … repeat daily.


Footnotes
1 1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV

Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2015 by The Family International


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