Despise or Embrace
by Kerry Clarensau
Have you ever found yourself grumbling over difficult circumstances? I know I have...
A few years ago I was adjusting to a new responsibility. And to be completely honest, a few months into this new challenge I began to feel overwhelmed. That is when the internal grumbling began . . . "How am I supposed to give 100 percent to my new contracting role and 100 percent to our local congregation? I don't like being away from my husband, family, and church family one week a month." Grumble, grumble, grumble . . . went the self-focused melody of my heart.
In spite of my terrible attitude, the Lord was so kind to use Joanna Weaver (author of Having a Mary Spirit) to speak an incredible truth to my heart: "Don't despise the Lord's discipline, embrace it."
Immediately my mind went to Hebrews 12 where we are encouraged to "endure hardship as discipline." Verse 11 tells us that "no discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it" (NIV).
Hardships come to us in many forms - illness, loss, strife in relationships, and even new leadership challenges. Hardships can come as a result of our own mistakes, the mistakes of others, or natural life challenges (i.e., aging, providing for our family). And some hardships are a direct result of God leading us through times of painful pruning or times of intense stretching.
In spite of the source of our difficulty, we have two choices when we encounter it:
- Despise it: Whine, complain, and grumble; all the while praying God will simply make the difficulty go away.
- Embrace it: Submissively walk where He leads us with humility, obedience, and gratitude.
The writer of Hebrews even warns us against a bitter root that can grow to cause trouble and defile many (12:15). It is so easy to grumble and complain as we walk through difficult situations. We may even feel justified in our bad attitudes; but despising our circumstances leads to bitterness, rebellion, and hardness of heart. That bitter root will impact our lives and the lives of those around us.
On the other hand, embracing hardship leads to maturity and produces a harvest of righteousness. But what will help us to embrace hardship as God's discipline?
- Understand that nothing touches my life that doesn't filter through His hands.
- Believe God will work all things for my good (Romans 8:28).
- Remember that when we seek Him, we will find Him. Run to Him, not away from Him in the midst of difficulty.
- Keep your eyes on Him, not your difficulty. One builds faith, the other builds despair.
- Believe that where He leads, He will provide (strength, peace, wisdom, etc.).
- Wait for Him to deliver you.
- Live for His eternal purposes, not self-focused temporal ones.
- Trust His love!
It is amazing what happens when we simply change our focus from self-centered pity to God-focused humility and submission - there is righteousness and peace.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:2-4, NIV).
Kerry Clarensau is a speaker, mentor, author, and inspiring leader of women. She has served in ministry with her husband, Mike, for over 25 years. She has served in a variety of ministry positions in the Kansas district and the National Office. Previously, Kerry served as the National Girls Ministries director (formerly Missionettes) and as the Leadership Development Coordinator for the National Women's Department.