In some survival video games, your character is dropped into the world with no tools, weapons, or armor. While all of these can eventually be constructed, the first step is usually gathering sticks, grass, and rocks to build something – maybe a stone spear or a crude hammer. Depending on the animations, characters often look like they are punching trees, which leads to the term (in our family), “tree-puncher”.
That’s ok if your fists are all that you’ve got, but eventually better tools and materials become available. Continuing to punch trees to get bark, twigs, or lumber is kind of silly when you have an axe (and, in some games, hitting inanimate objects will take its toll on your HP.)
It may seem obvious that punching a tree, or shoving your head into sharp sticks, isn’t a great idea. However, the latter is pretty much how God described what Paul (while he was still called Saul) was doing when he was fighting against God.
And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
Acts 26:14 NASB
Even when working with God (rather than against Him), I think that some followers of Jesus (including myself!) continue to do things the hard way. Whether we don’t want to accept help because of our pride, or whether we just don’t know that help is available, we end up clawing our way through life with just our fists and our own limited capabilities.
It doesn’t have to be that way. We have access to help from God, Himself. While the path walked by the follower of Jesus is often challenging, the author of Hebrews reminds us that trials on this earth are limited:
Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”
so that we confidently say,
“The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.
What will man do to me?”
Hebrews 13:5-6 NASB
God gives us what we need to overcome temptation (see 1 Corinthians 10:13). He provides sun and rain (see Matthew 5:44-45). And, in the passage above (as well as Matthew 28:19-20), He promises to remain with us.
However, we should not expect support and success when we are directly opposing God’s calling. In His love, He guides us where we should go, but when we rebel in pride, we can expect opposition from God (see James 4:6).
So, if life seems difficult today, first make sure you’re not plowing in the wrong direction, like an ox going off on its own. And, if you’re not going the wrong way, rest in God’s strength to get you through.