Man’s Extremity Is God’s Opportunity


“My Dear Husband, I desire to be thankful that you have got off Long Island, I think things look very dark on our side, But it has been observed that man’s extremity was God’s opportunity.”

The situation was bleak. In the fall of 1776 the Continental Army was staggering in retreat from near destruction to the British on Long Island. We know that years later the American Revolution would be successful, but in 1776, that outcome was far from certain. Some letters between Joseph Hodgkins, a lieutenant in the Continental Army, and his wife, Sarah, have been preserved. The above quote is one of many inspiring thoughts that Sarah wrote to her discouraged husband who survived the war and eventually returned to her.

Indeed, from time to time, dark times befall us all. Sometimes it seems, like the Revolutionary War, that there is no end to it. When we are in “those” times, it is hard to see a glimmer of light, or hope. It is, however, in those times that we tend to humble ourselves to a higher power. In those times when we are most humbled, is when it becomes “God’s opportunity”, as penned by Sarah Hodgkins that day. But in reality, it’s really “our opportunity! Because it’s our choice as to how we will react in dark times.

The scriptures offer some stark contrasts as to how man has responded to adversity. Certainly, the most well-known of all sufferers is Job. His name is associated with “patience” and “long-suffering”, yet the particulars of his story are often not known. He is the “pin-up” of all sufferers, yet most don’t bother to read his account. Job was a man of great wealth and power; the father of many sons and daughters. Well known and respected in his community he seemed to have the “perfect” life. Then, one day, the storms ascended upon him and his household. In his insuring “dark” times, he would lose it all, his wealth, his family, his reputation, everything! Even his health! He stood accused of his friends of sinful deeds, why else would such tragedy befall him. In his darkest times he even begins to question his own worth when he laments to the Lord:

“Wherefore then hast thou brought me forth out of the womb? Oh that I had given up the ghost and no eye had seen me! I should have been as though I had not been; I should have been carried from the womb to the grave.” (Job 10:18-19)

Surely all of us who have traveled any distance in life, have felt, at least once, the same thoughts of Job, “Why me? I’m a good person, I don’t deserve this!” Yet, I have been so impressed by how many of the saints, who I have personally met, get past this phase of lament and move onward. They have privately rehearsed to me words similar to the thoughts expressed by the suffering Job.

“Behold, I go forward, but he is not there: and backward, but I cannot perceive him: On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he dieth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him. But, he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. (Job 23:8-10)

Earlier, Job had testified of the shortness of life, the certainty of death, and the guarantee of a resurrection. He knew that the “dark” nights were just temporary and that when he came out of it, he would “come forth as gold”. (vs. 10). The greatness of the restored gospel is that most of our members have the blessing of that same perspective. Their faith and understanding see them thought the “valley of death” and support them in their time of need. Most would say that the story of Job had a happy ending. His wealth, health and reputation were finally restored. He even had more sons and daughters. Yet, what of his lost sons and daughters? Did he not continue to yearn for their company? What of his friends? I would guess that those relationships had changed. And not for the better! Indeed, Job still would have lingering “pain” that would last the rest of his life.

All of us will have “Job” times in our lives. Some of our pain may last a lifetime. But let us remember, as Job did, that even though it seems that the Lord has abandoned us, He has not. Let us hold to the faith and let the Lord “know” the way that we take. Then, after the trails, we” shall come forth as gold.”


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