Sorry, old coaching cliché's die hard. Whenever my teams went through rough patches of the season, we would try to encourage the players with this saying. Then I began to ask myself, is this statement really true? Do tough times always come to an end? Do only "tough" people make it through them? If it is a true statement, the Bible must certainly have something to say about it. Guess what, it does!
We know that the Bible teaches that all of us will go through trials and tribulations (Jn 16:33)…
"In this world you will have trouble"…We will have tough times in our lives. Not only that, but James says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance" (James 1:2-4). Uh oh, you mean not only do we go through trials but we are supposed to be happy about it? Well, happy may not be the correct word but joy is. The word joy can be translated as cheerful, calmly happy or well off. But how can we possibly experience joy when we are suffering? I hope that I can help you with that question.
I have often asked the Lord, when going through one of those times, "Lord will this ever end?" Sound familiar? It is hard, when going through difficulty, to not want it to end quickly. Sometimes the trial may be physical, suffering through a particular disease. Other times it might be emotional, like going through financial struggles or divorce. Often times it is a spiritual trial, battling against a particular sin. We of course want these trials to end quickly because they can be so painful. Each of us has a different capacity to handle the type of trial we are in. Some people handle physical pain better than others. As an athlete, you are taught to "power through the pain" of minor injuries, so generally you can handle the physical pain. Other people don't always have that same threshold for physical pain but seem to be able to handle emotional situations better. These differences can be stressful because others may not understand why we have so much difficulty dealing with our circumstance and so they may not be very sympathetic towards us. That makes it even worse, because we think we are all alone in our trial. So, we just pray to get it over with and wonder if it's possible that this trial might never come to an end. So how do we possibly find any joy in these situations? One thing that I have found to be very helpful is to try to identify what the source of a particular trial is. The situation you find yourself in may have come from outside of you (the world), your own doing (the flesh) or the enemy of your soul (the devil). The reason that it is important to recognize the source is that your response should be different in each case. Let me show you what I mean.
In the book of John, Jesus and His disciples came upon a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked Him, "who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind." A very interesting question since, if the man's sin caused him to be born blind, he must have sinned in the womb! Do you think maybe he kicked his mom too hard? Just asking. The reason they asked the question was because rabbinical teaching at the time said that sickness or disease was caused directly by someone's sin. Here was Jesus' answer, (John 9:3-4)"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. So we see in this case that this man's trial was not at all of his own doing. It really happened because we live in a fallen world that has diseases caused by the curse of original sin. But God had a plan to use what looked like a horrible situation, into a blessing, as Jesus healed the man and displayed God's great love for him. I'm sure this poor blind man needlessly spent much of his time in great distress believing that the blindness was his or his parents fault. That is why it is so important to identify the source of a trying situation.
Sometimes, the source of a trial is our own fault. We can ignore God's instruction, fall into sin and put ourselves into terrible trials. King David is a great example of this. In the book of 2nd Samuel starting in chapter 11, you can read the story of David's adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband. The story begins by implying that David should have been off to war with his army but instead stayed home. Then, seeing the beautiful Bathsheba bathing, instead of turning away, he intentionally broke God's law by bringing her into the palace, sleeping with her, impregnating her and eventually sending her husband to the battle front where David knew he would be killed. He then married Bathsheba, but went through many family problems due to his sin. Though God would forgive him, he paid severe consequences for his sinful actions. The source of these trials was clearly his own actions.
Sometimes the trial can come from Satan himself. In Job chapter 1, we read that Satan asks for God's permission to take away all that Job had, to prove that Job only feared God because of His hedge of protection around him. Satan thought for sure that he could induce Job to curse God. As you follow the story you see that God allows Job to be tested in this way. Job loses everything, including his family but prevails in the trial, refusing to curse God. He even says "Though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him" (Job 13:15). He knew that the source of his trial was not of his own doing and was able to trust in God, no matter how bad it got.
This is the key to being able to rejoice, though you may be going through a very difficult time. If the cause is something that is out of your control, don't try to blame yourself. Go to the Lord and ask him to fill you with His grace and see you through the trial. Rejoice, knowing that He has promised that He will do just that. Remember that you are building endurance that leads to your spiritual maturity.
If you recognize that your trial is of your own making, acknowledge that to God. Repent (turn from the sin that caused the situation and back towards God), and receive God's forgiveness. If you have received Jesus Christ as your savior He has already forgiven you, but your repentance leads to restoration of fellowship with Him. (1 John 1:9-10) "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." As David did, you may still have to deal with the consequences of your sin, but you can rejoice, knowing that His love and grace are always with you.
As it says in Lam 3:19-33 "I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. Let him sit alone in silence, for the Lord has laid it on him. Let him bury his face in the dust — there may yet be hope. Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace. For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love, for he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men."
GAME PLAN: Read the book of Job in its entirety
If you are currently going through a trial, seek God to help you identify the source
Ask for God's wisdom in dealing with the trial
If your sin is the source of the trial, repent, receive forgiveness, and ask the Lord for His grace and direction in dealing with the consequences
Rejoice in the Lord! He loves you!
God bless you, Coach