“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 With the start of football season, most Americans are trying very hard to get their lives back to normal despite the pandemic. Parents of school-aged children are once again back in their daily routine of trying to juggle work with school-related activities. Many parents are exasperated with the pressure of online schooling. Others are trying to stabilize their finances amid an economic recession that is threatening their present and their future. These hard times are testing our patience, our faith, and our mental strength. Nevertheless, there is a purpose and a message in every difficulty. As disciples of Christ, we have to resist the temptation to go through these difficult times with a defeatist attitude. We must pray for the strength to rise to the occasion, face our challenges, and overcome. The best way to do those three things is by debunking five myths about hard times. 1. Hard times are the result of divine punishment. We must resist the voice of the enemy that is whispering condemnation in our ears and reminding us of our sinfulness. Romans 8:1 reminds us, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Hard times are a necessary part of our existential reality because we live in a fallen world. That is the lesson Jesus shares with the disciples in John 16:33. God may use hard times to prune us spiritually so we can bear more fruits. However, because Jesus paid the price for our sinfulness with his blood, the believer lives in forgiveness and restoration, not divine punishment.
2. Hard times suggest weak faith. It is not because a person’s faith is weak that they go through hard times. Everyone in the Bible, including Jesus, went through hard times. No one gets to journey through this life trouble-free. What we do know is that “many are the afflictions of the righteous God will deliver him from them all” (Psalm 34:1). The verse does not say that God will only deliver those who are strong in faith. Jesus takes it a step further to say that all we need is the faith the size of a mustard seed (which is extremely small). In 2 Corinthians 12:9-11 we learn that it is when we are weak that God makes us strong. Hard times may weaken our faith, but they are not necessarily the result of weak faith.
3. Hard times represent a demonic attack. No doubt, we are entangled in ongoing spiritual warfare with the devil and his demons. That does not mean that the devil is always responsible for our hard times. Believers develop a more intimate relationship with the Lord in hard times that grows stronger than in any other season of life. Often we think we are cursed, but that is so far from the truth. Sometimes hard times show that we are blessed and walking in the favor of God. The road to glory is always intersected by the avenue of hard times. We learn more about ourselves, our faith, our purpose, and our character in our times.
4. Hard times do not last long. As I write it this devotional there are countless people receiving treatment for a disease they’ve been fighting since birth. Some people have gone to two or three bouts with cancer. Many people have lived in abject poverty for generations. Numerous girls and women are kidnapped and forced into sex trafficking for a very long time. The Israelites were in Egyptian bondage for over 400 years. People of African descent in America have been waiting for justice and equity for just as long. My point is that there is no time limit for hard times. What we cannot and should not do is lose hope and trust in God no matter the extent of our hard times. Our God will sustain us and give us the strength to endure hard times.
5. Hard times mean God does not care about us. When I go through hard times I am reminded that all things work together to the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Hard times are an invitation for us to cast all our cares on God because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7-8). God has already demonstrated his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. I don’t need any more convincing about God’s redemptive love for me. What I need is the faith to say it is well with my soul in hard times. Prayer- Blessed Lord, please give us the strength to endure and persevere through hard times. May your praise be forever on our lips as we go through our hard times.