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Intersection of Life and Faith

Uncover Life's Hidden Potential

  • Whitney Hopler Live It Editor
  • 2002 10 Aug
Uncover Life's Hidden Potential
Do you ever fantasize about what it would be like to be an explorer? Some people can afford the time and money to scout wild animals in Kenya, navigate the Amazon River or snowshoe in Norway. But many can't, and even those who can take some exciting trips aren't able to spend every day living so dramatically.

The good news is that we can all be explorers - right where we are, right now. "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened" (Matt. 7:7). As we cultivate a sense of exploration in our everyday living, God will send us many sparks to ignite our creativity.

Developing a sense of wonder
Children know this. Unencumbered by pretentiousness and cynicism - qualities that can creep into adult hearts weary from living in this fallen world - children embody the sense of wonder that Jesus wants all of us to have. Jesus said in Matt. 18:3, "`I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'" Children are humble enough to be explorers, because they're conscious of how much they depend on others and therefore need to trust in the world around them rather than in themselves alone. And children get excited about exploring their world because they believe they'll make exciting new discoveries if they just make the effort to explore.

I do have to admit that a shiny lid on a can of peas doesn't fascinate me nearly as much as it does my daughter. Nor do I expect that any adult would be enthralled by studying groceries, even though young children might be. It is true that children, who have limited experiences so far in their lives, encounter more that is new to them in life than adults do. The sheer novelty of these experiences encourages more exploration.

But as adults, we can choose to share in the same attitude children have - a constant sense of wonder - as we go through each day. Eccles. 5:7 urges, " ... stand in awe of God."

We're always encountering new situations in our lives; reminding ourselves that God is in control of them instills a healthy sense of reverence for him. And there are many new details to notice about people, places or things that are already familiar to us; wondering about them will lead us to some intriguing discoveries.

If you develop a sense of wonder, you'll start to recognize the wonderful riches that await explorers! ...

Looking for potential
Every situation you encounter contains greater potential to be tapped. You can explore that potential no matter what the circumstances.

Negative situations, such as handling a bully at your child's school or dealing with the aftermath of a car accident that wasn't your fault, can discourage even the most optimistic person. But when negative situations hit you - as they surely will sometimes - don't give up hope.

People who face chronic problems in their lives have to choose to be hopeful despite sometimes experiencing feelings of hopelessness. Linda Starnes, a mother I interviewed for a story on parenting disabled children, sometimes struggles with all the tasks she must perform each day to care for her son Mac, who must use a wheelchair, breathe through a tube in his trachea and eat through a tube in his stomach. Parenting Mac and his older sister Emily, who suffers from a host of more subtle disabilities such as hyperactivity and impaired motor skills, "is the most exquisite joy and hardship at the same time," Starnes said. "If we didn't have our faith and know that there's a greater good in this, we would have crumbled a long time ago."

The hardship comes from dealing with her children's limitations day after day, but the joy comes from seeing God's redemptive purpose unfold in the situation. When people first encounter Mac, they're likely to be uncomfortable, said Starnes. But after interacting with him, they learn how to be better explorers. "Mac teaches people that life is precious. He's able to push people to explore life in a different way when they're with him." Diane Anderson, director of the disabled people's ministry at the Starnes' church, said lessons people learn through interacting with children such as Mac and Emily are lessons that "we couldn't learn any other way. God's grace has to come into play in our weak spots."

If you strive to apply a sense of hope to the negative situations you encounter, you'll unearth lots of new ideas for dealing with them. And God will help you in the process. Remember, Jesus said, "`... all things are possible with God'" (Matt. 10:27).

Fortunately, many of the circumstances that color our lives aren't necessarily negative. But even when no problem is shouting for you to solve it, you can still be proactive about improving any situation. Exploring how you can be a blessing to those around you will reveal new ways of making circumstances even better than they are now. For example, if you start doing extra household chores to lift a burden from your spouse when he or she is stressed, you'll likely receive the gift of a loving response in gratitude. You may even initiate a fresh look at how chores are divided and how they might be done more efficiently all the time, making long-term changes for the better.

You can discover lots of new ideas - and help others discover them - if you strive to act out of an attitude of contribution, rather than merely consumption. For example, don't just attend worship services at your church; serve others by participating in one of its ministries. Or, if you enjoy visiting a particular park, consider how you might volunteer some spare time to help maintain it.

Excerpted from A Creative Life: God's Design for You, copyright 2002 by Whitney Von Lake Hopler. Published by Xulon Press, Fairfax, Va. The book illustrates the stages of the creative process using Scripture and many examples of real people from all walks of life. It concludes with a study guide you can go through yourself or as part of a small group. To order, call toll free at: 1-866-909-BOOK or see it online at by clicking on the links below.

Whitney Von Lake Hopler edits the Live It Channel for Crosswalk.com, the largest Christian site on the Internet. She has acquired extensive professional writing and editing experience through previous jobs as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor (for The Salvation Army's national publications), and book author and editor. Whitney is passionate about using her writing ministry to show how God is working creatively in people's lives. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband Russ and their daughter Honor.

What's one thing you've noticed lately that intrigues you, and why? Do you feel overwhelmed or even trapped by a negative situation right now? How could you rely on God to help you see the potential for that situation to improve? How can you proactively improve a situation that's not necessarily negative, but still could get better? Visit Crosswalk's forums to discuss this topic by clicking on the link below.

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