The word hardship came from England back in the 1200s, and it described sturdy ships that endured the brutal storms of the North Atlantic.
Today it’s defined as a condition that is difficult to endure. It refers to suffering, deprivation, and oppression: something hard to bear, lack of comfort, constant toil or danger.
As we think about hardship, we need to remember that life is not supposed to be about us. Life, including eternal life, is about Jesus and our relationship with Him. However, although Jesus should be the center of all human existence, most people put Him on the sidelines, or not in their life at all.
Then, generating our own hardships, people get all limp and wishy-washy about life, or get hard and bitter. We have a difficult time doing things God’s way because we don’t spend time getting to know our heavenly Father.
But God has been saying all along: Please give me the reins. I can tame this team of horses, but you need to cooperate.
A young woman who didn’t know how to cooperate with the Lord told her mother about how life was so hard for her. There seemed to be no end to her problems, and she wanted to give up. She couldn’t understand that she was creating most of the hardships for herself.
Her mother sent up a silent prayer, then took her daughter to the kitchen. Filling three pots with water, she placed them on the stove and turned the heat to high. In the first pot she placed carrots; in the second, she placed a couple of eggs; and in the last, she poured a cup of coffee grounds.
Without saying a word, she let them boil for about twenty minutes, then turned off the burners. She fished the carrots and eggs out and placed them in separate bowls. Then she ladled the coffee grounds out and placed them in a bowl.
Turning to her daughter, she said, “Tell me what you see.”
“Carrots, eggs, and coffee grounds.”
Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots and peel an egg. The daughter noted that the carrots were soft and the eggs were hard boiled.
“Now, check the coffee grounds and water.”
The daughter smiled. “The coffee grounds look the same but wet. But the water was now … coffee, and I think I’ll have some. Mother, what are you getting at?”
Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the very same adversity: 212-degree boiling water for twenty minutes. Each reacted differently. The carrots went in strong, hard, and stiff, but after sitting in boiling water, they softened and became weak. Inside the shell, the eggs had been fragile. Their thin outer shell had protected the liquid interior, but after bumping around in the boiling water, the insides became hardened. The ground coffee was unique. The oppressive adversity (boiling water) released color and flavor.
“Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When hardship knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg … or … coffee?”
The daughter, drinking her coffee, understood the lesson.
So I ask you, dear reader: Are you the carrot that is strong when there are no problems, but with pain and adversity you wilt and lose your strength?
Are you the egg that starts with a malleable attitude, but becomes hardened with the heat? Did you have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a break-up, a financial hardship, or some other trial, you became cynical? Does your shell look the same, but on the inside are you inflexible?
Or are you like the coffee? Do you change the circumstances that bring the pain? When things are at their worst, do you cave in or help change the situation around you?
When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, how do you handle adversity?
Remembering that hot water releases the fragrance and flavor of the coffee grounds, perhaps you can remember to sincerely turn to God for guidance. He is always willing to help us. God tells us in Isaiah 43:2-3, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
That is true if we cooperate with God. How do you respond to hardships?