Life can be difficult. We work hard, and we try to keep everything together, but life has a way of throwing us curve balls. Why do these things happen? How can we cope as believers?
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Paul describes these difficult times in his second book to Timothy:
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these. – 2 Timothy 3:1-5
I’m fairly certain that this passage in 2 Timothy applies to each and every one of us. Even my toddlers fall into the category of being “disobedient to their parents” from time to time.
I’m not pointing out this scripture to discourage anyone. I’m hoping instead that this passage will bring some understanding to the situation. We live in a fallen world where sin abounds. As believers, we are set free from the bondage of sin, but that doesn’t mean we won’t have failures. I can speak for myself in saying that I regularly have to go to God for forgiveness. I’m a work in progress just like every other Christian.
Notice the type of “sins” that Paul lists in this passage. He doesn’t mention “big” sins like murder or stealing. He instead discusses pride, ungratefulness, recklessness, and acting religious with no heart behind it. It’s interesting to me how Paul describes this type of behavior to Timothy as a cause for “difficult times.”
If I were to pinpoint the root cause of all the difficulties I have personally encountered lately, I would probably be quoting Paul directly. Issues at work, issues at home, issues with the children, etc. can all be traced back to issues of the heart. Someone was being reckless. Someone lacked self-control. And someone desired to please themselves rather than God.
So how do we deal with trouble when it comes our way? Paul gives us clear instructions in his letter to Timothy:
But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. …All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:14, 16-17 (NLT)
I love how Paul reminds us to “remain faithful.” When faced with difficult people or hard circumstances, we need to keep our slates clean. We need to stay true to what we’ve been taught. We can trust God’s Word to be an ultimate source of truth. It prepares us, equips us, and helps us to recognize the areas we need to grow. It also shows us who we are in Christ.
It’s so easy to let the victim mentality kick in when things go wrong. The Bible tells us, however, that we are victors in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:35-37). We need to live accordingly.
Most importantly, we need to not let the sin of others cause us to sin in response. We need to persevere in our faith and stay strong. When Jesus told believers to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:38-42), he didn’t mean for us to be a doormat. We don’t just lie down, take a beating, and become the victim. Turning the other cheek means that we don’t retaliate evil with evil. We don’t allow someone else’s sin to keep us from being obedient to God.
Troubles are a part of life. We all must deal with them on a daily basis.
Ultimately, we have two choices: We can either be the victim and become defeated or we can be the victor as Christ intended us to be.
When trouble comes, which will you choose?
*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.