Walking home after a depressing seven hours spent in the library working on an assignment, I came across a bumper sticker on a car that read, "When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping!" I laughed. But then I thought, Could you really call yourself "tough" if you headed for the mall every time life went sour?
As I continued walking, I pondered how to really finish that sentence, "When the going gets tough, the tough…do what?
A quick Internet search on the phrase returned endless possibilities for completing the thought. Here are some of the wackiest endings: "When the going gets tough, the tough "go to Asia," or, the tough "start knitting." One even said, "The tough lighten up!"
All of these alternative endings are humorous in their own way but also seem to have some truth in the way we often respond when life presses down on us and things get stressful. When the pressure gets too intense, we start looking for ways to bail out from under the circumstances that seem too much to handle. And all too often we are tempted to bail in terms of our attitudes, feeling angry, bitter, or even mad at God, or anyone else we can blame our problems on. Or, we are tempted to bail in our actions by refusing to persevere in righteous ways.
Dealing with pressure
Thankfully, James offers some great advice about why it's so important to stay under the pressure. He reminds us that God has a purpose in mind when he allows trials to press down on us. Like turning coals into diamonds, some things only happen under a lot of pressure. Staying under the pressure is how God tests our faith in order to make us "mature and complete" (James chapter 1, verse 4). But, if we bail in our attitudes or actions under the burden, we interfere with the productive intentions that God has for our lives.
It's interesting that the Greek word James uses in our text for "perseverance" (James chapter 1, verse 3) is hupomeno. It's derived from two Greek words, hupo (under) and meno (remain). James is making the point that in order to achieve God's refining goals for our lives, we need to be willing to cooperatively remain under the pressure.
God intends that we, in time, will blossom under the pressure. That's why James exhorts us to submit to the trial and let perseverance finish its job of sanctification. In James chapter 1, verse 4, the text tells us, "Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." And in Romans chapter 5, verses 1–21, Paul says that perseverance produces character!
Comfort or character
It boils down to whether or not you want comfort or character. You may think that life should be a bed of roses, but if that's your take on life, you're in for a big surprise as trouble happens! The issue is not if you will face trials, it's how you will respond to the inevitable pressure that the problems of life bring.
It may be that you face pressure at university or work. In the face of a seemingly insurmountable assignment, it's easy to think, "If I just fudge a little bit I could get this job done faster." Or, when the problems at home won't go away, we find ourselves wondering, "Maybe I'll just leave so I won't have to deal with this any more." The sin of pride causes us to respond to problems with thoughts like, "I don't deserve this." And soon our attitudes are in the dumper and God's work is derailed.
Next time I'm tempted to bail on God and squeeze out from under the trouble, I intend to think of Jesus, who "humbled himself and became obedient to death" (Philippians 2 verse 8). He "remained under" great suffering for the purpose of making us better.
Embrace the process and permit God to do his work of making you more mature and usable, for my / your good and His glory. The pain will be worth the gain!
Mercy Cornish (21) lives in Christchurch and studies at Canterbury University. Mercy has completed a Bachelor of Arts degree studying Media and Communications and Political Science. This year Mercy is undertaking honours in Media and Communications.
Mercy Cornish' previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mercy-cornish.html