Most folks have heard the old adage, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going!” While there’s a mountain of inspiration in this statement calling us to grow determination and dedication in difficulties, there’s another lesson tough times should teach us. Tough times can also make us tender. We might say it this way, “When the going gets tough, tough people should become tender!”
Problems, pains and challenges carry the seeds of great possibilities and potential. If we respond the right way to them, their presence disciplines and develops us. They break down the tough tissue of pride, stubbornness and self-sufficiency. They tenderize us to the Spirit of God and to the needs and hurts of other people. They bring us to a place of dependency on God and deeper trust in Him. God wants and needs to do a tenderizing work in all of us.
The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel described God’s desire and promise to tenderize our hearts:
And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. — Ezekiel 36:26 (NLT)
All of us need a new heart and a new spirit. By nature we’re proud, hard and stubborn. God wants to replace our pride, hardness and rebellion with humility, tenderness and brokenness. And one of the ways He does this is by taking us through tough times.
David the psalmist had to go through experiences like this to become the person God wanted him to be. Take a look at his comments on the tough seasons in his life:
It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. — Psalm 119:71 (NIV)
David thanked God for the difficulties he went through. He realized that the tough things he experienced were good for him. All of the problems, pains and challenges in his life served a valuable purpose. They became his instructors. They did something in him that wouldn’t or couldn’t have been accomplished any other way. They tenderized him. They taught him. They transformed him. They made him useable by God.
Are you going through tough times? When the going gets tough, the tough should become tender! Respond positively to your problems, pains and challenges. Ask God to tenderize the hardened places in your soul. When we’re tender, God can and will do great things through us!