One hardship is bad enough, but we learn to deal with individual hardships. I'm talking about the real crises and genuine disasters that strike us from time to time in rapid succession: the sort of thing we discussed in our previous post,"When the Bottom Drops Out:" you lose your career (not just a job, but your career of many years); or your teenage daughter dies in an automobile accident; or a hurricane knocks over some century-old trees, and demolishes your house; or the doctor says, "I'm sorry, but it's pancreatic cancer. You might have another month." Those things, and many others, are bad enough in themselves: but what happens when they come one after another, and you don't know what's coming next? Shakespeare said, "When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions" (Hamlet, Act IV, Sc. 5). That's the classical way of saying it. For most of us, it feels like we're in a boxing match, with the biggest and toughest opponent on earth: maybe God Himself. Nobody else could deal such heavy blows - - - and the blows keep coming. We've been knocked down, and we've been knocked out, but the fight's not over - - - the blows keep coming. We're heartbroken and bloody and our bones ache - - - but the blows keep coming.
So, what do you do? How do you survive? You seem to be in a fight that you never asked for; you never knew the fight was coming; and you're certainly not strong or skilled enough to win it. And just who is this opponent of yours, anyway: God or Satan?
Most of the posts in this blog are aimed at born-again, Bible believing Christians. So is this one, but it also has an important application to those who have not believed on Jesus Christ. If that's you, keep reading.
As mentioned in the post previously referred to, Job was hit by blows that would have knocked a lesser man out of the arena: he lost his family, and his possessions, and eventually his health and even reputation. Someone was hitting Job hard, over and over, and for awhile, Job was down and out, sitting on the ash heap, moaning and crying like a boxer who's been hit with a low blow, or a blow to the liver. He just wanted the pain to stop. But it didn't stop.
Readers of the Book of Job (which is the oldest book in the Bible, written long before Genesis) know that Job's opponent was Satan: it was Satan who was raining all these terrible blows down on Job's head, in order to destroy his faith in God. But Satan could only act with God's authorization: God had to give him specific permission to do every thing he did, and when God said, "Stop," Satan had to stop. (It's all there in the first two chapters of Job: in the Christian Bible, Job is right before Psalms, about halfway through the Book.) But Job seemed to sense that he was actually fighting God Himself: at one point, he cried out to God, shew me wherefore thou contendest with me (Job 10:2). He knew who he was fighting. So did David and the prophets and many others who were afflicted and embattled throughout the Bible. Even before that, Jacob literally wrestled with God, in the form of a man (Genesis 32:24-30): these are very real matters we're talking about.
And so it is with you and me - - - whether you're a Christian, or an unbeliever. The immediate Enemy is not "fate" or "karma," but Satan: he's the supernatural Enemy. But God still keeps him on a leash. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). But the lion can only do what God permits. If you've received Christ according to John 1:12, and been born again according to John 3:3-7, God has promised you that the Enemy can't devour you, because you're now a child of God. If you are an unbeliever, you have no such assurance.
So, although God is not a Christian's "opponent" in any sense, He allows opposition of every sort to come into a Christian life. The Pentecostals and smarmy, smiling charlatans like Joyce Meyer tell you that God wants you to be healthy and wealthy and constantly happy: that's a lie. When an unbeliever becomes a Christian, he's entering a warfare, and there will be problems and hardships and battles. (1 Corinthians 9:26, 1Timothy 1:18) Any Christian who claims otherwise is either very inexperienced or a liar. The Christian life isn't a bed of roses, and it isn't for everybody. Most people don't have the guts or the brains to even attempt it.
So, although we know that it's theologically imprecise to say that God is our "opponent" in this battle, let's consider how we can and must fight, if we're to prevail. But this won't be a "boxing clinic," because there's really only one way to survive when you're "boxing with God."
Don't try to get away from the blows. When they start falling, and you feel the pain and the shock and the fear, don't try to get away from the source of your problems. He's bigger than you, and faster than you. You're in a little "ring" called Earth, and you can't run away. And if you try to back off, or lean away from the oncoming fists, you're only giving your opponent more room to swing. You can try to lean back, but that just gives his long arms more velocity when the blow finally lands.
