“The Hard Times Make you Strong”

hardshipsConsider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2,3)

Pure joy?

How difficult it is to receive this word, Father! Like a small child, I simply want the troubles to stop. I want you to smooth away the pain and lull me back to sleep.

But this sounds so fierce, so militant. It makes me think of that old line, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Or perhaps, “No pain,  no gain.” It sounds like the gritting of teeth, the determination to push through to the bitter end.

You want me to toughen up. Even though there’s one sense in which I’m to trust and believe like a little child, there’s another sense in which I still have to grow up, to “fight life through” and take it on the chin.

I know, I know. “The hard times make you strong.” You’re calling me to endure the tough times because of what they produce.

Perseverance. Pushing through.

I remember a line from Elisabeth Elliot: “Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love that does not show itself in protection from suffering. The love of God is of a different nature altogether. It does not hate tragedy. It never denies reality. It stands in the very teeth of suffering.”

I guess that’s the reason that the Cross stands front and centre of our faith. Not the crucifix. The crucifix would emphasise the suffering itself, but the Cross takes us further, and shows us what that suffering produced. Until “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

The empty cross is the sign of the perseverance of Jesus, the one truly tough Man, who for the “pure joy” set before Him, endured the cross.

Lord, I think I see that this is what you are doing. This toughening process, which I resist without thinking, as something alien and wrong, is the very process by which I enter the life of Jesus.

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