I didn’t do well in High School Physics class.
In fact, it can be said that Physics and I didn’t get along well at all. It was a troubled relationship at best … and downright abusive at worst!
I had to memorize what seemed like endless theories and principles about the universe by people who have been dead for centuries. And then there were never-ending formulas that seem to be written in another language. I did my best, but it all seemed like “gobbli-gook” for the most part.
I remember specifically one time in class where I became so frustrated with my inability to understand that I basically walked out of class intent on never coming back.
I went to the guidance counselor and begged her to let me drop this class and take another elective… yes, you read that right… physics for me was an ELECTIVE CLASS! Physics was not required for my major. I was attracted to the subject because I wanted to know more about the universe and how it all worked.
I was a glutton for punishment in my youth!
Even from a young child I showed interest in the physical world and was acutely fascinated by the stars, planets and how they all worked and fit together. Little did I know that high school Physics would be much more than I bargained for.
High school physics was more than just looking at pretty pictures of the stars in my set of encyclopedias.*
*Age Myself Alert: For my readers born after 1990, encyclopedias were a volume set of home reference books we used to look up information prior to the invention of the internet.
Similarly, for many of us, our Christian walk is very much like my experience in Physics class. We are attracted to the high ideals of living for Christ, the joy of fellowship with other Christians, serving our communities, and the excitement of spending eternity with God and the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
We are eternally grateful for the promises of God and the many-fold blessings He gives every single day…
but then the hard part comes.
The Bubble Bursts
Things happen to us we don’t expect…
- We lose a job.
- Our house gets foreclosed on.
- We get diagnosed with a severe illness.
- A close family member dies tragically and unexpectedly.
- We could not conceive the children we desperately wanted.
- We go through financial hardship… after hardship… after hardship.
- A relationship we hoped would lead to marriage comes to a bitter end.
- We suffer betrayal from a close friend … or worse… a family member!
We turn to our spiritual leaders in the church for perspective, but not all churches are equipped with people qualified with the gift of counseling.
Some may offer a helpful perspective and others… well, not so helpful. Some recite bible verses that “might not” quite fit our situation or even worse, don’t apply at all. It can be challenging to offer sincere advice when we have not been in the situation ourselves.
I’ve been there.
We know to turn to scripture and prayer in times like these… or at least we should.
Many do not. Prayer is an important discipline for the Christian, but it’s also a discipline that is best developed before a tragedy. There is nothing more frightening than looking for the fire extinguisher after the kitchen fire started.
I’m not suggesting that it’s not possible to pray effectively during times of stress, conflict, and tragedy. It’s more the case that if we have not made prayer a major part of our lives when times are good, it is unlikely we will turn to God in prayer as we should when things are bad.
Some will walk away in frustration as I tried to do from Physics class … intending to never return.
Help from Scripture
In difficulty, we turn to scripture. We recite Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
We recite it like the formulas I tried to make sense of in Physics class and some of the other science classes.
We know it’s TRUE but still don’t understand or know how to navigate the situation. Application is the key, and learning how to apply scripture… the right scripture… to the situation is where we sometimes lack knowledge.
For many of us, knowledge is experiential. We gain knowledge and understanding as we do something. And like prayer, if we are not familiar with God’s word through daily reading and study, turning to the bible in tough times may be like walking into a library for the first time the day a term paper is due.
“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only…” (James 1:22).
The experience of going through something is often the “teacher,” not the knowledge in and of itself. “We’ll understand it better by and by,” as the old Charles Tindley hymn goes.
We learn by doing.
This concept is essential to understand because, like St. Augustine once said, “Understanding is the reward of faith… seek not to understand that you may believe but believe that you may understand.”
Belief, not empirical evidence, must guide our actions until substantiation appears. Christian beliefs are based upon historical facts grounded in the truth of eyewitness accounts of the life of Jesus, death, and resurrection.
However, our actions will determine what and how strongly we believe. Therefore, consistent action in accordance with what we believe is paramount to know where to go and what to do when the need arises.
Relationship Is Key
So, what happened to me and my tumultuous relationship with Physics? My experience didn’t get any better with study, but by communicating with the teacher.
After meeting with the guidance counselor, I spoke to him and let him know about my challenges and frustrations. He told me something I would never forget, “don’t let a little course like this get you down… you are more than capable.”
It was not only the words he said, but his reassuring confidence in me to learn and do well in the course that motivated me to want to try and succeed.
Speaking to my teacher that day solved so much of the apprehension that stifled my learning of the material. High school physics wasn’t greater than me… I was greater than high school physics.
Comparably, God provides a similar message in His word:
“Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4 KJV)
“No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their righteousness is from Me,” Says the LORD.” (Isaiah 54:17 NKJV)
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13 BLB)
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV)
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 ESV)
And yet, these verses are but a few. Nothing of this world should intimidate the born-again believer because he/she has the victory over every situation because of Christ Jesus.
We can only be successful living as a Christian by spending time with God.
Just as I was encouraged by speaking to my teacher about my challenges, we should all spend time with God talking to Him and taking to heart the encouragement He gives through His written word.
Christianity does not come naturally… it comes spiritually. Developing a deepening relationship with our heavenly Father through Christ Jesus is the key to overcoming any challenge we may face.
So, what was the outcome of my high school physics class experience?
Well, let’s say that I did well enough on my final exam to barely pass… with one of the lowest grades of my high school career.
I learned one thing in physics that always stuck with me: It isn’t about how well we rise or fall in a situation, but how well we apply what we know.
Christianity is not something we will ever “master” in this life, no matter how hard we try. We will repeatedly need to reinforce even the most basic principles of love, patience, and forgiveness with prayer, studying the scriptures, and practice.
And more than any other principle is to remember that we were created to live relationally.
Spending time with God gives us the ability to know Him better. And the better we know God, the better we can focus on not only what is most important but keep sight of how much greater God is than our circumstances.
With God’s magnificence always in view, nothing of this world can bring us down.