A few years ago the economic downturn hit us hard. The perfect storm of the recession, a seasonal drop in financial support and some unexpected expenses dug the hole a little deeper. Ouch!
I woke in the middle of the night feeling worry and fear rising up in me, so I got up, went to my office, and took some time to pray the “Office of the Night Watch” from The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle (get yourself a copy on Amazon). I’ve turned to this rich prayer resource many times in the wee hours. One of the readings came from Origen, a church father from the early third century.
The language is a little thick, so take your time as you read. I put it in my own words at the bottom of this post:
“For as the presidents of the public games do not allow the competitors to enter the lists indiscriminately or fortuitously, but after a careful examination, pairing in a most impartial consideration either of size or age, this individual with that…so also must we understand the procedure of divine providence, which arranges on most impartial principles all who descend into the struggles of this human life, according to the nature of each individual’s power, which is known only to Him who alone beholds the hearts of humanity; …so observe whether some such state of things be not indicated by the language of the apostle when he says: ‘God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above what you are able,’ that is, each one of us is tempted in proportion to the amount of our strength or power of resistance (p. 366).”
Bottom line? In Origen’s day, Olympic officials would match competitors on the basis of their age, size or skill so that each contest would be fair. They didn’t pair a weakling with a giant. There would be no competition there.
Origen suggests that God is even more able to match us with challenges and struggles that we have power in Him to withstand and meet victoriously. He draws on 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.”
What am I hearing here?
Testing overtakes us – Struggles and challenges often sneak up and surprise us. We feel overtaken. We may feel frightened, anxious or overwhelmed.
We are not alone – Many others are facing shortfalls, or hardships, or great challenges right alongside us. We are not singled out.
God is faithful – this is a fact of His character. He has not abandoned us before, even when we felt that way for a season. We can trust Him to be Who He has always been and do what He has always done for His people. We may not know how, but God will be faithful.
God isn’t giving us more than we can handle – We can take this as an affirmation from God that when we face our greatest challenges, God is letting us see that we have more inner strength than we realize. He won’t let us be crushed by our troubles. God allows not only the testing, but also provides the way out of these troubles so I can endure. If I know that troubles will not last forever, I can endure knowing that there will be an end. These financial troubles will end. There will come a day again of financial plenty to follow this dark day of financial deficit.
What pressures, struggles or challenges have you been facing?
How might God want you to see these as part of his training you to live more like Jesus?
And here’s my loose paraphrase of what Origen said: “Just as Olympic officials do not allow competitors to enter the games without fairness or by chance, but are careful to see to it that no one has an unfair advantage (or disadvantage), so God treats us fairly and faithfully as we face the competition of our own troubles. He alone knows what we can bear. It is still true that God will never let me be tested beyond my strength. We are in training, and He is the wisest coach.”