Posts tagged adversity
Jesus was a great storyteller. He had a way of telling a story – even the shortest of stories – that could just draw people in. Most of the time, the listeners weren’t really sure what Jesus’ stories meant and yet they kept coming back for more. Storytelling was a critical piece of the way Jesus communicated. He told these parables which, very often, had multiple layers of meaning.
The story of the wise and foolish builders is one of the most well-known of Jesus’ parables. It’s simple enough on the surface. The man who took the time to do things right managed to build a house that could survive a storm. The one who took shortcuts lost in the end. But there are so many interesting facets of this story. It’s a story that says different things to different people.
To many, it’s a story about beginning with a firm foundation in God and building on that. To others, it’s a story of the value of preparation – the hard work that needs to be done prior to building a foundation. Others will see this story as a general warning against hasty or shotty work. Whatever the interpretation, one thing is clear in this story: The flood came.
The rain, as they say, falls on the foolish and the wise. Hard times – even torrential hard times – will come upon us all. The difference, to use all of the above metaphors, is in the preparations that you make, the foundation that you build your life upon and the quality of work you do on your heart. Those who have done all that work will withstand those storms of life. Those who have taken shortcuts will be destroyed in those moments.
We’ve all witnessed this before, as we’ve watched friends, family members or maybe ourselves in times of crisis. There are those who, though beaten and battered, stand resolute. Their strength in the midst of adversity is mystifying. Their ability to persevere through the darkest moments of life is inspiring. In whatever way that they could, those people built their house upon the rock of Jesus’ words.
Then there are the others. Those who, in those moments of torrential rain, begin to erode and eventually completely come undone. Very often, it is the “strong” and “confident” one who gets hit the hardest by the unexpected trials of life. The one who “has it all together” is so often the one who gets shaken to the core.
You see, sometimes we place our trust in all the wrong things. I think about a guy building his house on a sandy foundation. If you’ve ever messed with sand much, you know that with some water and some heavy pressure, you can get it to feel pretty hard. With enough preparation, you can convince yourself that this is a firm foundation. But in reality, the things of life that we try to pack down and form into the foundation of life simply can’t withstand the storm.
Yes, the rains fall on the foolish and the wise, but when the sun comes out again, those who put their trust in and gain their wisdom from Jesus will be the ones who are still standing.
It dawned on me today, as I read these chapters of Nehemiah’s story, that very little of any importance has ever been done without facing opposition. It seems that there are always people around to oppose even the noblest of plans. But, in reading Nehemiah’s response, I think we can learn a few things.
First, Nehemiah remains calm in the face of opposition. Throughout the process of building the wall, Nehemiah is being intimidated by those who desire to bring his project to an end. And yet, Nehemiah maintains a steady hand. He knows that he has been called by God to lead this rebuilding and he’s not going to let anyone stand in his way.
Secondly, he continues to do the work. It is tempting, when faced with any kind of adversity, to quit what you’re doing and focus your efforts on addressing the issue at hand. But Nehemiah, in his wisdom, kept the work going, even as he addressed the threats and intimidation.
The third thing I think we can learn from Nehemiah is that threats should be taken seriously. I mean, even though he maintained a steady hand and even though he continued work on the wall, he made sure that his people were prepared to confront any threats. In fact, he sacrificed some efficiency in the building process in order to be sure that they were armed. I mean, I would imagine that taking half of your working force and turning them into armed guards would slow your progress. And, the image of the material carriers doing their job with one hand, while wielding a weapon in the other is pretty humorous. But, as I said before, the work was continuing to move forward. Nehemiah managed to balance progress and protection in a way that helped the project move forward.
I wonder how well I face opposition – especially in the form of human opposition to God’s desires. In thinking back to times where I’ve faced opposition, I’m not sure that I have been very good at doing the things Nehemiah did. Was I calm in the face of accusations and threats? Did I continue to press through, or did I allow myself to become distracted by my accusers? And did I find a way to prepare my defense, while also continuing to make progress on my assigned project?
What typically happens in my life is that I get frustrated, distracted and careless. I let my guard down, quit making progress and allow someone else to get the best of me. The kind of response that Nehemiah had must be empowered by the Holy Spirit, but too often, I find that I try to rely on my own strength in those moments and, frankly, I tend to mess it up!