Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them… (Mark 6:47-48)
Every time I have read that passage it has made me stop in amazement. The first few times I saw it, I had to read it twice to make sure I didn’t misunderstand. Jesus saw his disciples in dire straits, working hard to make any progress against the wind, probably scared that death might be imminent, and…He meant to go by them without stopping to help. He hadn’t been planning to encourage them, nor get in and help them pull at the oars. No, He had a higher priority than bailing them out of their hardship. Since we know how much Jesus loves all mankind and how He had specifically chosen his disciples for a great work, we can trust that He had their best interests at heart. This trial they were enduring was working for their good in their spiritual and emotional training. What they were learning here would be of great use some day in the coming hardships they would face. This was a designated hardship, prescribed for their development.
The disciples were not unique in this. We are all given prescriptions of hardship by the Lord, to develop us for the future battles we cannot yet see. Although it’s clearly biblical, I can also see how it has played out in my own life experiences, looking back over the decades. God guided my difficulties as exercise, in preparation for my being ready when the time would come for me to use the past pains as stepping stones for the future.
We are told to “endure hardship as discipline.” (Hebrews 12:7) Just as pitching our strength against weights in a gym builds muscle, these prescribed hardships work to strengthen us. God knows the inner workings of our hearts, so each prescription will be somewhat different, tailored for our individual mindsets and for the future jobs He has planned for each person. In all likelihood our personalized pains will be the most vulnerable spots in our hearts, whatever they may be. For some it may be their self image as an athlete or scholar. For others it may be serious problems with their children or their career. It will always be the hardest thing imaginable. It will always involve serious heartache.
This spiritual prescription can be viewed as a restructuring of our thoughts and values. It is crucial to our development.
For Peter it was his loyalty to Jesus, so that was where he got hit when he denied Jesus three times in one night. Jesus restored Peter after the Resurrection, and because of what he went through on that terrible night, he was never vulnerable in that area again. In the end, Peter died rather than fail Jesus again. He had learned from his designated hardship.
These spiritual prescriptions also play a part in our sanctification. Our roots are sunk down deep in this world. Hardship is the process by which we are uprooted from this world so we can be replanted into the divine soil of the Source of life, Jesus.
Among many reasons why God has these designated hardships for us, one of the most important is so that when we have matured, we can encourage others who end up in similar circumstances. We can promise them the light at the end of the tunnel, because we have seen it ourselves. We can testify that God will be there in their dark night. Christian writer Randy Alcorn once said, “The resume of every encourager and every counselor will contain suffering.” The Apostle Paul, speaking of how God is always there for us, “…who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:4-5)
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:10-11)
© 2017 Darvis McCoy
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