WISDOM & STRENGTH
TOUGH TIMES REQUIRE TOUGH SKIN, TOUGH CHOICES AND COURAGE
By Vicki Hinze, ©2008
As a nation, we face a significant challenge. It is seated in years of corruption and greed and living beyond our means.
One recently said, “The party is over.” The problem is many of us weren’t invited to the party. We don’t drink, we didn’t party, but the hangover has been dumped on us to suffer.
This fires our tempers, of course, but even more importantly, it sets us to thinking. Yes, we have our share of those who are not fiscally responsible and those supposedly serving us who are not. But many of us are responsible, so why is this happening to us?
I remember once in first grade when a student did something they shouldn’t have done. Because that person wouldn’t fess up and take personal responsibility, all of us had to write lines. Twenty-five of them, which is enormous when you’re a brand new writer. The teacher said, “When the guilty don’t do the right thing, the ‘good’ have to suffer for the ‘bad’.”
That was true then, and it’s apparently true now. We’re living it.
So on a spiritual level, the question changes radically for believers. We know that God is with us. That He will never abandon us. That he is our fortress and strength. And that if we follow His laws, putting Him first in our lives, then we will rest under His wing, sheltered and find rest. We also know that if we believe and do these things He will heal our land.
Many do believe. But many in this nation worship power and money and it corrupts them. Greed corrupts.
This raises a lot of questions in my mind, beginning on the spiritual front. God doesn’t cause bad things to happen; we do, expressing our free will. But we do live with collective consequences, and the collective consequences coming now are going to be hard to stomach.
Yet even a stopped clock is right twice a day. And because it is, we take solace in knowing that God turns things bad or harmful to us for good.
That’s pretty hard for many to take from concept to real life.
GOD IN ACTION
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.” –Romans 8:28 (KJV)
We’ve all been victims in one sense or another–unfair attacks, betrayal, bias, false accusations; the list is endless. But it’s important to remember the long-term impact of those situations.
Typically, the truth is revealed. Sometimes it takes a while, but it gets out. Sometimes it negatively impacts us short-term but puts us in a position we wouldn’t have been in that allows something good or better to come into our lives. Often we discover that these trials by fire forge our own ethics and strongly impact our decision to not do those things to others.
We take positions, stands, are slower to judge and quicker to be open-minded to discover the truth, which evil and greed often attempts to obscure.
It’s important to look back at our own lives and ask when we grew most as human beings. Was it during easy times or tough times? When we were soaring or trudging through mud?
What events had the greatest impact on our lives? Which ones insisted we look within and determine the person we wanted to be–or to not be? Which did us the most long-term good?
By long-term, I mean forever. Eternity. Not just this day or week or month or decade.
So we’re facing a bitter pill that’s knocking us to our knees. And many of us think the people who caused the problems can’t be part of a true, real and lasting solution because they’re not accepting responsibility for their actions or even acknowledging that they did anything wrong. One reader said to me yesterday, “The nuts are running the asylum.”
Perhaps a bit more colorful than I would have put it, but there is truth in it. Of course, one must look beneath the spin to see it.
Spin never removes truth. Even when buried, it remains intact.
So we look at the truth and we see a hard road ahead for all of us. Does that mean we’re doomed or forsaken? Absolutely not. It means we and what we believe in are under attack and we’re about to get a look at who we are.
It takes a lot of heat to temper steel. It takes a lot of heat to temper people, too. And we’re about to feel the fire.
Some in our nation have been raised with a “you owe me” attitude or “give me” entitlement attitude. Some think that not having an iPod or TV in every room is having it tough. Those that have had it really tough will say, “Welcome to my world.”
The thing is hard times bring about change. In attitudes, in belief systems, in character.
Are the next couple of years going to be easy? No. Are they going to be fun? No. Are they going to test us? Yes. All of us.
who do not rely on God, it’s going to be a miserable few years. Some will rise to the challenge. Many won’t because they are relying solely on themselves or others to bail them out.
For those who do rely on God, it might be tough, but they will endure with the certainty that nothing will confront them that they can’t handle. Tough times, yes. Hard decisions, yes. But they know that God is with them through those challenges, and when they fall, He’ll pick them up. When they falter, He’ll make their paths straight. When they can’t, He can—and will.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
Psalms 23:4 (KJV)
es of crisis, many who previously gave faith little thought think about it a lot. They are in pain, suffering, and seek relief.
Sometimes God grants it—grace.
At other times, having a broader perspective, He sees opportunities for growth and better resolutions than we see, and so we endure longer. That’s when faith is tested. We who believe, rely on Him. Trust Him. Not only when relief comes but when it doesn’t.
Like steel, we are tempered. If we choose, we gain strength and wisdom from our experiences. If we choose, we begin or rediscover or maintain or make stronger our relationship with God.
It’s important to remember that even during times of challenge, God doesn’t impose on our free will. He gave it to us, and he honors that gift.
From personal experience in coping with challenges and hard times, I know that some reactions to challenges are more effective at dealing with them than are others. A few insights:
When you’re knocked to your knees, you get the heart of matters. Often you pray for deliverance. That’s human. You’re hurt, down, and you want out. But I’ve learned that every challenge carries opportunity and value. Humility defeats arrogance. Receiving injustice makes you eager to not make others victims of injustice. When you’ve suffered, you gain empathy not just sympathy. Your compassion is real and heart-felt not an unknown abstract supposition.
Those are very important lessons. Ones that aren’t fun to learn but that have lasting value. So maybe rather than praying for deliverance, we should pray for other, more valuable things:
Like expressing gratitude that God is with us and we’re not going through these tough times on our own.
Like asking for His guidance. If our own radar was great, we wouldn’t be in a fix. His is perfect. We need only trust it.
Like asking for the wisdom and strength to endure what we must to gain what He wishes us to gain during these hard times.
To ask that He give us what we need to do what we must do, and the courage to do it.
The fortitude to accept setbacks and failures as pathways to better solutions.
Discernment to seek and see truth and not be victims to smoke and mirrors or diversions that cloud our vision.
To place ourselves in His care, willingly following His lead to fulfill His purpose for us versus our own wishes and desires.
None of us like hard times and challenges. None of us, given a choice, like taking on the burdens of others—particularly when we’ve tried hard to not acquire unessential burdens of our own.
But in times such as these, we are all called on do our part. That part isn’t just for our own good or the good of one other person, but for the greater good of a nation of people.
Doing that isn’t reinventing the wheel. We need only look to Jesus for an example. He came, he gave, he did good works for those who asked and believed. We collectively killed him for it and even as He was dying, He asked that we be spared retribution for it because we didn’t know what we were doing.
Not knowing what we’re doing or not paying attention to what others were doing got our nation into this fix. We’re eager to blame, eager to find someone upon whom we can dump our anger. That’s the human being in us. But Jesus asked God to forgive us and then he died. And ever since he has acted as a bridge between us and God. He didn’t hate us. He claimed us, anyway.
There’s much to be learned there that can aid and assist us in overcoming our challenges. His life was on the line and He was not delivered. He was tested and tempered and taught us key lessons and invaluable coping skills that are as applicable to us and our challenges today as they were to Him in those days. He taught us much about trust and strength and wisdom. Much to give us comfort and solace and the courage to face what comes.
The question is whether or not we have the wisdom to learn it.❖
WISDOM & STRENGTH © Vicki Hinze, 2008