If you haven’t heard country music composer Rodney Atkins’ 2011 song to that effect, seventy-three years earlier, Winston Churchill reportedly said the same thing. He reinforced it in his now-immortal speech, “We shall fight on the seas and oceans … we shall fight in the fields and in the streets … we shall never surrender.”
In both cases, the message is simple: total defiance—regardless of the circumstances or odds. Giving up isn’t an option. Keep walking.
As awful as hardships can be, we need them. And we need to walk through them.
I hate to admit that, but it’s true.
Stick with me while I explain. Here are seven things God taught me recently about hardship.
1. Hardship opens your eyes to new perspectives and possibilities.
Did you know that, if Great Britain’s troops hadn’t been so desperately outnumbered, Churchill might not have supported a fledgling technology called radar? It proved to be key for neutralizing the Germans’ enormous numerical superiority.
Hardship forced Churchill toward innovation. How many times do you need to get desperate before you soften your heart to God and all the possibilities He holds in His hands? It may take time, but hardship attunes you to God’s perspective on it and makes you more willing to trust Him.
2. Hardship is not a matter of “if” but “when.”
Becoming a Christian doesn’t exempt us from hardship; it guarantees it. Fellow author Kristena Mears calls this The Forgotten Promise.
John 16:33 (NIV) says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
We lean on the last part of this verse but forget the first part. Yes, God is in control, but the forgotten part of that promise is we will have trouble.
3. Hardship focuses your energy.
If survival (literal or figurative) is the only item on your to-do list, then you’ll expend every ounce of your energy to attain it. Churchill had perfect clarity about what the Nazis were trying to destroy. More than the Brits’ homes or land, the stakes were “freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.” Churchill was willing to do literally anything, no matter the cost, to preserve those values.
4. Hardship commands your attention.
Ignoring trouble doesn’t relieve you of it. Turning aside from it either throws you into despair or throttles you toward God. Hardship highlights your continuous need for Him. It brings into sharp relief the futility of your efforts in comparison to God’s perfect plans (even though they may remain hidden). You see that over and over in the Psalms. Many of them are cries to God for rescue from desperate situations.
5. Hardship humbles and emboldens you.
Does that sound like an oxymoron? It’s not. David Eubank, a former U.S. Army Ranger, says, “Be bold in the things of Jesus and humble in the things of yourself.” For more than twenty-five years, Eubank—and his entire family—have literally parked themselves in the middle of civil wars to share humanitarian aid and the love of Christ with people powerless against mortars, tanks, and guns blazing about them. If you want to rock your world in a good way, watch his story through the movie Free Burma Rangers. No actors—it’s actual footage of their missions. Technically a documentary, it watches like a world-class action movie. It’s worth way more than the price to rent or buy it.
6. When hardship abounds, your prayers get real.
There’s no pretense about keeping a stiff upper lip. Trying to do so can turn into a guilt trip because it smacks of human effort minus God’s power and provision. It also leaves no room for grieving or recovering from loss. That isn’t healthy. It also isn’t scriptural.
When trouble surrounds you, fancy words fly out the window. You put your actual need right out there before God—with unvarnished honesty about the problem’s size and your inability to figure it out.
Pressure cookers need steam vents. Likewise, people need an outlet for suffering. The Bible is full of examples of that. (Read some of David’s psalms or the books of Jeremiah and Lamentations. Start with Psalm 69:1-4 and Lamentations 3:54.) The people who penned those books ugly cried. They got hoarse praying to God. They felt like their troubles were drowning them. When their grief was too deep to verbalize, they expressed it through the written word. Let’s not hesitate to do the same. It acknowledges to God that we’re not equal to life’s challenges.
7. Hardships show us more of God’s mercy and strength.
We live in a fallen world. Not all hardship is punishment from God. But “if there is Divine wrath in our troubles, it is because we quarrel with God, are fretful, and distrust Divine Providence,” Bible commentator Matthew Henry says.
Do we suffer more than we deserve? Henry answers, “Let us be admonished, in our afflictions, not so much to set forth the greatness of our suffering, as the greatness of the mercy of God.”
My author friend Kristena Mears puts it this way: “The times we feel closest to God aren’t on the mountaintops of life, but in the storms amongst the rocks. How can God show us His power if there are no problems to defeat? Troubles are necessary to show the strength of God.”
She concludes, “The promise of trouble is the very promise that brings us the promise of power and blessing we have in Christ. Without the first, there can’t be a last. Doesn’t this give us a fresh perspective on the hard times we have? It does for me.”
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CeCe Winans’ full concert, starting with the song “I’ll Trust You”