Tough Times Lead to Better Living

by James Rudy Gray

James Rudy GrayIt is likely that when we counsel someone, we are dealing with a person who is going through some tough times. Most of us do not like pain and seek rewards from life, not punishment. However, pain does come. How can you help a person who is hurting and wants the pain to end?

Job had some counselors surrounding him. Some of what they shared with Job was good. Some of it was not. Some of it was just not timed very well. But one bit of advice that Eliphaz shared in Job 5:7 is relevant and true: "Man is born for trouble; as the sparks fly upward." Job was going through some tough times and Eliphaz shared with his friend that this is part of the journey of man. It still is today.

Is God sovereign? Is He sovereign over everything? If He is, then nothing happens without His direct intervention or permission. God had a plan for Job. Job had something to learn. God's plan was accomplished and Job learned something vitally important. The process Job went through in his personal growth and development was not pleasant but it was productive. He learned that God is sovereign and man is not.

In the process of undergoing his pain, Job heard the counsel of friends and even his wife. In the end, it was the voice of God that led him forward. What happened to Job in his difficulty? I believe he did four things: He accepted the reality of the moment; he adapted to the situation at hand; he adjusted his life to learn; and finally, he advanced in faith. Job became a wiser and better person because of the experience through which he traveled.

Counseling provides the environment in which we can help our counselees see that God is in control and has a plan. We can encourage them to grasp the truth that adversity or tough times do not destroy them but can actually make them stronger and better.

Marian Eberly reported in Christian Counseling Today that in a 1994 study of resilient adults that hardiness was developed in these people "because (they) were sorely tested and emerged stronger than they believed they would have otherwise. As a result, they valued life greatly. Their behaviors reflected this change."

Tough times do not mean God does not love us. They do not imply that suffering is the result of wrong. Sometimes we suffer because we do what is right. How can help hurting people make some sense out of the tough times? We can hear their story, share God's truth, and point to the opportunity they have because of the difficulty. God is not simply observing our lives from far away. He is in control and He is involved. Romans 8:28 says: "We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."

If our counselee is a Christian, we can help him or her trust God in the midst of trying circumstances. God does direct His people. Proverbs 16:9 says, "The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." God uses various tools as a means of grace in accomplishing His purposes in our lives. Our counselees will be empowered the most when they are enabled to see that God is the author and director of life's events. They may appreciate our counsel or support, but it must not stop there. We must work to help them see something bigger and greater at work in their lives than our counsel. God used Job's counselors but He also worked His will in spite of Job's counselors. Those who turn to us for help can see the hand of God when they are looking through the eyes of faith. As Christians who counsel, we have the great privilege of sharing the truth of God so that the people we attempt to help can better see God at work.

Tough times are not usually the end times. They generally are passages that have a beginning and an end. A crisis is a time of danger and opportunity. People are more likely to make changes in their lives during a time of crisis than at any other time. What a person learns in the time of crisis can help him continue the changes that he or she began to make because of the crisis. Behind the crisis is God and He has a purpose for His children. He is molding and shaping our lives. God is always at work in His world and in the lives of His people. Learning, growing, and changing may be not always be pleasant but when God is directing our ways, they always bring about good.

James Rudy Gray is certified as a professional counselor by the
National Board for Certified Counselors, and is a member of the
American Association of Christian Counselors. He pastors
Utica Baptist Church in Seneca, S.C.

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