Tough Times, Tough People

by Doug Malear on March 26th, 2011

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.(Philippians 4:11-13 NLT)

Tough times call for tough people. Right? Well, maybe, but I believe there is a qualification that marks truly tough people. They understand where their strength comes from, just as the Psalmist did in Psalm 121:1 & 2 when he said, “I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” My help, or my strength, or my toughness, comes from the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s who makes me tough enough to go through tough times.

He gives me the wisdom to know that difficult times have an end. Good times, hard times, exciting times or boring times, they come and go. But they do not go on forever. They are cyclical like the seasons. I know that some places do not have radically different seasons, but in Michigan, we have a Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall that are clearly defined from one another.
There is no question, when the air temperature is 10° and there is three feet of white stuff on the ground, it is winter. When spring comes, the snow melts and buds appear on the branches of trees that have been void of leaves for months. The air is pregnant with new life, possibilities, expectations, and hope. Spring gives way to summer with its warmer temperatures, outside activities, and the cry of young people, “Surf’s up dude.” Well, they don’t actually surf on the Great Lakes (that I know of) but you get the idea - fun in the sun. Then the air begins to cool, the wind picks up, and the leaves on the trees are transformed into beautiful hues of yellows, reds, and browns before they fall to the ground. Again, there is no question, (at least not to native Michiganders) fall is here.

The thing we know for certain about these seasons is that they come every year and they end every year. It would get boring to have one season that never changed. Life is like that also. We live in a world of diversity where times, situations and circumstances are in a constant state of flux. In Michigan, we say, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes, it’ll change.” So when tough times come, remind yourself, they have come to pass. But the question I want to bring to our attention is, what do you do while you are waiting for it to pass?

First, you cannot do it alone. This is tough, particularly for men who are part of the Baby Boomer Generation. Many of them grew up hearing and watching stories of World War 2 heroes and tough cowboys who could grit their teeth, go it alone, stow their emotion, and win the day. That was reinforced with the John Wayne types on the silver screen. They would rather die than show weakness. When they did die, it was with their boots on! One might ask, “Is that the definition of tough, or is that actually a facade built on a type of weakness?” But that’s a question for another time.

Solomon spoke well in the book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 4, verses 8 through 12, “This is the case of a man who is all alone, without a child or a brother, yet who works hard to gain as much wealth as he can. But then he asks himself, “Who am I working for? Why am I giving up so much pleasure now?” It is all so meaningless and depressing. Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” (NLT)

We all need someone to help us shoulder daily burdens. We were not designed to go it alone. When God made Adam, he was alone. There was no other human for Adam to fellowship with. Then God said in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him” (NLT). The first source of help that Christians are to turn to is Jesus. It is He who gives us the strength we need to deal with the diversities of life. He assures us in Matthew 11:29-30, “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Secondly, as we are waiting for trouble to pass, we have to realize that it need not be passive waiting. There is much going on in as we wait. Isaiah 40:29-31 puts it like this, “He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” (NKJ) Waiting on the Lord is not passive. During those times we should be living life as usual; praying, meditating on God’s Word, helping others, and meeting with believers for fellowship around our common purpose which is to know Jesus and make Him known.

The Story Of The Chinese Bamboo Tree

A man takes a little seed of the Chinese Bamboo Tree, plants it, waters it, and fertilizes it for a whole year, and nothing happens. The second year he waters and fertilizes it and nothing happens. The third year he waters and fertilizes it and nothing happens. How discouraging this becomes!
The fourth year he waters and fertilizes it and, you guessed it, nothing happens. After four years of waiting, and nurturing, and watering, it gets frustrating and seems fruitless. But, if he continues to water and fertilize the seed, sometime during the fifth year, the Chinese Bamboo Tree grows ninety feet in six weeks. As the man who planted the seed waited to see growth, he watered and nurtured that seed. And even though he did not see the growth for a time, the roots were growing deeper and deeper as he waited and watered.
Life can be likened to the growing process of the Chinese bamboo Tree. It is often discouraging. We keep doing things right, and nothing changes. Things may even get tougher. But if we are waiting on the Lord and believing we can do all things through Christ, we realize that tough times don’t last but tough, Jesus people do.

Posted in Perseverance    Tagged with tough times produce tough people


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