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
- 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.