She got a new job a few months ago. She had been so excited. It was more responsibility. A lot more money. Permanently remote. Just what she was looking for. She was over the moon. For multiple reasons. She was leaving a job that she had soured on months earlier. She was getting a fresh new start. She would have less projects but an expanded role. She would have a work/life balance. And then she started the job.
A couple months in, she was at her wit’s end. She was struggling with all the newness and learning it remotely. She felt she had no support, because she knew no one. She had been assigned many more projects than she felt comfortable with. She worked morning and night, sometimes without eating. She found herself crying multiple times during the day. She wanted to look for a new job, but felt it was too soon. After all, this job was her new start. And after a few months, she was overwhelmed.
A couple more months went by. She texted me one morning. She said she had updated her resume and was looking for a new job. The work load was out of control. The demands from her superiors were overwhelming. She found herself in tears more often than not. She just wanted out. She was done.
Oh. I’ve been in similar situations. Some struggles sounded familiar. Others were new to me. But all the same. I could understand her frustrations and anxiety. I could relate to her uncertainty. I had been down that road more than once. I didn’t want to be in a hard time. But what I wanted and what I got were often two different things.
But I began thinking about her situation. I wondered what she would do if this was the only job left in the world for her. What if she had to do this work in this situation for twenty more years. Could she handle it? Could she rise above the stress and make the situation work as much in her favor as was possible? Could she do a hard thing with no end in sight if that was all life offered her?
Someone else I know is undergoing intense physical therapy. She’s working to become stronger and more independent. The work she’s doing each day will strengthen her muscles and improve her coordination. She wants that, so she’s willing to do the hard work. It isn’t easy on her. Or her parents. She’s only eight years old.
But she knows that if she does the hard work now, she’ll improve her chances of walking independently and more steadily. Oh. I’m sure she has moments of anxiousness and fear. But she doesn’t let it hold her back. She is one determined young woman. And that determination and perseverance will take her far in life. She isn’t giving up even when she is faced with doing hard things.
I read the story of a young woman who was assaulted by several guys. The attack ended in pregnancy. This brave teenager made the decision to give birth to this baby conceived in the most traumatic of situations. She is now the mother of a baby girl. Not knowing who the father is, she chose life for her child. Oh. Sure. There is trauma from the attack. There are obstacles she faces. She didn’t ask for this. But she chose life for her innocent child. And life is hard. But it’s worth living. For both of them.
We don’t have to be a victim when we’re given difficult situations. We can be overcomers.
How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world. You hide them in the shelter of your presence, safe from those who conspire against them. You shelter them in your presence, far from accusing tongues. Psalms 31:19-20
In the book of 2 Corinthians, the apostle Paul wrote of the many hardships he faced in his life as a follower of Christ. His was not a life of ease. His choice to follow the teachings of Jesus placed a target on his back. And he wore that target with courage. Because all his sins had been forgiven. All the persecution of Christ followers that he had led was forgiven. The slate listing all his sins was wiped clean. Oh. I’m sure having a target on his back was a heavy burden. He was regularly persecuted for speaking about the risen Messiah. He was sought out for his faith, just as he had once sought out those who believed as he now believed. So he knew the risk. He knew that his life might be cut short. But he did it anyway.
Here’s what Paul wrote about his persecution.
Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. 2 Corinthians 11:23-28
Paul’s life was one of his choosing. He could have continued down the path of persecuting believers. But instead, he chose to follow the teachings of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. His life changed in an instant. He became an ambassador of Christ. He taught the good news of salvation to both Jews and Gentiles. He dared to do hard things even when he faced hard times. He knew that he would be on the short list to be prosecuted for the message he preached. Those in pursuit of him never gave up. They tried him on false charges. They did physical harm to him. They imprisoned him. But he continued. At all costs.
We too can continue down the road of hard times. It may not be our faith that causes hard times. It could be a financial setback. It could be physical issues. Health challenges. Job loss. Family or relationship issues. Pandemics. Lockdowns. Life can be hard. And we can’t avoid it. But through the hard times, our God will be by our side. Every step of the way. We can do hard things. Let’s keep our faith in God strong.
Paul faced a situation that wouldn’t go away. He begged God three times to remove it from his life. But God didn’t. So he continued down the path he was on, all the while, keeping his faith strong.
So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
I don’t know how I would respond if I were persecuted for my faith. If I were beaten. Lashed. Stoned. Imprisoned. Starved. Sleepless. I pray my faith would stand strong. Oh. I’ve lost my job. I’ve lost family members. I’ve lived in uncertainty. I’ve been bullied. But through it all, my faith became stronger as I relied fully on God to provide for every need. I pray that throughout any hardship I may face I will continue to to turn to God and to trust him. No matter what happens in my life. Living for God is worth any hardship.
You must remain faithful. Your devotion to God is being tested, and you must hold onto him. How you live in these points of crisis will define your relationship with God.Andrew Brunson