Six Lessons on Enduring Hardship from Godly Men in My Life
Last week, hardship struck three of my friends. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, R.C. Sproul Jr. lost his teenage daughter. Right after that, my fellow elder, Dan Horn, and his family along with two young men were in a devastating car crash in Maryland, and Dan was quickly flown to the Shock and Trauma Center of University Hospital in Baltimore. When I heard of Dan’s accident, I immediately headed north to Baltimore where Dan was being flown to the hospital in a helicopter. By the grace of God, today they are all still alive and healing. That same day, another good friend and a deacon in our church, Tommy Vestal, was celebrating his twenty year wedding anniversary in a town several hours away from home, when he was rushed to the hospital with appendicitis and underwent emergency surgery.
What do these three situations all have in common? One friend whose daughter was taken from him, a second friend whose family was crushed inside their vehicle but they survived, and a third friend whose anniversary turned into emergency surgery and a hospital stay – each of these men, by their examples, have demonstrated how to live through tragedy.
None of us knows when any one of these situations will happen to us. Are we prepared to act as trusting, faithful Christians in the process? This has been on my mind this week as I have observed all three of these men respond to life-altering events. Each of them set before me helpful examples for those of us watching and praying for them. When the regular activities of our daily lives are abruptly jarred by tragedy, faith is put to the test. Either it flourishes or it falls.
Following are six observations I have made from the various examples of these men honoring God through tragedy last week. Let us each be prepared to follow their examples should tragedy call on us today.
1. Since they believed God was ruling, they were confident.
For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?” – Daniel 4:34-35
2. Since they believed that God was working, they were resting and waiting.
For God is my King from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth. – Psalm 74:12
3. Since the believed that God is good, they were at peace.
The goodness of God endures continually…I will praise You forever, because You have done it; and in the presence of Your saints I will wait on Your name, for it is good. – Psalm 52:1,9
4. Since they believed that God was manifesting His glory, they knew the trial was useful.
Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. – John 9:1-3
5. Since the believed that God was disciplining them, they were teachable.
And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.” If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. – Hebrews 12:5-13
6. Since they believed that God was afflicting them, their hearts were content.
And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10