Coming up through the hard places

Published 4:27 pm Friday, July 14, 2017

Just as I was finishing up supper Thursday evening I received a phone call from our youngest daughter.  Her opening line to the conversation was, “Let me tell you what Addy did!” 

That left a world of possibilities open; that child moves from one adventure to another.  With no idea what Jessica was about to tell me, she proceeded to tell me that while they were in a large building supply store she heard Addy say, “Mama this is soft!”  Jessica looked and found Addy with her arm rammed down in a roll of insulation.  I doubt whether the after effects of that experience could be described as soft.

Sometimes the discomfort of life is self induced through our immature choices, but at other times we have to come up through some hard places that we have no say-so in.  We can choose to foolishly put our arm into a roll of insulation and suffer the scratchy after effects of it, but at other times the unfairness of life forces us to deal with hardships not of our own doing.

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Gardening has been a challenge so far this year.  It started early with a late cold snap to deal with, followed by heat and dry weather, and then an abundance of water in a short amount of time.  I have had to utilize a variety of tactics to overcome the challenges.  After working so hard to try to keep my vegetables growing as healthily as possible, I noticed a couple of tomato vines emerging in an unusual place; I did not plant them there, they came up on their own.  They were growing in the gravel under the car shelter.  I never watered them, fertilized them, or provided them with any kind of care, yet they continue to grow.  One has become a rather large plant with several blooms on it.  They came through the hard place and kept growing.

Over many years as a pastor I have dealt with people in all sorts of situations in life.  Some of them, like those resilient tomato vines, found themselves coming up through the hard places out of no choice or fault of their own.  It is then that they have to make a choice to either allow themselves to learn, grow and become productive as they work through their hardships, or give in to self-pity and give up on experiencing a better life.  God wants us to trust Him no matter what our immediate world looks like and allow Him to shape our lives into productive ones.

In Daniel 3 the Bible preserves the story of three young Hebrew men who came up through a hard place with their faith in tact and their determination to stay true to God remaining strong.  When King Nebuchadnezzar made a large image of gold that all in the land were required to bow down to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had to choose to either comply and transgress God’s command, or refuse the king’s demand and be thrown into a blazing furnace.  How did they respond?  They chose to remain true to God regardless of the threat:  “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king.  But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18, New International Version).

As it turns out, those three young men were thrown into the fiery furnace as threatened, but God spared them in an amazing way.  What a great reminder that when we come up through the hard places, it pays to stay true to God.  He knows how to bring good from the worst of situations.