Did you experience growing pains as a child? Or perhaps your children do? We always like to do easy things. Hard things scare us because they take effort.
Effort stretches us, and as we stretch, we grow. The truth is that growth inevitably always hurts in one way or another.
My daughter has a sign above her bed. It says, “I can do hard things.” And that’s an essential reminder to all of us.
What limits us the most as human beings is always our own thinking. We tend to focus more on the difficulties in our way rather than on the possibilities to be achieved. The more we focus on the negatives, the more we programme our brains to think along those negative neural pathways. We tend to believe that our past is a prediction of our future. I know this myself because I tend towards pessimism rather than positivity.
This gets me thinking about Esther in the Bible. Her life seems to have begun in hardship as a Jewish orphan in a foreign land. However, due to incredible circumstances she was elevated to become the Queen of Persia.
When the king passes a law ordering the extermination of all the Jews in the kingdom, Esther is faced with the greatest crisis of her life.
You might think that as the queen, Esther had the authority to do and say whatever she wanted and to go and speak with the king at any time. But in that culture, that’s not how it was at all.
Jesus never promised that your life would be easy.
If she tried to come before the king uninvited, she would be sentenced to death unless the king extended his sceptre toward him. And Esther knew that the king hadn’t invited her to come to see him for quite a long time now. On the other hand, she and her people would be killed if she did nothing. It seemed like a lose-lose situation. However, her cousin Mordechai said to her,
who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14.)
It would have been so tempting to hide, but Esther stood up, went to the king, and saved her people.
Jesus never promised that our lives would be easy. On the contrary, he promised that,
In this world you will have trouble (John 16:33a.)
This is probably Jesus’ least-popular promise! We will always have to face hard things while we have breath in us in their world. No one has it easy.
But Jesus isn’t finished yet. He continues,
But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33a.)
Whatever you are going through in the world, you can be assured that there is someone right now who is suffering more. Depending on where you live in the world, most of the challenges you will face are light compared to the challenges faced by those in the developing nations of the world.
The apostle Paul knew a thing or two about hard things. He was repeatedly imprisoned, tortured, stoned, and starved. Yet he survived and was able to write,
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair (2 Cor 4:8.)
Notice that he says that he was “perplexed.” Ultimately, the apostle didn’t understand why he had to go through what he went through, any more than you can understand the reason for your hardships.
In Christ, you have been made for hard things.
Yet the apostle Paul was not “crushed”, and he didn’t give up. He held onto the promise of his Lord:
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33.)
That’s why Paul wrote from prison,
I can do all this through him who gives me strength (Phil 4:13.)
He wasn’t talking about doing great miraculous works or achieving perfection in this life. Instead, the context is that Paul refers to the hardship and imprisonment that he was experiencing. At the Cross, Jesus experienced a wall of impossible difficulties that none of us will ever face. Because he overcame, today, Jesus pours out his strength to those who trust in him.
The apostle Paul was effectively saying, “I can do it! I can get through the hardest times because it’s Jesus who gives me strength!”
Because of Christ, Paul knew that he had been made a new man, a man who was made for hard things. Just like Esther’s time, it was Paul’s time now. And ultimately, we are all, in a sense, grateful for Paul’s time in prison. As a result, he was able to write some of his most glorious letters in which he beautifully expressed the Gospel.
Article supplied with thanks to Dr Eliezer Gonzalez.
About the Author: Dr Eli Gonzalez is the Senior Pastor of Good News Unlimited and the presenter of the Unlimited radio spots, and The Big Question. Sign up to his free online course called Becoming a Follower of Jesus to learn about Jesus and His message.
Feature image: Photo by Kelli McClintock on Unsplash