By Not Known
When life seems tough it is easy to go into a downward spiral. We may look at our problems (and only our problems), complain that no one has it as tough as us and whine that we are all alone. All these take an added dimension when our complaint is about the toughness of following Jesus. It is no wonder that others abandon us when we wallow in such self-pitying misery!
The first readers of Hebrews had grounds for such self-pity. They had found that following Jesus was tough-going. Wearying years of self-denial and paying the high costs of discipleship had taken their toll. Ostracism, and even persecution, from their former co-religionists at the temple left them isolated and vulnerable. Where is God in such tough times?
We are not alone! For starters, we have the company of women and men of faith and courage who also have it tough. Thus the readers of Hebrews are told to look around at the great cloud of witnesses (12:1). We can do the same. Who are the people of great faith and courage around us and what can we learn from them? Such inspiring examples help us to throw off entanglements and run God’s race with perseverance. They should help us be stickers and not quitters with God.
Further, and more importantly, we are to consider Christ. He is the trailblazer who went ahead to make our life of faith less tough. He is the one who now sits at the right hand of God’s throne to intervene on behalf of his people (12:2; 4:14-16). The fact that he suffered to the point of death for us should help set our problems into perspective – we have not yet suffered as he did (12:3-4).
Rather than complain when the life of faith is tough, we do better to ask what we can learn and how we can grow. This is not mere wishful thinking, but is based on a Christian world-view. Our tough times are not the products of a universe ruled by mad or bad forces to whom we are playthings for their amusement in our sufferings. Rather, the universe is ruled by our good Father- God and our tough times are his fatherly discipline for our good (12:5-7).
This dramatically reframes our view of tough times. They are an opportunity for God’s good to be done in our lives and for us to grow in healthy directions. Many of us find that personal growth happens more in tough times than in easy times. Such times are unwelcome, but they are an opportunity for growth. Let’s not waste it!
Finally, the Cross of Christ is the most powerful evidence that we are not alone in tough times. God was there in the vortex of suffering. He is still there. We are never alone.