By Lisa Loraine Baker, Crosswalk.com
Everyone understands when a person declares they are going through hard times. It could be grief over the loss of a loved one, distress because of a financial loss or ongoing lack of money, or even the hard times that bad decisions warrant. Hard times could come as the result of others’ actions that affect someone, like a change in a job position, a landlord who doesn’t take care of a person’s apartment, or a change in government.
In the Bible, we read about Job’s hard times when he went through a period of calamity. He questioned himself and God. The Israelites went through hard times when they were exiled to Babylon. And Jesus Himself went through hard times when He was convicted as an innocent man, crucified, and died on the cross. His disciples endured the hard times when they had to go on without Him after His ascension.
Let’s look at what the Bible says about hard times and how we as Christians are to respond to them.
What Does the Bible Say about Hard Times?
Verses which specifically mention hard times (includes other phrases like trials, temptations, grief, and tribulation, which mean the same) are best illustrated by the people who endured them. So many went through hard times; we will look at just a few.
In the Old Testament
We mentioned him above, but Job went through some serious hard times when he lost his children and his property. We could also talk about how his friends gave him a hard time when they insisted he did something wrong (and they were the ones who were in the wrong). We know little about what is going on in heaven except God is on His throne (Psalm 47:8) and Jesus is preparing a place for us (John 14:2-3). Therefore, we mustn’t assume God is doing anything but what is just and righteous and holy and good.
But what did Job do when faced with the horrifying news? “At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: ‘Naked I come from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised’” (Job 1:20-21). Amen.
Moses had to deal with Pharaoh, the stiff-necked people of Israel, and even stood on holy ground before God (his story may be found in the last four books of the Septuagint — Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy).
In the New Testament
Jesus, as the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), went through the hardest time of all when He was scourged past the point of human appearance (Isaiah 52:14), crucified on the cross (Matthew 27:26), and died (John 19:30). But He was raised on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:4) and as we reflect on this every spring on Good Friday, we can praise God because “Sunday’s coming!” Because He lives, we live.
The Apostle Paul was five times lashed thirty-nine times, beaten with rods, stoned, shipwrecked (thrice), adrift at sea, and in near-constant danger as he followed Jesus’ call on his life. He hungered and thirsted often, was exposed to the cold, and he daily worried for the churches (1 Corinthians 11:24-28). His response? He considered his weakness his strength, for it was then that he knew the Lord would get the glory (2 Corinthians 12:10).
Timothy. He is not one we normally think of when we consider people from the Bible who had hard times. His suffering was both for the church and in some ways by the church because he was despised for his youth (1 Timothy 4:12). Most of us know young pastors who meet great skepticism from older church members for no other reason than they are young.
Why Does the Bible Say We Will All Experience Difficulty?
Why? The Lord Jesus said hard times were coming, and so they do.
The most pointed passage in Scripture is one uttered by our Lord Jesus. He was with His disciples just after His time with them in the upper room and right before His high Priestly Prayer, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, emphasis added).
As Christians, we are strangers and aliens here (1 Peter 2:11). As members of the heavenly kingdom, our home is in heaven. Since the kingdom lay within each Christian, it is normal to have conflict going on with the world, for an unbeliever does not understand us (1 Corinthians 2:14). We do not bow to the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2), therefore we will face an uphill battle there.
Christians in countries where a government is run by a religion hostile to Christianity are sure to face persecution and even death. Our Lord knew this would happen, and it is no surprise to Him. It’s part of why He left us with His Word (John 1:1: John 17:8), His Spirit (John 14:26), and His peace (John 14:27).
How Should Christians React to Hard Times?
Our reactions to various hard times should reflect our faith in the Lord. Therefore, our first stop is prayer. Speaking to our Father — crying out to Abba (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6) — is like pouring ourselves out to our Daddy and reminding ourselves Who is in control. Trust Him.
Our simultaneous act should be to have our Bible open for refreshment and further encouragement. Reading King David’s cries to God while in distress let us see we can come before God without worrying about holding anything back. Look to the Psalms for his heart’s cries to the Lord.
A sampling of Scripture to turn to in hard times:
Psalm 9:9 – “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.”
Philippians 4:19 - “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”
Psalm 32:7-8 - God is a hiding place. He provides the shelter no one else can.
1 Peter 5:7 - God asks us to give Him everything about which we are anxious, because He cares for us.
Romans 8:18 - We can get through anything here in this life because we have glory ahead of us.
1 Peter 1:6-7 - Our faith is tested so we can grow in Christ and praise Him all the more as He is revealed.
Joshua 1:9 - God is always with us, so we are to be strong and courageous.
Philippians 4:19 - God will meet all our needs (remember, He is talking needs, not wants).
Romans 8:28 - A very familiar verse to many about how God makes everything work for good for those He has called and who love Him.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 - This passage was written by Paul, who, as we saw, went through some serious hard times. And through it all he kept his faith. In it he says, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” What an amazing, eternal perspective we can all adopt when times get rough.
It's important for Christians to maintain a vibrant fellowship with a strong church, one which holds to the truth of the Bible and provides mature Christian accountability. The unity in the church is based on the love of God and His commandments through our Lord Jesus. We can be vulnerable with other members, for we each seek the best for the others.
Another very important point regarding how Christians respond to hard times is our witness. We know God wastes nothing, so why would He waste the opportunity to show His faithfulness to a believer who will display and share God’s goodness?
Hard times, as we have seen, are inevitable. We best suit up every day according to Ephesians 6:10-20 so we can fight whatever the world throws at us. Have a prayer arsenal, quick go-to verses, and a believing friend in your phone contacts. And remember, our sovereign God will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Santiaga
Lisa Loraine Baker is the multiple award-winning author of Someplace to be Somebody. She writes fiction and nonfiction. In addition to writing for the Salem Web Network, Lisa serves as a Word Weavers’ mentor and is part of a critique group. She also is a member of BRRC. Lisa and her husband, Stephen, a pastor, live in a small Ohio village with their crazy cat, Lewis.