Contending with horses

“If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, in which you trusted, they wearied you, then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5-6 NKJV).

Complaints are universal. Every generation compares its experiences with those who come after it, sure that the things of previous times were much harder than those of the present. The weather was harsher, conditions were much more difficult, and accomplishments were won at far greater effort. In many cases those comparisons are not without truth.

When I travel to other lands and cultures I try to recognize that as long as that airplane ride seems, and as daunting as the conditions are that I face, they pale in comparison to those dealt with fifty or a hundred years ago.

I go to the other side of the world in mere hours – pioneer missionaries of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries required weeks or months to make the same journey. We complain of shortages of electricity and the lack of soft beds and cushioned chairs. They risked their lives to take the gospel to lawless and savage areas. Yes, today’s evangelists may face difficulties, but others have been subjected to far greater.

The prophet Jeremiah complained to God about the evil conditions he was facing. “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously” (Jeremiah 12:1)? God’s answer to him was simple and direct (see Jeremiah 12:5-6 quoted above). It was in effect, “If you think you have it hard now, just wait!” Things can always be worse, and often are. Before we complain, let us consider carefully just what our situation is, and how things could deteriorate even more.

God was not chastening Jeremiah or shaming him by reminding him that the forces he was facing were not the worst that might be found. Rather he was encouraging the prophet. When we realize that things might get worse for us, we should also recognize that it is by God’s grace that they are not already so. Jeremiah was serving under God’s protective care so that those who opposed him were limited in the harm they could do. We also enjoy the same protection.

I always appreciate the prayers that give thanks to God for the blessings we enjoy in this age of prosperity and technological bounty. Our food, comfort, travel conveniences, medical care, and so much more dwarf anything available just decades ago. We could have been born at any age and anywhere on earth. God has placed us here and blessed us abundantly.

In the presence of such abundance, our trivial complaints and problems seem out of place. Better that we learn to say like the Apostle, “I have learned in whatever state I am, therein to be content” (Philippians 4:11).

Every challenge we face prepares us for the next one, which may indeed be more difficult. Every hardship strengthens us (Hebrews 12:11). In all that we do God is with us. Today we run with the infantry; tomorrow, with God’s help, we may outpace horses.

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