“Tough times don’t last, tough people do.” ~ Robert Schuller
Really? God’s desire is to make his people tough? He wants us to develop a spiritual skin so thick and impermeable that nothing can hurt us?
That doesn’t sound right to me. It sounds more like what the Bible calls “hardening” than it does Christlikeness.
A full two months into COVID-19, and it’s all around us.
Often, impatience is the response to feelings of weakness, vulnerability, or inability to control our circumstances. We chafe at those feelings and become impatient for conditions to change. After all our efforts to control our circumstances have failed, we are forced to face ourselves in light of those circumstances. And we don’t like what we see.
So, we have a choice: Get harder and tougher or embrace our fragility.
Tough times don’t create anything new; they reveal what is already there. In other words, our circumstances didn’t make us what we are. They provide a window for us to see ourselves more clearly.
If we are angry and blaming, tough times will bring that out.
If we are selfish and determined to get our own way, tough times will make that apparent.
If we are controlling and rigidly unchanging, circumstances will surface that too.
A distinguishing mark of Christ’s people is their resilience.
They not only weather storms, but they also grow through them. That’s because hope in Christ inspires endurance and perseverance. And that sets up a contrast between the impatient fragile world and Christ-followers. People can see the difference, and the difference is the presence and power of God.
In contrast to Schuller’s approach, the biblical witness says that God allows us, weak and fragile as we are, to experience tough times so that everyone can see that “this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
Take a look:
2 Cor. 4:7-9 (NIV)
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
Christ’s people are empowered, hopeful, optimistic, and resilient because of Christ’s life at work in us. The point of this is that it may be “revealed” in our bodies; through how we live and think and breathe and trust and relate in tough times.
When I read this passage, I do not see Paul telling disciples to become harder and tougher. He is not saying, “you’re weak, so get stronger; toughen up!” On the contrary, I hear him calling us to acknowledge that the power of God fills our fragile jars of clay.
Our fragility is an endless opportunity to glorify God as we watch him accomplish what we could never do on our own, in our own strength and wisdom.
Resilience is not just bouncing back from hardship.
In hard times resilient disciples are hard-pressed, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down but never destroyed. Tough times make them better. They are not crushed. They don’t despair. They are not destroyed. That’s resilience!
What do you want to be on the other side of tough times?
As for me, I am hoping to be resilient, more compassionate, more loving, kinder, gentler, more sensitive and responsive to the Spirit of God, better equipped to minister to my neighbors and strangers.
Suffering is part and parcel of human life. Everyone suffers hard times. The difference is how we live through them and the result—resilient or hardened?
Are we more Christlike on the other side?
If not, we’re wasting precious opportunities.