When the Going Gets Tough

There is a phrase that goes, “When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.”

In other words, a lot of people turn to the god of retail therapy to help them through tough times. Or they find various other things to take the mind off of worries. But the true Christian understands that when the going gets tough, the tough go to their knees and pray.

This month has been very trying on my heart. God has placed a lot of people in my path, but I cannot seem to find the right words to say. My monthly expenses seem to be piling up and I’m seemingly barely able to meet them. The promotion I was seemingly promised earlier in the year fell through. My vehicle is seemingly starting to act up, again. There are repairs to my home that are seemingly increasing in priority. My relationships with people are seemingly starting to fade. And I feel seemingly invisible when I’m at work. And worse yet, now when I’m at church.

It seems—that my perception needs a mind renewal, so that I can discover perhaps why these things are taking place.

Romans 12:2
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Today at lunch, I went home and prayed. And wept.

I don’t know where God is taking me, but I trust Him—wherever that may lead. I know I’m not in as bad of shape as I could be, but it’s still painful. I told Him that I’m really grateful with all that He’s given me, but sometimes the things we are given can become too much for our heart to bear.

I asked Him to take away the pressures and anxieties that I’ve let enter into my mind so I can focus more on Him and leave less mental space on the earthly things that try to distract me from Him.

Someone, a non-believer, recently asked me, “If I want happiness, do I have to follow Him? What if I really like this world? Is it wrong?” Another person, a believer, recently shared experiences of her own with me, as she prepares for a test of true commitment to the Lord, even in darkness and uncertainty for her future. What do these two vastly different scenarios have to do with me? And why now? What can I do except pray for these people to find strength in Christ? I’ve already got enough to worry about!

Or is there more to it than just that? Perhaps God is trying to get me to examine my own heart and look to His Word to find the answer. As James writes…

James 1:2-4
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

I’ve read that passage a million times. And that’s the funny thing with Scripture. The Holy Spirit chooses to highlight the same thing in a different way at a different time sometimes to reveal the answer to what we are seeking.

There is a difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is reliant upon external circumstances to make us feel good. But joy is everlasting and is not dependent upon circumstances. The Bible teaches about the joy in following Christ, as opposed to the things that the world says we must do if we want to be happy. True, deep joy comes as we persevere through trials in our life, with God’s help, and our faith grows and is strengthened. Happiness is temporary and fleeting and depends upon circumstances, like making money, or having a good job, or having success, or pleasing other people.

Paul writes about the “thorn” that God allowed in his path, but never took away…

2 Corinthians 12:7b-10
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I think God is reminding me of all that He’s done for me in the past. He taught me how to persevere, how to be patient, how not to quit in the midst of a trial in the moment. How to look for Him to join me in my situation and not expect Him to simply take it away. As both James and Paul emphasize, it is through our struggles that we learn to become strong. Or in other words, the tough makes us tougher.

So in closing, God’s got my back. He’s got the backs of the people I’m praying for. He’s got the future already laid out on His roadmap to destiny. I just need to take a deep breath, relax, and repeat. He’s got this. He’s God! After all, where else would I be if it weren’t for Him, anyway?

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