Many of you who receive Leading Thoughts have written me recently to ask what words or ideas make a difference for me during this coronavirus season. I appreciate the question and am happy to invite you into my inner life a bit.
There are four words of scripture that always guide me in times of difficulty. In fact, they form a life philosophy for me. Here they are: “Endure hardship as discipline.” These four words come from the New Testament book of Hebrews 12:7. They tell us not to see the challenges of this life in some general, abstract sense. Tough things aren’t just random and meaningless, as in the philosophy of that bumper sticker that says “S–T Happens.” Instead, hard things come into our lives with meaning and purpose. They are, in a sense, personal. God uses them to make us better. But we have to take them on as discipline. We have to respond the way a player responds to the training requirements of a coach. They hurt but they will improve us if we throw ourselves into them.
So, I tend to see every challenge that comes into my life as a call to discipline. That difficult personality I have to deal with? A chance to develop patience and wise leadership. That criticism thrown my way? A chance to develop humility and perhaps hear truth from the mouths of my enemies. That season of deprivation? A time for learning simplicity while working for a more abundant day. This season of being quarantined? An opportunity to deepen with my wife, learn new online skills, and master the best bodyweight exercises.
I’m careful not to let this philosophy develop into a harsh view of God. Hebrews 12:7 means that God uses hard things for my benefit, and my response should be to approach this process like an athlete taking on new disciplines in order to win on the field. Those four words do not mean that God is constantly beating me up. God is loving me and making me better, not punishing me.
An ancient philosopher once said that we should welcome hardship as a friend who comes to teach rather than an enemy who comes to destroy. This is how I view difficulty because I believe in a God who can use any experience to train me. Since my life is devoted to serving God and others, submitting to that training process is the best thing I can do for those I love and those in the world I hope to impact. In fact, it’s the best thing I can do for you.
Let me urge these four words on you. Make them your own, the basis of your approach to what we are all enduring. How might a loving God be using your challenges like a chisel to shape you into the glorious being you are made to be? Ask yourself—in fact, ask God—how this might work in your life right now. I believe we can all emerge from this pandemic better than we entered it, but only if we “Endure hardship as discipline.”