Recorded in the Bible are many examples of people enduring difficult situations. If we took out all the accounts in Scripture that dealt with hardship and difficulty, we would essentially have to throw the entire Bible away. If we instead took enough time to digest those accounts, what we would see is that God is at work through each circumstance to accomplish a specific purpose.
Hardship and difficulty are opportunities for growth. They are also times when God wants to accomplish a specific purpose in our lives to benefit us or to work through our lives to benefit others. So, what is our best response? Job 2:9-10 provides us with a starting point, “Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!’ But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”
Although Job could not see what was happening, you and I are given the explanation behind Job’s difficulty. God was allowing hardship to prove Job’s faithfulness – not that God needed to know, but that Job’s faith would grow stronger. At the end of the book of Job, he draws far closer to God than before the first calamity came upon him. There can be no greater outcome of our difficulty than to either grow stronger in our relationship with God or to bring others into a stronger relationship with God.
Job could have easily cursed God. His wife and friends assured Job cursing God would result in a quick death, or a quick escape from hardship. It is this quick escape that we so often desire. Unfortunately, growing stronger in our relationship with God is not something that usually happens quickly.
David in 1 Samuel also had several opportunities at a quick escape from difficulty. After bringing down Goliath, king Saul became jealous of David and wanted to do away with him. What unfolds over many chapters is Saul’s pursuit of David all across the country. However, David twice had an opportunity to put an end to the madness. His first quick escape came while he was hiding in a cave, and Saul entered the same cave for a brief rest. David could easily have taken Saul, and he was tempted to do just that.
Sometime later, David and a close adviser snuck into Saul’s camp at night, and to prove a point, took some of Saul’s possessions while he and the night guards slept. Laying right next to Saul were his weapons, and once again, David could easily have taken Saul, making a quick end to his difficulty.
In all of these instances, however, Job and David both recognized a greater reality beyond quickly ending their difficult situations. There is no future in cursing God or tearing down what God has raised up. For Job, cursing God would have been the end of his integrity and the end of all the good God had brought him to that point. Can we really say a quick escape is worth such a price?
David knew that God had appointed Saul as king, and to cut Saul down was to undermine God. David specifically said he would not attack God’s anointed person, though that person was causing him great difficulty. David acknowledged that if God wanted this to stop God could easily put an end to Saul. That God chose not to do that was part of a decision far weightier than David could reason out.
Throughout David’s difficulty, he came to experience God very closely. David intently listened to God and brought God into every decision. David came to know God so well that he saw how powerful, merciful and just God is. All of these things would come to play a major role in David’s later term as king. In the same way, Job’s friends were convinced of God, and Job himself proved God far beyond how he had experienced God to that point.
When I talk to people about Zacchaeus Financial Counseling, one of their first questions is, “How do you get paid?” There is no question that starting and operating an independent non-profit is not a lucrative deal. In the face of our difficult week last week, it is tempting to abandon the effort, and that would certainly be an easy solution. There are definitely other positions I could take that would be far more profitable.
However, like David and Job, Zacchaeus Financial Counseling is a response to God’s call, and to walk that path, I must take the good with the adversity. For all I know, God wants to accomplish something greater as a result of our difficult week.
Quickly escaping difficult circumstances by doing something like swiping a credit card would be like Job cursing God (and dying) or David taking Saul (and overruling God’s authority). The question you have to answer before swiping the credit card is this, “How can I pay this off?” So you swipe the credit card, then what? Job curses God, and then what? David takes Saul, and then what?
If you don’t have a good answer, then your best decision is to take a little bit more time to consider the plan, the potential long-term consequences, and your options. In all of this, it is vitally important that you bring God into the decision. What does He have to say? What is He doing? What would He like to accomplish? If you took out the credit card, what would it do to His plan?
A really difficult week is an opportunity to experience God in a new way or benefit others. Decisions that have this level of impact cannot be resolved with a quick swipe of the credit card, but if we do swipe the card, our quick escape will bring a quick end to God’s purposes and plan for our lives. Only you can decide if the cost is reasonable.