“If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small” (Proverbs 24:10).
The concept in this verse has found its way into various sayings. “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” As a distance runner in both high school and university, I had another version: “When the going gets tough, the sprinters stop.” I’m not sure it fostered team unity….
It has been said, “The measure of a man is what it takes to stop you.” Certainly, it reflects on our character if we give up easily in the face of difficulty.
Sometimes, Proverbs can seem pretty blunt, and this is one of those verses. If you wear out and give up when things are hard, in your “day of adversity”, you are a weakling. Bam. Take that, you wimp!
Right now, someone reading this is saying, “Thanks a lot, Jon. I come here for encouragement and help, and you just beat up on me. So I’m a weakling. I knew that already — last thing I need is some guy on the Internet rubbing salt in my wounds!”
At this point, we’ll pause for a moment to let you Prospect the Perimeter of Pity Party Pit. Search it all out, make sure you’ve experienced all the angst it has for you. It won’t do you any good, and you won’t get any real help or sympathy down there, but take your time, and when you are ready to come up again we’ll toss you a rope so you can climb out. Ready? Good!
If you are a weakling, you’d better stop being one, because God doesn’t intend you to be that way. The first strand of the rope I’ll throw you is from Isaiah 40:29-31:
He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Weaklings get strong by waiting on the Lord — by trusting Him with an earnest expectation that He is going to work in your “day of adversity”.
Another strand, from Philippians 4:13:
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
In your day of adversity, Christ will strengthen you. “Yes! That’s great! If Christ is all-powerful (Matthew 28:18), and HE is strengthening me, then I can handle this day of adversity!” …. “Er, um, that sort of means I have no excuse, doesn’t it? Uh-oh.” That about sums it up, really. There is both joy and responsibility here. But since this is a rope, and we didn’t toss it to you until you were ready to climb out, we’ll assume you already figured out the responsibility part, and so we’ll focus on the joy of it. If Christ loved you enough to die for you, don’t you think He’ll strengthen you for daily struggles?
Yet another cord of the rope, from Romans 8:28-29:
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Yes, God is working your “day of adversity” for good. You knew that, of course, you’ve probably heard verse 28 about a million times. What we often forget in our days of adversity is that God’s agenda isn’t really our agenda. We want a comfortable and relatively easy life, with lots of good stuff happening to us and only enough bad stuff to make the good times seem better. We certainly don’t want anything really bad or unpleasant to happen to us, even if we might deserve it. That’s not my plan for my life, and God better go along with my plan, because I know what’s good for me. (Well, we might not actually say that, but lots of times that is what our thoughts boil down to.)
God’s “agenda” for my life is different from my agenda. His plan is to make me like Jesus Christ. He wants to take me home to Heaven with Him, and I’m not really fit for that yet. He’s going to keep working on me here and now, and then one day He’ll finish the job once and for all. Until then, I’d better accept that my “days of adversity” aren’t in my agenda, but He knew about them long ago, and He is using them as well as the good days to work out His plan.
Every distance runner knows that you can keep going longer than you think you can. To really be successful as a runner, you have to go through mental barriers. It’s true in our daily walk with the Lord, too. One of the biggest mental barriers, when we face those “days of adversity”, is that we view them through our agenda, rather than the Lord’s. If we saw those days through His eyes, instead of fainting, giving up, weeping and wailing, and diving into Pity Party Pit, we would instead learn to obey the command of I Thessalonians 5:18: “In everything give thanks.” “Everything” includes “days of adversity”.
Don’t faint, never give up. Wait on the Lord. Remember that Christ is strengthening you. Trust Him that He is working out His agenda, and that it is better than yours, and give Him thanks for it. You might be surprised at how strong He will make you.