How do you handle the hard times? Do you stand up, slump over or hide under a table? I know when my cat is scared, she runs and hides under a table and in a corner. For some, hiding is a natural reaction, a way of protecting one’s self from destruction. However, hard times can also be positive.
According to psychologists, having trials and tribulations are a part of life that is necessary for survival. Without any trials, we would cease to care about life, thus allowing outside influences to overtake us. Conversely, too many hard times can also be a negative. Too many trials and tribulations can lead to depression, anger, and in some cases, physical deterioration that leads to death. So how do we handle all of this?
In the Bible, there is a letter to the “twelve tribes scattered among the nations”. It was written by a man who was also a half brother of Jesus. His name was James. It is said that James didn’t believe about Christ until after Christ’s death and resurrection. No matter what legend states, God felt that his letter was important enough to place it inside the greatest book ever written, the Bible.
Here is how it starts out:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2-3 (NIV)
The word trials here is a greek word that means ‘to roast metal as a refiner to test its character’. Blacksmiths use this technique when forming various things. When they are making a sword, the heat the metal up until it is glowing red or orange, take it out of the heat and bang on it. Over and over again, they heat up the metal and continue to bang it until it is shaped the way they want it. It is an intentional way of taking an object of no use and creating an object that can be used. In ancient days, kings would use specific blacksmiths to make their weapons because they knew the blacksmith was extremely skilled.
The trials that James speaks of are for building up, not tearing down. It is intentional for the sole purpose of shaping one’s character. God is the ultimate blacksmith. He understands what you are made of and why you exist. He takes our lives that have no meaning and through hard times, makes us into the object of use that He wants us to be. Without the trials that God allows and sometimes places us in, we would be useless in His hands. He allows the heat of very hard times to shape us. He allows the pain of His encouragement and discipline to shape us. However, there was one step that wasn’t explained.
After a blacksmith is pleased with his work, he heats up the object one last time. This time it is not to shape it but to melt away any impurities. Unlike the prior process, this one is a lot shorter. When satisfied, the blacksmith then take the object and drowns it in a pool of water. The metal then hardens and is ready for whatever the blacksmith needs to do with it. The same hold true with our trials. God may allow the heat of situations to continue for some time. He may allow it for days, months or years, but eventually He places us in the heat one last time and then cools us down with His refreshing water. From our perspective this process is called perseverance.
Perseverance is the end result of our hard times. It allows us to be the person we were meant to be. Like an athlete in training it builds strength and endurance. Think of it this way. What if you were to leave your house right now and start to jog. You start by running to the corner, then running a few blocks. Suddenly, you are out of breath and your heart is pounding. You decide to walk back to your house and try again tomorrow. Tomorrow comes but this time you go 6 blocks and then walk home. You do this day after day and month after month, to suddenly find yourself running 2 miles! How did this happen? Perseverance. If you had decided to stop running after a day or so, you would have only caused a hard time to beat you rather than you beating it.
When I was into bodybuilding, I had to learn this concept. There was a 6 foot bar with 130lbs. Everyone tried to pick it up and curl it. Day after day and week after week, we would all go over to this weight bar and try to curl it. Most times we were unsuccessful. After 3 years, I had trained my body to some amazing things. At 140lbs, I was able to bench press almost 300lbs, leg curl over 200lbs and do 100+ push-ups. One day, my friends were trying to curl this bar. I walked over and said, “Let me try”. Most of them said, “You’re too small to do this. The bar weighs as much as you.” I politely pushed them out of the way, picked up the bar, looked into the mirror in front of me and curled the bar one time. I then placed the bar on the floor, smiled and walked away. My friends stood there with amazement, wondering what just happened. What had happened was that I had trained my body to do extraordinary things. I had endurance.
James was telling the people of his day, “Don’t worry so much about what you are going through. God knows it, is orchestrating it and will bring you through it, so stay strong.” This is not easy, but it is the right attitude. We all go through problems, some greater than others. However, no matter what we go through, when we look back, we will see not times of problems but times of learning, times of understanding and times that were good for us. We may not like what we are going through, but most times it is necessary.
God wants you to know today, that it is okay if you feel saddened about your situation. He understands what you are going through. He is right there with you through the whole thing. When you sleep, He is keeping watch. When you are in pain, He is holding you. When you can’t walk anymore, He is carrying you through the situation. You and I may not see it, but He is there.
If you feel alone, you are not. If you feel like no one understands, Someone does. Remember, God is the one who allowed His only Son to be beaten and die a horrible death just to make a way for us to be with Him. This life isn’t about how many hard times we go through, but how many times our hard situations make us into what He wants us to be. Without Christ dying on the cross, there was no way for us to be with God someday. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.” Jesus is it. He is the only way and there is no other.
God is there for you and I. All we have to do is remember who is shaping us to be the people He wants us to be. God bless and encourage someone today.