Proverbs 24:10 says: “If you are slack in the day of distress, your strength is limited.” This Proverb teaches us a very practical principle: if you have not conditioned or prepared yourself for times of difficulty, you are going to have a very difficult time managing it through your trial. You need to prepare yourself in advance. This is especially true regarding our practice of the spiritual disciplines, and the trials that we all eventually face.
A good example of this may be found in the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Eric Metaxas, in his biography of the German pastor & theologian writes of how the practice of the spiritual disciplines played a significant role in his ability to deal with his imprisonment and eventual martyrdom:
From the beginning of his time (in prison) until the end, Bonhoeffer maintained the daily discipline of scriptural meditation and prayer he had been practicing for more than a decade. Each morning he meditated for at least half an hour on a verse of scripture. And he interceded for his friends and relatives, and for his brothers in the Confessing Church who were on the front lines or in concentration camps. Once he got his Bible back he read it for hours each day. By November he had read through the Old Testament two and a half times. He also drew strength from praying the Psalms, just as they had done at Zingst, Finkewalde, Schlawe, Sigurdshof, and elsehwhere. Bonhoeffer once told Bethge, who was about to embark on a trip, that it was all the more important to practice the daily disciplines when away, to give oneself a sense of grounding and continuity and clarity. And now, rudely thrust into an atmosphere intensely different from his parents’ home, he practiced these same disciplines. (Bonhoeffer, by Eric Metaxas, p. 438)
Bonhoeffer practiced in prison, the disciplines which he had already learned and practiced in advance. It is highly doubtful that he would have fared so well during his time of trial had he not built these spiritual practices into his life beforehand.
What about you? Are you practicing NOW spiritual disciplines which you may desperately need one day? Just because you are not presently in a life crisis certainly does not mean that you never will be! Trials of physical health, finances, marriage and family, and more await us all. How you will fare in that day will depend greatly upon how you have prepared yourself spiritually. Remember the Proverb: “If you are slack in the day of distress, your strength is limited.” It’s too late, in the fourth quarter of the big game, to wish that you had gotten yourself in better physical condition for the stretch run. It had to be done beforehand. Don’t wait until you desperately need it, to wish that you had prepared yourself spiritually for the trial of your life by growing strong in the disciplines of prayer, Bible reading, and scripture memory.