Tough Times Never Last

I pass a sign on my way home from work that states, “Tough times never last. Tough people always do.” It’s a well-meaning sign, hoping to offer encouragement to those who pass by. There’s little doubt that most people would say we are living in tough times. The pandemic we thought was hitting a plateau has risen up with a vengeance. The weather in the northern part of our country is turning colder, signaling the end to outdoor gatherings, activities, and patio dining options. The news media is full of reports of violence, unrest, rude behaviors, and general unpleasantness. People are being labeled “Karen’s,” “snowflakes,” “antifa,” and “libtards.” In addition, many people are dealing with stress from changes to work routines, unemployment, child care, illnesses and grief from the loss of family and friends. Mental health concerns, child abuse and domestic violence are on the rise.
 
On the other hand, many people are encouraging and engaging in acts of kindness; stories of people helping people are also in the daily news stream. Positive thoughts, beautiful outdoor photos, pictures of loving families and friends, and enchanting music, are out there as well. Those who have secure incomes are donating to organizations that supply basic services, support the arts and educational opportunities. Many are “paying it forward” in awesome ways. These behaviors are not generally thought of as the acts or attitudes of tough people. Of the nine definitions offered by the on-line Merriam Webster dictionary, only one comes close to describing what the sign might have been suggesting: “capable of enduring strain, hardship, or severe labor.” The rest of the definitions for tough use words such as “stubborn,” “unruly,” “severity,” “hard to influence,” “marked by absence of softness or sentimentality.”
 
I am often amazed by what is destroyed in a hard wind storm, and what survives. Trees with branches strong enough to climb break, while daffodils and tulips bounce back from being bent over. Light-weight chairs may have to be retrieved from the neighbors’ yards, but are none the worse for their travel. Maybe it’s not the tough people who survive, but those who are flexible or resilient. On too many occasions when I have been “tough,” as in stubborn or hard to influence, I’ve created tough times rather than survived them. What could have been resolved through conversation or compromise has become a battle of wills that causes harm not easily forgotten. When I’ve insisted on doing things “my way,” only to discover that the plan doesn’t work, I’ve had to start over, apologize, or give up on an opportunity. But when I’ve been open to possibilities, relied upon the wisdom of others, or been able to zig when I thought I should zag, the results have been surprisingly good.
 
These are tough times, and we pray that they do not last. But so long as they do, I think I’ll try to be flexible and resilient, rather than tough. We’ll see how that works out.
 
Stay safe and be blessed,
Pastor Barbara

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