TBU: The Bible Unpacked: Intermediate Edition

I.  General

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Chapter 39  Part I

General

Hard times are experienced by all Christians. This reality is reflected in the Bible, notably in Job and Psalms. But the Bible also shows that there are a number of practical and effective things that we can do when undergoing hard times.

Note that the following chapter looks at experiencing persecution due to one’s faith. This chapter deals with undergoing hard times in general – particularly when one is hurting or “down” – irrespective of whether such times are a result of one’s faith or not. As such the responses discussed in this chapter, supplement or reinforce the responses to persecution that are given in the following chapter.

Prologue: God’s People Still Have Hard Times

See also:

Trouble is characteristic of human life

[Eliphaz:] But a person is born for trouble as surely as sparks fly up from a fire.   Job 5:7  GW

Examples of God’s people undergoing hard times

Elijah was afraid, so he got up and fled for his life to Beer Sheba in Judah. He left his servant there, 4while he went a day’s journey into the desert. He went and sat down under a shrub and asked the Lord to take his life: “I’ve had enough! Now, O Lord, take my life. After all, I’m no better than my ancestors.”   1 Kings 19:3-4  NET

[Job:] I have no ease, I have no quietness; I cannot rest; turmoil has come upon me.   Job 3:26  NET

An example of hard times even being attributed to God

[Naomi:] Call me Mara, because God has made my life bitter. 21I had everything when I left, but the Lord has brought me back with nothing. How can you still call me Naomi, when God has turned against me and made my life so hard?   Ruth 1:20b-21  CEV

Mourn Loss

Mourn and weep over loss – particularly deaths

Now when Mary came to the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the people who had come with her weeping, he was intensely moved in spirit and greatly distressed. 34He asked, “Where have you laid him?” They replied, “Lord, come and see.” 35Jesus wept.   John 11:32-35  NET

Some devout men buried Stephen, mourning for him with loud cries.   Acts 8:2  GNT

Mourn before God

The men of Ai killed about thirty-six of them [Israelites] and chased them from in front of the city gate all the way to the fissures and defeated them on the steep slope. The people’s courage melted away like water. 6Joshua tore his clothes; he and the leaders of Israel lay face down on the ground before the ark of the Lord until evening and threw dirt on their heads.   Joshua 7:5-6  NET

The actions of Joshua and the leaders (v. 6) signified mourning. Particularly as the ark signified God’s presence amongst the Israelites, this is an example of people mourning before God.

Keep in Mind God and His Word

In hard times, remember God

[Nehemiah, speaking to his people about enemy threats:] “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the great and awesome Lord, and fight on behalf of your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your families!”   NEHEMIAH 4:14b  NET

Keep meditating on God’s word and obeying it

[A psalmist, to God:] Though rulers plot and slander me, your servant meditates on your statutes. … 166I hope for your deliverance, O Lord, and I obey your commands.   Psalms 119:23, 166  NET

Take comfort in God’s word

[A psalmist, to God:] This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life. … 52When I think of your rules from of old, I take comfort, O Lord.   Psalms 119:50, 52  ESV

In v. 50 the psalmist says that his comfort in suffering is God’s promise which preserves or “revives” (NET) his life, through the hope that it gives.

Trust in God

See also:

Trust in God

[David, to God:] It is like terror all around me, as they conspire together and plot to take my life. 14But I trust in you, O Lord. I say, “You are my God.” 15My times are in your hands. Deliver me from the hands of my enemies and from those who pursue me.   Psalms 31:13b-15  ISV

The statement: “You are my God” (v. 14), implies that the Lord is the one David trusts in as sovereign over his life, the one who held his present and future circumstances in his hands (v. 15a).

Take refuge in God, for God saves and protects those who do

The one who lives in the shelter of the Most High and who abides in the shadow of the Almighty 2will say to the Lord, “You are my refuge, my fortress, and my God in whom I trust!” 3He will surely deliver you from the hunter’s snare and from the destructive plague. 4With his feathers he will cover you, and under his wings you will find safety. His truth is your shield and armor. 5You need not fear terror that stalks in the night, the arrow that flies in the day; 6plague that strikes in the darkness, or calamity that destroys at noon. 7If a thousand fall at your side or ten thousand at your right hand, it will not overcome you. … 9“O Lord, you are my refuge!” Because you chose the Most High as your dwelling place, 10no evil will fall upon you, and no affliction will approach your tent, 11for he will command his angels to protect you in all your ways. 12With their hands they will lift you up so you will not trip over a stone.   Psalms 91:1-7, 9-12  ISV

Hope in God and Wait for Him

Put your hope in God . . .

[A psalmist:] Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation 6and my God.   Psalms 42:5-6a  ESV

[Jeremiah:] Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! 20My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. 21But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.   Lamentations 3:19-23  ESV

. . . Look resolutely and expectantly to God

[David:] I continually look to the Lord for help, for he will free my feet from the enemy’s net.   Psalms 25:15  NET

[Jehoshaphat, as Judah faced invasion:] O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.   2 Chronicles 20:12  ESV

Wait for God, with confidence that he will act

[David:] I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! 14Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!   Psalms 27:13-14  ESV

Note that God’s action on behalf of his troubled people is not always simply the removal of the cause of their trouble. It may instead involve strengthening his people to cope with the trouble, with inner joy and peace.

Wait quietly and patiently

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!   Psalms 37:7  ESV

Pray for persecuted Christians