“Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or faint-hearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. . . . It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons, for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? . . . For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:3-4, 7, 11 ESV).
I am known as a dedicated coffee drinker. Not only that, but I prefer dark-roast coffee, brewed to be rather strong. My philosophy on coffee, I often say, is, “If it will pour, it will drink.” That is, if it is liquid enough (i.e., thin enough) to pour out of the pot, it is liquid enough to be swallowed.
That is said, obviously, with my tongue firmly in cheek. It is intended to be humorous, but there is still an element of truth – I do like strong coffee. But what I don’t actually say is that while I can drink it pretty thick or almost lumpy, that is not actually the way I prefer it.
It has occurred to me that life is sometimes like my coffee – it can get pretty “thick” (that is, strong or tough). If my coffee stays on the warmer long enough it may be stronger than I prefer, but I will usually still drink it. And when life gets rough, I will still go on living, making the very best of it that I can. As the Hebrew writer reminds us in the quotation above, tough times may bring benefits that more enjoyable experiences cannot provide.
The fact is that life is often pretty “thick.” Illnesses, financial reverses, accidents, and natural disasters are only a few of the circumstances which present great challenges to our happiness. Christians may face persecution. Some are falsely accused and even wrongly convicted of crimes. None of us would willingly choose such hardships, but they do happen. When they happen to us we can complain, “why me?” or accuse God of mistreating us. But how does that help us? It is far better for us to strengthen our will and deal with difficulties, and go on living with hope and determination. Like strong coffee, it pours, therefore we can drink it.
Sometimes relationships are thick. One partner in a marriage seems to change and be less loving and lovable than previously. One’s own desires and life goals may change to the point that a change of partners seems desirable. The marriage is not as romantic or fun as it once was. We begin to think we cannot go on. But usually those problems are not insurmountable if one has a commitment to the marriage. Adjustments in expectations and in one’s own behavior and attitudes may be necessary, but if the result is a more satisfying relationship is that not worth it? It pours; we can drink it.
Few of us go through life without disappointments and reversals in our work. When one spends 30 years or more in any career, he or she can expect to have problems of some kind. It may be an unpleasant co-worker or superior. It may be assignments that are not what we prefer. Sometimes it is the loss of a job, or the denial of a deserved promotion. Again, we can complain. We can accuse someone else of mistreating us. But unless there is real legal basis for such claims they are not likely to change much, and may simply make matters worse. Is it not better to simply deal with the situation cheerfully and continue to do the very best one can? It pours, we can drink it.
Tough times are not signs that God does not love us, or that “everyone is against us.” Sometimes they are means by which we learn and grow. Discipline is not a synonym for punishment. It means “teaching” or “training.” Sometimes that involves corrective punishment, but that is not its primary role. We learn and become stronger by facing adversities. God has simply made this world like that. Let us learn to welcome them and be blessed.
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4).