If God's blows are raining down on you - - - if you're wrestling with Him, as Jacob did - - - don't try to get away by abandoning your Bible, or your church, or your faith itself. Don't think that you're going to impress God by getting mad and rebelling against him. Don't seek distance and "solace" in sin and unbelief. That's the worst thing to do: you're just giving Him more room to swing.
Don't try to get out of the ring. The "ring" is this world, and there's only one way out, if you're determined to get out: suicide. And some people (many people) react to repeated tragedies and agonies in just that way. Suicide is not, as the Roman Catholics teach, "the unpardonable sin:" nobody ever went to Hell for committing suicide. (People go to Hell because they've rejected Jesus Christ, instead of receiving Him.) But if you're "boxing with God," suicide is an extremely stupid way out: because you'll escape the "ring," and get out of the ropes - - - but you'll still be dealing with either God, or Satan. And this time it'll be face-to-face.
The secret: get in close! Every professional fighter knows this. You may not be a boxing fan, but you've probably glimpsed a few rounds. It doesn't matter if it's the big heavyweights, or the little flyweights: when you're outmatched by a superior puncher, and the blows keep landing, move in close, and clinch. "Tie him up." That's why you see boxers grabbing each other in the ring, holding on, in a groaning, gasping dance of muscle and sweat: you grab your opponent's arms, and until the referee separates you, he can't really hit you very hard. You're too close.
Every child who's ever been regularly spanked knows this trick. If Daddy has a "switch" in his hand, and is about to bring it down on a child's bottom as he or she stands there, the smart child will move in close, and grab Daddy's legs. That way, Daddy can't swing as far, and it won't be as painful!
When you sense that you're "boxing with God," there's only one way to successfully get through it: get as close to Him as you can, and grab Him as tight as you can. Hug him! Clinch! Get as close as humanly possible!
When the blows come, if you're a Christian, get in close with God: don't try to escape! Don't sulk. Don't feel sorry for yourself. Don't say "this isn't fair." A boxer who allows those thoughts to enter his mind will be knocked out very quickly, because he's thinking about the wrong thing. He should be thinking, "How can I survive this?" And the way for a child of God to survive is to go to Him, not away from Him. Read your Bible more, not less. Pray more, not less. Don't avoid the brethren, even if they don't understand. (They're His children, too.) Throw yourself into God's arms more than you ever have before, and with your last breath, say, with Job, Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him!
Because that's the reason, in your life, that God is allowing the fight in the first place. He wants you. He wants your fellowship. And He wants, not to hurt you, but to perfect you, and prepare you for Heaven - - - where there will be no fights, but only embraces.
And if you're not a Christian? The same strategy applies: Get as close to God as you possibly can. You need Him, in ways that you can't even imagine; and He's the only real hope you can have in this world. But you can't get close to Him until you've met Him.
I didn't say "believe in Him." That's not enough. Anybody who has enough brains to draw a breath believes in God, in one way or another. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble (James 2:19). I "believe" in Mao Zedong and Madame Curie and Barack Obama: I believe that they were, or are, real people. But I've never met any of them, and I certainly don't know any of them. But I've met Jesus Christ, when, by an act of the will, in a moment of time, I received Him as my personal Saviour. And ever since then (43 years ago), I've gotten to know Him better, by reading His word, the King James Bible, and having fellowship with Him. But I had to meet Him first, and so do you.
And after you do, there will be battles, and sometimes you'll feel that you're battling against God: but, in reality, He's simply training you, teaching you, "growing" you, and His love will never fail. Even Jesus cried out for the cup of suffering to pass from Him; but God chose for Him to drink it to the dregs. He won't require that much of you: but He wants a real relationship, a real commitment, a real life with you in eternity.
And it can begin today, if you run to Him and get as close as you can.
He wants to love you!
What a God! What a Christ!