Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. Hebrews 10, verses 32-34.
Is this calling us to actively give up our possessions? Is it telling us to be content in all circumstances, even when we’re being mistreated? Actually, yes it is. It ISN’T saying “be happy about it.” God doesn’t tell us to enjoy suffering. But He does tell us to put our trust in Him alone and be content with Him because He is more than enough to overcome any suffering. He doesn’t promise Easy Street: He promises to abide with us on any street. Is this also telling us to turn the other cheek? Again, yes it is. When suffering happens, we should focus our joy on it’s true source, Jesus. Instead of focusing on hurt, to stop the ‘bleeding’ of our suffering, we should focus on He who is with us even to the point of turning the other cheek to the one who is making us suffer.
A few days ago, my Billy Graham devotion reminded me that “joy” doesn’t equal “happiness” as the world defines happiness. Brother (and sister), I understand this. I’m sure you do, too. Without divulging too many whines, my family is going through a difficult time. For the moment, my wife and I are unemployed. Just as He did the last time we went through this, God has a plan in all this. To be honest, we don’t know what that plan is right now, but we do trust Him and His daily provision. We’re still eating; we’re still breathing; midnight to midnight, we are still above the dirt. Everything else is a gift from Him, even the struggles. We pray the time will be short, and we’re blessed to be able to use it to do things that need to be done here on our farm. God is good all the time and all the time God is good.
Yet it can be a struggle to see happiness or joy in this. “How could it” you might ask? “Dave, you’re on the unemployment line again; you expect to be happy?” Happy no, joy yes. Every struggle, even unemployment or financial struggles, is an opportunity to make a choice for Jesus. The verses aren’t saying that my problems will disappear. It’s only saying that my unseen baggage from them can when I fix my eyes and hope on Christ. If nothing else, why not ease that emotional burden?
And let’s get real: the author of Hebrews wasn’t talking about a First-World situation like unemployment or paying your bills online. He was talking about struggles like being tortured in Roman prisons. About living in a world with astronomical infant mortality, real starvation, life expectancy of 45 years, and a host of other problems that most of us can’t fathom. The first audience for verses 32-34 was comprised of people who lived in the primitive first century nations of the Mediterranean. He was telling them to put all their trust, their hope, their everything on the shoulders of Jesus and let Jesus take the heat. The author was telling his reader to rejoice in Jesus even when the branding iron struck your flesh, or you were kidnapped to row in a galley, or your family was sold off into slavery because you couldn’t pay your debts, or when they nailed you to a cross.
My puny problems pale compared to those things. If our ancestors could trust Jesus through things like that, I can too.
I’ll admit: it’s a struggle. We are having to ‘skinny down;’ going through possessions, putting our farm up for sale, applying for jobs (literally) all over the world. It’s hard to face being let go and rejected; it’s hard to face doing without things you’ve worked for or desire. It hurts to go through this. Jesus understands that. He’s with us during these times and is calling us to put our faith in Him. When the tough times are past, the lessons He’s teaching us today will come in handy.
For further reading: Hebrews 6:4, Philippians 1:29-30, 1 Corinthians 4:9, Philippians 4:14, 1 Peter 1:4-5.
Lord, help me to trust You in all things. Forgive my weakness and how I’ve failed You. I trust You in Your teaching, Your provision, and Your discipline.