I have been reflecting on hardship and seeing some very clear blessing in people’s lives as a direct result of them encountering severe hardship.
I am reminded of being told ten years ago that Russian Christians were praying that the Christians of the West would suffer persecution, in order that their faith would become more real and grow in depth. It is one thing to have faith in God when you don’t need Him and an entirely different thing to have faith in God when you absolutely DO need Him and you are in grave danger if He doesn’t come through for you.
Helen & I have met some amazing people on our travels, people with an amazing depth of faith. We’ve lived with a German Princess, who was in Indonesia as a child during WWII. She was born into Dutch royalty and her Dad served in the Dutch army in Indonesia when they were overrun by the Japanese. This lady, her Mum and sister said goodbye to their Dad and husband one morning knowing that they would never see him again. Stories of her childhood years in a Japanese internment camp being fed crumbs by her Mum who slowly withered away,and near the end of the war turning down two chances to leave Indonesia, as they heard God say not to take those options!! Imagine staying under those circumstances. The ships they were offered were sunk by Germans! Eventually they got home safely and transitioned from the internment camp in Indonesia to a castle in Holland. She had not seen a fork before let alone sit at a table with 3 forks set before her.
We have a good friend who is very high up in the world of finance in London. She holds a job that many people would give anything to have. She and her family of origin were refugees from Vietnam. Her Mum had married a Chinese man and this later became politically very incorrect. She remembers the raids during the night from the police,and being forced to stand outside in the middle of the night as a little girl. She remembers having to leave and being stripped of their property and wealth. We really cannot imagine what this was like in reality.
Last week I met with a guy here in Melbourne who is now a Youth Pastor. Last time I met him he was married, now he isn’t. He told me his story of betrayal, of divorce, of shame. Then He told me about God, as a matter of fact you couldn’t have stopped him if you tried! Scripture and the goodness of God just ran from his lips. He had tasted and seen that the Lord is Good! Psalm 34:8 “Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who trust in Him!”
The thing that these people have in common is that they KNOW that God is GOOD. They don’t have to be told this or quoted a Biblical text, they know it as their personal testimony and their life experience. Because when it became very very dark in their lives, Jesus, the light, shone brightly and gladly proved Himself to them.
I am also reminded of 2 young guys that we took on a missions tour into Russia. They both had their passports and visas stolen while we were there and therefore were unable to leave the country. Of course God came through powerfully and miraculously. They both went into full time missions. They KNOW the character of God, and their HARDSHIP experience has made it much easier to trust God, their own testimony proves this to them.
How we can avoid hardship like the plague? What are we missing in our character development? What are we missing in our faith development? What are we missing in what we KNOW about God? What are we missing in what we are believing about God?
What are we ascribing to the devil as unwanted hardship that could well be the Lord wanting to promote us? The Hebrew root word for bless or kneel (to be humbled) are the same. When a Hebrew says to you, “May the Lord bless you”, it can be translated “May the Lord humble/humiliate you”. As when you are humbled or humiliated it is then that you are unable to operate in your own strength and that you open an opportunity to make some space and time for God to act, allowing Him to prove Himself to you.
So when Hardship comes are you going to avoid it? Or look for God in it? If your finances are suddenly reduced are you going to stop tithing? Stop or reduce giving to the work of God, or would you INCREASE what you give away opening a door to taste n see if the Lord really is GOOD?!
I have seen an ADVANTAGE in the faith journey of people that have endured hardship. People who chose to look to God instead of becoming bitter; their faith moves to the facts of their own testimony. When hardship comes we have choice: avoid it at all costs and become bitter if we have to suffer it, or take it as an opportunity to taste n see if the Lord is GOOD and to allow Him to become bigger for us.