In rock legend Bob Dylan’s autobiography, Chronicles, he speaks of his grandmother who lived with his family when he was a child. He remembers her very vividly and says:
“She was filled with nobility and goodness . . . and told me once, be kind, because everyone you’ll ever meet is fighting a hard battle.”
I believe Dylan’s grandmother was spot on.
Back in the 1970s, one of the most popular and best-selling pieces of nonfiction was M. Scott Peck’s book The Road Less Traveled. The opening line in the book was this simple statement:
“Life is Difficult.”
As I work, teach, and counsel businessmen, I think often of these words because I believe they express a simple truth. Irrespective of how talented, attractive, intelligent, or wealthy you may be, life is difficult and full of struggles and pain. So many people live silently with broken dreams and broken lives.
Moses’ words, written thirty-five hundred years ago, confirms this reality of life in the oldest of all the Psalms.
Seventy years are given to us! Some may even reach eighty. But even the best of these years are filled with pain and trouble; they disappear, and we are gone Psalm 90:10 NLT.
Though we are all fighting battles of some kind, many of us hide them from the world and attempt to live our lives as if everything is great. This is particularly true in the lives of men. We somehow have come to believe that highly competent men are not supposed to struggle, are not to be fearful, and never get depressed. This would betray our male identity.
However, Jesus makes it clear life is full of struggles and what He calls storms. No one is immune to them. He warns us in advance that the storms of life are coming. It does not matter who you are. These are His words:
“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet, it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like the foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell – and great was its fall.” Matthew 7:24-27 NASB
Jesus is instructing us to take God’s truth and integrate it into our lives. The central truths of the Bible can serve as a powerful comfort and resource in difficult times. They teach us how to respond to adversity.
In his best-selling book, Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering, Dr. Tim Keller offers these insightful words:
“Once you are in a crisis, there is no time to sit down to give substantive study and attention to parts of the Bible. As a working pastor for nearly four decades, I have often sat beside people who were going through terrible troubles and silently wished they had taken the time to learn more about their faith before the tidal wave of trouble had engulfed them. As we have seen, the main “reasons of the heart” that help us endure suffering are the foundational doctrines of the faith-creation and fall, atonement and resurrection. These are profound and rich truths we need to grasp before we suffer, or we will be unprepared for it. And many of these lessons are very difficult to learn “on the job” when we are in the midst of adversity.”
He is saying that we need to be prepared in advance by developing a deep enough knowledge of the Bible and an effective prayer life so that we are not surprised by, nor overthrown by life’s storms when they come our way.
Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.