Tough Times Can Make or Break Us
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10
This is the week that both of my kids go to college, leaving my wife and I at home alone for the first time in nearly 20 years. When my son left last year there was a palpable void in the house. I know this year will not be better with both gone. I’m already a bit of an emotional mess and they’ve not even left yet.
I know from experience that during times of emotional duress, I’ve often turned to unhealthy things to alleviate my discomfort. Years ago, I would have reached for my pills. I’m not worried about that today, but I still have other unhealthy ways with which I deal with my stressors. Often, I find myself turning to the immediate gratification of food to fill the emptiness. Last night, at the end of a long week at work, I found myself in the kitchen, stuffing myself with things I didn’t need. It helped momentarily, but this morning, when I stepped on the scale, I experienced the consequences.
Most of us are familiar with some version of this. Alcoholics Anonymous talks about HALT – Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired – as a trigger for self-destructive behavior. When we’re stressed, we all have self-comforting behaviors that we’ve learned to use. The problem is that we don’t usually choose the healthy option, but rather, the easiest option. Immediate gratification feels good now, but we always pay some price later.
It’s different for everyone. Some of us turn to shopping, food, gambling, or chemicals. Others will turn to pornography or online relationships. Whatever it is, we use it to feel better, but in the end, we make things worse, as we experience the remorse and shame of yet another failure.
In today’s passage, Paul said there is an alternative. In turning to God, we can use our trials to grow. Often, it’s only in pain that we’re motivated to change. If we truly want to feel better, then, in our difficult times, we must seek God. How do you want me to deal with this discomfort God? In giving our pain to him and in following his will, we can use the pain to grow.
Our trials can make or break us. The outcome depends on our response to them. In our discomfort we can turn to our old, self-destructive ways, making things worse, or we can turn to God, finding life, joy, and peace, despite our circumstances.