In engineering or physics, heat generated by friction only occurs when there is relative movement. Sure, static friction may keep us from sliding off of our chair or couch, but that’s not going create as much wear and tear on the furniture compared to the friction created by a squirmy 5-year-old.
In our daily lives, we encounter friction, as well. Long days require us to plow through weariness and fatigue. Traffic obstacles force us to reroute, ride the brakes, or just idle. Larger issues in life include relationship conflicts, major diseases, serious accidents, and other disruptions to our expectations and goals.
Not all friction is the same, though. In life, there are (at least) two kinds of resistance that we may encounter. Understanding – and discerning – the difference is instrumental in handling each scenario effectively.
The first kind of resistance is for our own good. Like bumper rails on the kiddie lanes at the bowling alley, or training wheels on one’s first bike, we may run into obstacles that are preventing us from getting on the wrong path (see Matthew 7:13-14).
One of the most unusual examples of this can be found in Numbers 22:22-35, where a man named Balaam is prevented from pronouncing a curse on God’s people. God sent an angel to stop Balaam, but the angel – sword in hand – wasn’t visible to Balaam until after his donkey (intervening to protect herself and her rider) refused to carry him into danger.
But the donkey saw me and turned aside from me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, I would surely have killed you just now, and let her live.” Balaam said to the angel of the Lord , “I have sinned, for I did not know that you were standing in the way against me. Now then, if it is displeasing to you, I will turn back.”
Numbers 22:33-34 NASB
When we fight against the correction and guidance that God lovingly sends us, we’re only hurting ourselves. The apostle Paul was told by God that this was like fighting against “goads” (think, cattle prods):
And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
Acts 26:14 NASB
However, there is a second sort of resistance that we can face, even when (and, in fact, mostly when) we are on the correct path. The forces of evil work against those who are doing the right things – those who are making good choices. Jesus was up-front with His disciples that they would experience challenges:
These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33 NASB
History – both in the Bible and other sources – clearly confirms the accuracy of this prophecy. Note that this push-back from evil doesn’t necessarily come when we aren’t going in the right direction. Floating along in the contaminated flow of sin – which would take us away from God and His love for us – doesn’t create any of this kind of resistance, but who wants to end up where that current takes us?
If you are feeling resistance from the negative forces of this world, be encouraged that you are at least fighting against the pull of sin, destruction, and eventual failure. Find others who are interested in bucking the trends, and team up with them for the greater – as well as individual – good. But, be sure you’re well-equipped to do so (see Ephesians 6:10-18).
Certainly, guidance and direction from God is positive resistance, helping us stay on the right path and protecting us from the consequences of sin. This helps us to live up to the potential and purpose for which God created us.
However, the resistance of evil against good is something that must simply be overcome. Like friction, we must apply more force (than the resistance we encounter) if we want to move forward. And conversely, if we aren’t feeling any pushback from opposing forces, maybe we’re not moving in the right direction.