August 15: “The Joys of Hard Times”

8 Minute Read + Scripture readings

(If you want to listen to an audio version of today’s blog post, simply go to https://anchor.fm/mattellis1997, or search for “Reflections on Truth” by Matt Ellis wherever you download your favorite podcasts.)

Today’s Bible Reading:

1 Samuel 5-6
Romans 5
Jeremiah 43
Psalms 19

Today’s Bible Verse(s):

Romans 5:3–5 (CSB): “And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Reflections on Today’s Bible Verse(s):

A principle that shows up periodically in Scripture is that God sends (or allows) difficulties into our life … and we should be happy about it.

We are told that if we are serious about following Jesus, life will be tough.

2 Timothy 3:12 (CSB): “In fact, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

But, we are told that during those tough times, whether they come because we are a devout Jesus-follower or whether they simply come because we live in a broken world, we should be happy.

James 1:2–3 (CSB): “Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”

James essentially says: “Jump for joy when life gets hard!”

Wow! How are we to understand passages of the Bible similar to this? How are we to think about a perspective that tells us to be happy when life gets hard?

Once again, we see it in James 1:3 and in the verses that I have chosen for us today.

Romans 5:3–5 (CSB): “And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Notice that the Bible doesn’t simply, whimsically tell us to be happy when life gets hard – to just “grin and bear it.” Instead, we are given a substantive reason for why we are to be happy when life gets hard.

“… we also rejoice in our afflictions, BECAUSE we know that affliction produces endurance…”

We don’t get happy because life gets hard. Instead, we get happy because of what the difficulties of life can do for us and in us.

Back when I hit 40 years of age, I looked at my body and wasn’t happy. I was about 30 pounds overweight, my cholesterol was too high, and my energy level was low.

So, I decided that I was going to pick up a running habit. I went out for my first run … and ran a block. My lungs were killing me. On that day, I stopped to walk and then started running again. Soon, I was walking again and very upset. My body was so out of shape and I couldn’t get enough air. Besides, my legs were getting tired. I woke up the next more and my legs were so sore that it was incredibly difficult to walk.

But, I went out running again that next day … and the next day.

If you asked me why I was putting up with such discomfort, I would tell you that my eyes weren’t focused on the momentary discomfort. Instead, my eyes were focused on a day in the future when I would be able to run in a 5K (3.1 mile) race. In fact, I wanted to eventually run in half marathons.

So, I kept enduring the pain. I kept getting up early in the morning and going out for runs. Eventually, I was able to run a mile without stopping. Soon, I could run two miles, and then three. Then, I started running in 5Ks.

One Saturday, I went out for a morning run and planned to put in 2-3 miles. But the run felt good. The endorphins were flowing through my brain and I was loving it! At some point, well over an hour after I started the run, Kim called me on my mobile phone to ask if I was OK. I looked at my runner’s watch and noticed that I had put in over 11 miles of non-stop running.

Friend, I didn’t go from being overweight to enjoying an 11 mile run in a day. It took months before I could enjoy that long run. But, it came because I did the hard thing each day. As I was willing to endure the difficulties each day, I was eventually able to do the fun, long run … and enjoy it!

That’s a picture of what Romans 5:3-5 is talking about. We don’t find happiness in the trials of life. Instead, we find happiness in what those trials can do for us and in us. We find joy in realizing that they are God’s gift to us so that we can develop great qualities such as endurance, character, and hope.

If you look around and see a mature Jesus-follower, I can guarantee that their life hasn’t been easy. For them to grow in their faith, Jesus had to take them to the spiritual gym to toughen them up. For them to enjoy their God like they do and to be as mature and effective as they are, God had to send difficulties their way so that they would learn to trust Him, to develop endurance (stick-to-it-iveness), character (becoming more like Jesus), hope (looking forward to the wonders of Heaven), and so much more.

So, don’t waste a good trial. When life gets hard, you can certainly sit back and wallow in pity. But, you would be better served by seeing the difficulty as a gift from God, an invitation to join Him in the spiritual gym. And as you do the hard things today, you will be free to enjoy some wonderful things tomorrow.

So, go ahead and be happy today as you look forward to what the difficulties of today will do in you.

* * * * * * * * * *

Lord Jesus, I don’t like for bad things to happen to me or to those I love. In fact, I don’t even like it when I see bad things happen to people that I don’t even know. But, I realize that bad things are going to happen because I live in a broken world that is a result of Adam’s sin in Genesis 3. I also realize that You have overruled the bad and use it to accomplish good things in those who love You and are called according to Your divine purpose. So, whatever comes my way, help me to see it as a gift from You for my good. As I embrace the trials, I know that You will grow me to become more like You. That is my desire. Amen.

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I have an incredible wife that God gave to me on May 10, 1997. Since then, the Lord has blessed us with three wonderful boys. I am also the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Polk City, Florida.

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