“Times are tough all over” is the title of hit song from 1990. It was also the title of a Cheech and Chong movie but I digress. People have been saying this for years and since 2008, we all know someone who feels it. This phrase has become a way of saying to someone “you aren’t alone” or “its happening to everyone” but it doesn’t make anyone feel better. Why do we suffer? I’ve mentioned before that Lisa and I believed that our 3 hour round trip to see our premature daughter in the hospital was building character. Today, we all know someone who has received a cancer diagnosis or another type of life altering medical diagnosis. We hear them ask “why me, why did God do this to me?” I have a very dear friend who suffered a massive stroke back in February. He had a bleed deep in his brain that caused left-sided paralysis and a number of other physical issues. His family set up an on-line journal for them to post about his progress. His wife has been posting daily and sharing stories that remind us that he hasn’t lost his sense of humor. Not once has she said “why me” but instead she has remained dedicated to her husband and telling his story. He will spend months, if not longer, in a wheel chair and will require long hours of therapy every day to regain control over simple things in his life. He has a large family and a number of grandchildren, I’m sure he’s happy to see them on a regular basis. There is no regret and no “why me”, they continually thank God for the blessings that have received everyday so far. They have hope. On the flip-side, one of my daughter’s friends is struggling to maintain her job, care for her child and finish her college education; she’s thinking about quitting school. She is losing hope and her future is in jeopardy; so is her child’s for that matter. They are two people struggling in this world; living the “times are tough all over” kind of lives. What can we do help them – we can offer hope and support.
“Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12
Some people look at this verse as proof that God is testing them before they can have eternal life. Yet others view it as even though you are tested, do not give up hope because the promise is still yours. You do not have to buy, perform, sacrifice, say, write or do anything to receive forgiveness. God has given us that gift already; we are forgiven through the death and resurrection of Jesus. The crown of life James tells us about is found in our belief that Jesus is our Savior. We don’t know why some people suffer more than others. We certainly don’t understand why some people deal with their trials better than others. It isn’t for us to understand. Think about the trials that St. Paul suffered and he was a persecutor at one point in his life. Job suffered too and had God’s favor. There are millions of people on this planet suffering simply because they believe in Jesus as their Savior. What hope do they have? They have faith in God’s word and in His promises. It might be all they have but they have it. God is not punishing them or testing them more than anyone else. The devil is still at work in this world and when hope is dimmed he is encouraged; it becomes his foothold in our lives. God is telling us through James don’t lose hope but persevere because eternal life waits for us. To me, that’s a good reason to keep hope alive.