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The Beauty of Hardship

In this daily devotional, learn from Dr. Daniel as he dives into the idea that even in life’s hardest moments, there is beauty to be found.
5 min read

Daniel Harrell

| Former Editor In Chief, Christianity Today

Grief. It’s a tough one to get excited about. But it’s certainly something that unites us as a people. We all encounter different forms of grief. 

A spouse, a parent, a child, a friend, a colleague, a pet.

Whatever form grief has taken in your life, it has allowed you to relate to others and others to relate to you. One of the most common questions that comes up in these difficult and trying times is, where is God in this pain? Where does God show up in this loss?

In this daily devotional, learn from Dr. Daniel as he dives into the idea that even in life’s hardest moments, there is beauty to be found.

God wins every time.

I'm a big University of North Carolina basketball fan. I had the opportunity to go to the University of North Carolina when Michael Jordan was there. It’s my claim to fame. I've been watching Carolina basketball ever since I can remember. One special year though, they won the National Championship. Of course it came down to the last shot. I recorded the game and it was so fun to watch over and over again. 

What's so funny is that years and years later, while I'm watching this game replayed, and even though I know the outcome, I stress out during the whole thing.

You know what happens? No matter how upset I get, they still win every time. That's exactly what the Bible is trying to tell us - no matter how difficult life can be, no matter how much anxiety and stress we have, God wins every time. 

Every time.

The day that my wife died.

Today we are going to take a quick look at Revelation 12:7-9. "There was a war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was not strong enough and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth and his angels with him."

You know, one of the funny things about being a pastor is that people presume you have all the faith stuff worked out. Some days you feel like you do. You feel like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. I've got my Bible down. I can tell you what this verse means or that verse means. I can say good prayers and everything.”

When my wife was dying, she told me that she wanted to make it to Easter. It became our commitment to her that she would live until Easter. So Easter comes around and we're gathered around her bed. I'm holding her hand. She asked me, when she was still conscious, to share stories with her. So I asked her, "What's the best thing that ever happened to you or what's your favorite story in your life?" 

And she talked about the birth of our daughter.

As we're sitting around her bed the last hours of her life, I'm holding her hand, the same hand I was honored to hold when we got married. I'm telling her the story of our daughter's birth and it's Easter Sunday, about two or three o'clock in the morning. 

I'm telling the story and suddenly as I'm in the midst of it, getting to the point about Violet being born, my wife dies. 

It was such an honor in that moment to be holding her hand as she breathed her last in the midst of Easter and its promises. It was special because in the midst of this, we were telling stories of new birth.

We’ve already won.

I thought to myself, "God is for us." To be for us means to fight for us, to die for us, to come alongside us, to love us, to do for us what we can't do for ourselves. For some reason that's hard for us to tolerate. 

We feel like we need to be able to do these things ourselves. 

So here in this passage you have Michael and the angels fighting against a dragon. These dragons and demons haunt our souls and we rarely win against them. However, the promise of the Christian faith is that we don't have to win. In fact, if we lose, we actually win because loss is always the way to victory in the kingdom of God. By “loss”, I mean surrender. We must stop trying to win things we can't win on our own.

We need to recognize that we're needy, that we're vulnerable, and that we're even weak at times. That's where God enters and helps us most. When we find out we get the diagnosis, when we lose the job, when our marriages fall apart, we come to the end of our ropes and we have no place else to go. 

That's always where Jesus shows up

What we also know and what gives us the ability, I think, to live in the midst of it all is to be confident. This passage teaches us that evil, no matter how strong, is still a defeated power. This is the repeating message of Revelation - that we can confidently endure whatever the devil dishes out.

The Challenge

Think about your own hardships. Think about those places where evil exists in your world and those times when you wonder if you’re ever going to defeat it? The answer is, it's already beaten. 

It's already defeated. 

By holding on to the power of Jesus, you're going to be able to endure it with strength that you didn't even know that you had. I want to challenge you to pray against it. Pray against it. Pray that God's work, revealed here in this passage, will take effect with the strength that God provides. 

Prayer

Let me pray for us.

Lord, we pray for our world. We pray against the evil that is in it. We thank you that Satan is a defeated power and has already lost. We wait for our experience of that to catch up with the reality that already is. The reality that the new creation promised to us in Revelation can start now. 

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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