Equipped to navigate hardship
It seems like in every season of history, a particular aspect of God’s nature is being highlighted. You can’t go anywhere without hearing that same theme. Some 40-50 years ago, a sweet emphasis on the goodness of God began to ring out. It was like cool, refreshing water for a people tainted by extreme legalism. God was reminding us of His great love and His care for His people. He wanted us to know that He provides, He can be trusted, He has your best interests at heart and He answers prayer.
Like anything God highlights, we tend to take it to extremes…
One of the early “preachers” of the message of God’s goodness used to say “The LACK of money is the root of all evil.” “Forget about the pie in the sky, get yours here and now.” “God wants to get you out of the ghetto and into the getmo!”
This fit right in with prosperity messages about God wanting to give you ALL the desires of your heart. Missing was the Biblical call to align ourselves with the desires and will of God, and to abandon selfishness and greed.
I remember complaining to a wiser old man about things not going according to the desires of my heart and he said “Whatever made you think this was all about what you want?” Ouch! But I desperately needed to hear it.
Many begin to believe following Jesus was about getting an upgrade into a faster, prettier, more popular version of you. Faith became a magic formula – “just speak it and it will happen!”
I heard one guy teach if a child died, it was because the parents lacked faith. SICK!
Over the years I’ve seen many disillusioned people bail out on their faith because of beliefs like this when encountering hardship. One person I know wasn’t physically healed after praying “the right prayer” and gave up on praying.
Sadly, we’ve done a poor job of equipping people to follow Jesus through hard times. We’ve equated God’s blessing with lack of hardship, rather than nearness of His presence. We’ve wrongly judged people by their possessions versus their depth of character.
We do need reminders that God is good. And we need His Word to provide beacons of truth in dark times.
When I think of being equipped to navigate hardship, I am reminded of the following:
- He is intimately acquainted with our ways.
- He loves to answer prayer (though not always in the way I’d like).
- He works everything together for good.
- What the enemy intends for evil, He turns to good.
- He uses suffering to teach us He is WITH US in the valley of the shadow of death.
- He uses hardships to bring to bring to death our pride.
- He uses blessing to awaken us to His goodness and love.
- He blesses us so we can in turn bless others.
- He brings His glorious presence into our imperfections and brokenness (versus eliminating them).
- He provides peace when anxiety over possessions would rule us.
- He gives joy when the ashes of defeat are still visible.
Finally, a steady diet of reading larger sections of Scripture (versus select passages) can provide great comfort and a sound mind. I’m think I’m finding both…