Struggle Builds Strength and Discipline: A Devotion of Encouragement
The Struggle is Real
Ever wondered why the Bible tells us to rejoice in our struggles, persecution, and hardship? Romans 5:3, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance,” (NASB). I have had to count change so I could buy a couple of packs of ramen to eat that day. I’ve worked 3 jobs, every day of the week just to make ends meet, and still come up short. I’ve had failed relationships and marriage. I’ve stayed in my home more than one day with no electricity because I was waiting on payday so I could get it turned on. My dad passed from this world 7 years ago. These are just a few struggles, of the countless, that I have had to endure, and I know that they pale in comparison to other’s struggles. I have heard, “well it could be worse” or “someone has it worse than you, so be thankful you’re not them” all my life. That’s not good enough. That isn’t enough for me. The fact that someone out there has lost both parents and I have only lost my dad doesn’t diminish the loss and pain I must handle. The struggles we deal with daily are not better because someone else is suffering more. Honestly, I don’t wish any suffering on anyone, so why would I be glad that anyone had it worse than me? So, that’s not good enough. I want a better reason as to why I should rejoice in my pain, suffering, struggles and trials, and I bet you want a better answer also.
There is Good News
I have encouraging news. I know a better answer. It has nothing to do with anyone else. Remember that comparison is a lie, and will take you down the wrong path. In fact, the less you concern yourself with what others are doing or going through, in this regard, the better you will be. Understand, that we should have compassion for those around us, and aid them in any way we can. I am not saying, nor would I ever say, do not help them, love them, or stand with them in their struggles. What I am saying is, do not compare your struggle with theirs or their solution with yours. What works for one may not work for all. The one constant is Jesus. The Word of God will guide you, strengthen you, and support you through your own struggle. Others can give advice, but only Jesus gives hope. Consider what the flight attendant on an airline says when giving preflight instructions. They always say, “in case of an emergency to put your oxygen mask on before helping others”. When you are deep in a time of tribulation, whatever that may look like for you, it is vital that you get yourself straight before you can help others. You guessed it, Jesus is the oxygen mask. Can’t breathe without Him. I know you’ve felt like the pressure around you is or was so great you couldn’t breathe. I know I have. Jesus is the answer. It is not the suffering of others, or the concept of “lifting yourself up by the bootstraps”.
You Are Not Alone
There is ample scripture that talks about suffering. The Bible is graphic when you get down to it. The reason for that, is to show us that what we are going through is nothing new. It has been happening for thousands of years. Only 1 of the 12 Disciples died of natural causes, and he was literally boiled in oil. Probably would have been better off to die. The others were tortured and died a horrific death. These aren’t used for comparison of who suffers more. The reason the Bible uses so many examples are to show us that every one of them had the same answer, and the answer is Jesus. Some of the men and women in the Bible suffered and recovered, and some died, but they stayed strong in their faith and knew that life in this physical body is short, but life in Jesus Christ is eternal. The eternal reward was what allowed them to endure their tribulations. That is why Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego told the King that whether God saved them or whether they died, they were not going to oppose what God desired. They knew the real reward waited in another life, and that the choices we make in this short span of physical life has an eternal impact. Daniel 3:16-18, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. 17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; [p]and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (NASB).
Our struggle can build strength and discipline within us, and be an example to those around us. Just as God has made us with a free-will to make choices, we have the choice. Do we want to come out of the struggle stronger or broken? I know that was rhetorical, but before you say yes ask yourself how far you are willing to go to make this struggle beneficial. Over half of the winners of the lottery do not have money within 5 years from winning millions of dollars. They didn’t allow their struggles of poverty to strengthen them and build discipline so when they became blessed with a lot of money they were frivolous and couldn’t keep it. Are you struggling with finances? Let this be the time you learn to be frugal and disciplined about spending. Are you struggling with being overweight? Let this be the time you become disciplined with eating and exercise. Are you struggling with the loss of a loved one or a failed relationship? Let this be the time that you start building relationships with your family so there are no regrets in the future when they or you pass on. I don’t want to sound like I am oversimplifying your struggle, but I can tell you that there is a reason for it. You don’t have to know what that reason is right now. Instead of asking why, ask how can I be better from this? How can I grow from this? How can I make it through the struggle, and be an encouragement for others? Most of all, talk to Jesus. Yell, scream, cry, or whatever emotion you are feeling and tell Him how you feel, what you think, and that you need Him. He did not put this on you to torture you. That is not who He is. He didn’t come to die for all of us just so He could make us suffer. He came to overcome our eternal suffering. Through Him we can become stronger and more disciplined than we ever were before, but we must be willing to do whatever it takes. God Bless you, your family, and I pray that whatever struggle you are going through right now and in the future that you depend on Jesus as your oxygen mask and that you come out the other side stronger and better for it and glorifying the Lord.
Bible Verses About Trials and Tribulations
1 Peter 4:12,13 "12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation."
Habakkuk 3:17,18 "Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation."
James 1:2 "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,"
Matthew 5:12, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you,” (NASB).