The late Jack Miller once asked his wife Rose Marie, “If you could change any one thing about me, what would it be?” She said, “Jack, you don’t listen.” Jack answered, “No, no, no” and repeated his question, demonstrating that Rose Marie was spot on.
The writer of Hebrews emphasizes too many of us aren’t listening to something God says: “You have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you” (Hebrews 12:5-6).
“Discipline” is a species of the genus “difficulty.” God’s talking to us here about our problems, pains, predicaments, and perils. And we ought to listen as carefully as the sole heir to an enormous estate listens to the reading of the will. But we don’t. Instead we listen as carelessly as a frequent flyer listens to a flight attendant’s safety instructions.
The Truth About Difficulties
We can summarize what God tells us about our difficulties in a single sentence: We must handle the difficulties that will be part of our entire earthly existence with the attitude of Grace Focused Optimism so that we can profit from them.
Embedded in this sentence are three truths about difficulty God wants us to listen to. We’ll devote a post to each.
Truth one is we must listen to God telling each of us that all kinds of difficulty will be part of our entire earthly existence.
Are We Listening?
Let’s focus on this truth by unpacking the phrases “all kinds of difficulty,” “our entire earthly existence,” and “each of us”.
1. We must listen to God telling us that we will experience all kinds of difficulty. James says we will have “various trials” (James 1:2). Some will be no worse than a paper cut—noticeable but not 9-1-1 serious. Others may hurt so badly you’ll feel like Job’s twin. Some will last a short time, passing through as quickly as a summer afternoon thunderstorm. Others may move in and stay like a bad neighbor occupying the house next door. But God assures us that we will have all kinds of difficulty.
Are we listening?
2. We must listen to God telling us that we will experience difficulties our entire earthly existence. Believers can adopt Little Orphan Annie’s theme song. “It’s a hard knock life for us” as their own. Thank God, Christianity isn’t only that. But there will be lots of hard knocks as long as we live. In fact, some of the hardest knocks come as we age and experience physical and mental weakness, illness, and death. Jesus means it when he tells us “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). He’s saying, “As long as you are in this world difficulty will prey on you as a wolf on a sheep.” God assures us that difficulties of all kinds will walk hand and hand with us all the way to the grave.
Are we listening?
3. We must listen to God telling us these things about difficulty because he is speaking to each of us. The idea that Christianity is a vaccination immunizing a believer from the virus of trouble doesn’t come from God. He says the exact opposite: “If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipljne), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.” Ponder the word “everyone.” Every believer in Jesus is on its passenger list. I am. You are. God assures each of us that we will have a lifetime of many difficulties.
Are we listening?
The idea that Christianity is a vaccination immunizing a believer from the virus of trouble doesn’t come from God. He says the opposite. @gfoministries
Lord willing, we will go on to see how grace helps us handle our difficulties in a way that honors God and benefits us. But the first step to handling them well is listening to God telling us that they’re certain.
Christian, your heavenly Father tells you that all kinds of difficulties will be part of your entire earthly existence.
Are you listening?