Sunday, July 24, 2011

When the Going Gets Tough

By Barbara Early

It was Joseph P Kennedy, the father of JFK, who said, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." Since then, people have twisted this quote to suit their own purposes. We're probably all familiar with the self-medication versions: When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping." or "When the going gets tough, the tough eat chocolate."

A brief search on the internet shows the tough do even more:
  • Go blonder
  • Get duct take
  • Go to church
  • Get a little tougher
  • Crack Wise
  • Go Eating
  • Get a Government Handout
  • Head to the Gym
  • Break down
  • Buy US Treasuries
  • Quit
  • Clip coupons
  • Switch the subject
  • Lay off the nanny
  • Get Metamucil
  • Get Drunk
  • Do yoga
  • Get Lawyered Up
  • Get Gorgeous

But what we do when things aren't going right reveals a lot about us. Jim Berg, in his book Changed into His Image, used the analogy of a tea bag. When you place a tea bag in hot water, it doesn't change. But the hot water reveals what was already in the tea bag. In the same way, difficult times bring out what is already inside of us, whether it be a quick temper or a propensity for chocolate. And while some of these options are humorous and harmless, some are sad, and others are a tad scary.

Although I'll admit to being suckered into buying a delightful little wall decoration from Amish country that spouted "When the going get's tough, the tough go to church," I'm not sure that's the answer either. Church shouldn't be limited to the times in which we encounter difficulties. And motives are important too. Church attendance motivated by a religiosity is different from attendance because of a relationship with God. During the tough times in life, while other things may distract or salve, there is only one tried and true remedy.

If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:13-14

While this promise was given to Israel, God gives some clear principles to learn from today.

1. Humble yourself. One thing troubling times reveal quickly is that we're not so tough as we like to think we are. And sometimes all the dogged determination a person can muster will not be enough to solve a problem. When we encounter these unsolvable problems, we come to a place where we realize our limitations and our need for God. God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. James 4:6b

2. Pray. Once we have a humble spirit, God wants us to talk to Him, to call out to him and tell him our troubles. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16

3. Seek His face. For some reason, whenever I see this phrase, I think about making eye contact. Seeking his face to me implies a relationship and a love that makes gazing into someone's eyes comfortable and pleasant. A religion can't do that. A moral code can't do that. Only when we come, our sins and guilt washed away through redemption, can we stand before him with open face. Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore. Psalm 105:4

4. Turn from Wickedness. How can you attempt to seek God's face and stand in His presence, and not be instantly aware of all the ways you're failed Him? God doesn't want these things to hinder us in our pursuit of God's presence, but to turn from the sin that hinders our relationship. He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. Proverbs 28:13

Question: Where do you turn when trouble strikes?

Barbara Early grew up buried in the snowy suburbs of Buffalo, NY, where she developed a love for all things sedentary: reading, writing, classic movies, and Scrabble. She holds a degree in Electrical Engineering, but her penchant for the creative caused her to run away screaming from the pocket-protector set. She taught secondary English and science for several years in a Christian school before home schooling her daughter successfully through high school. Barbara cooks up cozy mysteries with a healthy dose of comedy and sometimes a splash of romance, and was a double finalist in the 2010 ACFW Genesis competition. When not reading or writing, she enjoys cooking, crafts, home-improvement projects, and spending time with her husband and daughter.


  1. Good post. One of my favorite comments, and I can't remember where I heard it is that, when you're in trouble, especially if that trouble comes from your own willful decision to do things your own way, you can either run from God or run to Him.

    Yes, I'd rather run to Him.

  2. Thanks, DeAnna, I like that quote!

    I think it also expresses a thought I should have brought out in the post, that not all trouble comes when we willfully decide to go our own way. But regardless the source of the trouble, it is always the solution.

  3. The tea bag comment really made me think. Usually I do well with problems, even big crises. And then there are other days when the littlest things can send me into a tizzy, although I try not to show it. I think it's something physical, so I try to take it easy on myself and convince myself that everything will seem normal again in a day or two if I just ride it out.

  4. I love the tea bag analogy, and I never would have considered it. And like DeAnna said, I'd much rather run to him than from him. I do try to always make him my first resort. I don't always succeed, but running to him first and praying is my clear goal. Great post, Barb.

  5. Dina,

    Yes, I wouldn't be too hard on yourself. I know for me, on days like that, the hot water is bringing out what is already inside: hormones that are all out of whack. LOL.

  6. Suzie, True, yet so many people run in the other direction.

  7. Barb, I loved your thoughts on Seek His Faith. So true It's all about that personal relationship.

    Beautiful thoughts today!

  8. Thanks, Deb.

    When I was re-reading it this morning, I wondered if I shouldn't have just camped there. Oh, well. Maybe a future post.

  9. How about this one...

    When the going gets tough, the tough hit their knees.

    I lost my grandmother last week. I know I've spent so much time on my spiritual knees begging God for strength for myself, my mother, aunt, and uncles. He has provided in so many ways I can't count them.

    I've heard the teabag analogy like this, "People are like teabags, you never know how strong they are until you put them in hot water."

    This is a great post.

  10. Andrea,

    My condolences on your grandmother--they're truly special people.

    And I like the "hit their knees" part--it's true. (Only in my case it has to be my figurative knees, since my knees are so bad--but God understands.)

    I remember a ladies' tea I went to once, and we had some herbal tea bags that were unlabeled. Really hard to tell what they were UNTIL they were in water. Then it was clear.


  11. Andrea, you and your family have my deepest sympathies. I'll be praying for you.


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