Columnist: Hard times can produce blessings
Just about everywhere we look today there are two words that describe the situation: “hard times.” A law enforcement officer says, “He didn’t survive the accident.” The physician states, “I have a bit of bad news.” The employer declares, “I’m sorry but your job is being eliminated.” A youth shares, “I wish my family was together.” And on and on it goes.
So, how do we get a grip on hard times? Rather than seeking to answer that question directly, I want to suggest that sometimes in our confusion about hard times, we receive several peculiar blessings.
Now, please don’t get the wrong idea. We don’t want hard times, not any of us. But we need to know that there are peculiar blessings or benefits in hard times.
First, hard times put steel in our souls! In describing the hard times of the biblical character, Jacob, and his family down in Egypt, the writer of Exodus says, “But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread” (Exodus 1:12). Even when Pharaoh ordered all the Hebrew male babies to be put to death, the Hebrews produced more babies as a sign of their hope for the future. In other words, the Israelites adversity was simply no match for their tenacity. You see, hard times put steel in their souls.
Remember the 1982 movie, Rocky lll? In that movie, James “Clubber” Lang is again knocking the stuffing out of Rocky Balboa and Mickey screams, “He’s killing him, he’s killing him!” At this point, Paulie, Rocky’s friend, grabs the mic and says, “He’s not getting beat! He’s getting mad!”
That’s what hard times can do for us, especially when we note that means motivated to act decisively.
Second, hard times widen our viewpoint! A man I know about was 60 years old when he died of prostate cancer. Before he died, he told his minister that the greatest thing that had ever happened to him – other than knowing God – was cancer. When asked how this could possibly be true, he replied that it was cancer that finally put everything in perspective. He had joined the church as a child but had never made a real commitment to eternal things, until God showed him that life is precious – his life was precious.
As Viktor Frankl said of his death camp experience, “Everything can be taken from a person, but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”
Third, hard times humanize us! Trials tend to make us more thoughtful and sensitive. Writing in the current edition of “People” magazine (November 7, 2016), Jeff Nelson tells about gold medal skater Scott Hamilton and his continuing struggles with brain tumors and other forms of cancer. Following a very serious bout with the disease in 2010, which resulted in multiple surgeries, and recalling his own mother’s death to cancer, Scott started the “Scott Hamilton Cares Foundation,” which is a research, education and survivorship alliance.
Scott stated, “…I’m inspired to make a difference so the next 18-year-old kid doesn’t have to feel that devastation of losing their mother. And that’s what keeps me going.”
Just another powerful illustration, among countless others, of how hard times can make us more thoughtful and sensitive.
Fourth, hard times make prayer a greater necessity! As most of us know, life often presents us with circumstances, hard times, that we are not able to control. Parents sometimes reach the end of their parental skills. A married couple tries desperately to hold their marriage together. The illness is problematic. A dangerous storm approaches or has resulted in mass destruction.
At such times, we discern the value of prayer and our need to talk and listen to God. To be sure, hard times result in taking prayer more seriously.
When slavery became real in Egypt, the Israelites called out to God, as never before. That is, at that time, their prayers became intense. They prayed with their mind, heart and emotion.
On behalf of God, the prophet Jeremiah said, “When you search for me, you will find me, if you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29;13).
Yes, hard times produce peculiar blessings, indeed!