Your Whac-a-Mole Options

whac-a-mole-arcade boys

When a friend recently asked me how I was doing, my response was troubling.

“My body and mind seem to be slowing down,” I said, “but my responsibilities seem to be speeding up. That’s a bad combination!”

As I later reflected on that conversation, the Whac-a-Mole arcade game came to mind. As the game begins, the moles pop up fairly slowly, but their speed continually increases until the game finally ends.

This prompted me to think of a story about three young boys who took different approaches when they played Whac-a-Mole at the county fair one day…

The first boy just did his best. As the moles first began to emerge, he had little trouble whacking each one. But by the final moments of the game, the moles were getting the better of him. Unable to keep up with the frantic speed, he became exasperated.

The second boy, after watching the plight of his friend, came up with a clever plan to foil the pesky moles. After easily whacking a few moles at the beginning of the game, he calmly went to the back of the machine and pulled the power cord before things got out of hand.

“Why did you do that?!” his friends demanded. “You can’t just stop the game in the middle.”

“I outsmarted those moles,” the boy explained. “I cut the game off before the speed got too fast for me.”

But his two friends pointed out the folly of his logic. By pulling the plug, he had ended his chance of scoring any more points. Yes, he had avoided the frustration and feeling of failure that comes when you can’t keep up—but this impulsive act had diminished his final score.

The third boy had watched his two friends and devised a better solution. He alertly noticed a speed control on the side of the Whac-a-Mole game, and he turned it to the slow, “senior citizen” mode. All the moles still popped up, but practically in slow motion. This young man ended up getting the highest score, because he could easily keep up with the speed.

What are the lessons in this story?

  • If you play Whac-a-Mole at the regular speed, you’re likely to become overwhelmed and frustrated at the end.
  • When you become overwhelmed and frustrated, at times you might feel tempted to simply pull the plug.
  • But the better solution is to adjust the speed control, acknowledging that you aren’t as fast as you used to be.

You’re probably thinking at this point, “Jim, I see no way to adjust the speed control in my life. The ‘moles’ just keep popping up, totally out of my control.”

Believe me, I’ve had similar thoughts. Finding life’s “speed control” seems difficult, if not impossible.

But here are a few thoughts that can liberate you from your Whac-a-Mole dilemma…

  1. First, consider this amazing truth: Some of the “moles” popping up can simply be ignored!

Like a batter in baseball, you mustn’t swing at every pitch people throw at you. You have to be patient…know the pitches you can hit…and say “no” to curveballs that are out of your strike zone.

  1. Next, you need to acknowledge that you’re not Superman or Superwoman.

Yes, it’s humbling to admit you need to slow down life’s Whac-a-Mole game a bit. But that option is preferable to going insane or simply pulling the plug.

  1. Finally, you need to recognize that God has given you permission to rest…to take Sabbaths and vacations…and simple to SLOW DOWN.

“Slow down. Take a deep breath. What’s the hurry? Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway?” (Jeremiah 2:25 MSG).

What great advice! Slow down. Take a deep breath. Quit being in such a hurry.

As I’ve reflected on the lessons I learned from the Whac-a-Mole story, I find myself meditating on this great principle from Scripture: “Only in returning to Me and resting in Me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15 NLT).

As we return to the Lord and learn to rest in His presence, life will slow down a bit. Noise will give way to quietness. New strength will come, and confidence will rise. We might even enjoy life—really enjoy life—for the first time in years.

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Whatever Doesn’t Kill You…

 

When I went through a rather traumatic experience recently, I found myself reflecting on a commonly held maxim of today’s pop culture: “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!” Depending on your taste in music, you can find this statement in recent songs by Kanye West or Kelly Clarkson.

I’ll have to admit, there’s something rather uplifting about this premise. It’s great to hear that you can be made stronger, instead of weaker, during the storms of life.

But is this axiom truly Biblical, or just wishful thinking?

It turns out that the originator of the “Whatever doesn’t kill you…” statement appears to be nineteenth-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. He is more famous—or infamous—for launching the “God Is Dead” movement. But that alone doesn’t mean we should totally dismiss his view that whatever doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.

As I’ve pondered this, I’ve concluded that Nietzsche’s statement is a half-truth, something that can be either true or false depending on other factors. Let me explain…

There’s no guarantee that you will be strengthened by the traumas of life. We’ve all known people who experienced traumas and didn’t end up stronger—they just ended up traumatized. However, I bet you also can point to people who truly did become stronger as they overcame adversity.

You see, the evidence is pretty clear: Some people become BITTER when dealing with adversity, while others grow BETTER.

So what causes this stark difference in outcomes? Basically, the key is how we respond to the trauma. When faced with hardship, we have a fantastic opportunity to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:1). Instead of being destroyed by our trials, we can “go from strength to strength” (Psalm 84:7). When the flood waters come, they can lift us higher instead of drown us.

However, there’s nothing automatic about this. It’s a choice. A lifestyle. A recognition that God’s strength can be revealed amid our human weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Jacob wrestled with God one night and ended up limping as a result (Genesis 32:24-31). Was he stronger after that experience? Certainly not physically stronger.

But spiritually Jacob was infinitely stronger after this divine wrestling match. The transformation was so great that his whole identity shifted from “Jacob” (the scoundrel and deceiver) to “Israel” (a prince with God).

Ironically, the traumas of life ARE supposed to “kill” us, in a sense. But this doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll immediately exit this world for heaven. Rather, it means we’ll increasingly die to ourselves and then experience more of God’s resurrection power.

The apostle Paul said it this way: I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). You can’t get any stronger than that.

I don’t know what you’re going through today. But I DO know this: God is faithful. He has a good plan for you (Jeremiah 29:11). And if you look to Him in your adversity and weakness, He will fill you with His supernatural strength.

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