Friday, November 26, 2010

Hard Times, Hardships, and Hand-Me-Downs

We don't often say "thank you" for our hard times, hardships, and hand-me-downs. They were hard and they were insulting. They hurt and we don't ever want to see them again. We are in a hard time right now. It's called a recession. Jobs are few, our money is funny and our change is strange. Have you thanked God for it? I am reminded of the words of Jesus, "Father, if it be possible, remove this bitter cup from me." Jesus' "hard time" hurt even Him and He wished it aborted. But if He had not died on the Cross and rose again, where would we be?

Hardships come in all shapes and sizes.  The one that recently caught my eye had to do with food hardship in particular.  In this land of food abundance and a restaurant on every corner, it shocked me that so many people are going hungry.  The 2010 Food Hardship Report states that food hunger is a national problem.  "Food hardship" is the lack of money to buy food that families need."  The report states "rates are high in virtually every state, Metropolitan Statistical Area, and congressional district."  "Both in 2008 and 2009, Mississippi was the state where people were most likely to say that there were times when they did not have enough money to buy food. In 2009 the other states with the highest rates were Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee, and South Carolina. Of the top 15 states, the large majority were in the South," the report states. 

There are a lot of people suffering hardships right now, yet we should thank God.  Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:5 just before he was about to be beheaded, "...keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry."  He went on to say with hopeful optimism, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Now there is stored up for me a crown of righteousness..."

Hand-me-downs are insulting because they are old, and used. They were someone else's discarded things. Wearing hand-me-downs is an ugly reminder that you're not a "have" but a "have not." And who wants to be a "have not?" I don't, but oftentimes I am. A hand-me-down suit or hand-me-down dress, however, can make the difference in whether someone hears the gospel or goes on a job interview. No matter how often we say, "Come as you are," some people just will not go to church if they don't have the proper clothes. Some people will not join a ministry if they don't physically fit in with others in that ministry.

Our hard times, hardships, and hand-me-downs aren't what we want. They are not cash, cars, and the keys to Fort Knox, but they are often what we need. That's why we pray and try to serve the "least of these," especially during Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's hard enough having to live in a shelter, but to not have food and basic necessities, and know that some of those odors come from you adds insult to injury. 

Hard times, hardships, and hand-me-downs grow us and they cover us when we can't cover ourselves. They make us strong and I thank God for them, too.

Remember, it is not Mohammad, Buddha, Confucius, nor New Age that saves.  Jesus saves!

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