Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 24:10
"If you are slack in the day of distress, your strength is limited."
If you cannot bring your strength to bear at the time of great crisis, then all your strength is really useless.
You wonder if Solomon saw, at God's direction, someone who had great wealth or skill, but because of their procrastination and laziness, did not really help a situation. They arrived too late.
There are times to go slow and be patient and figure all things out, and there are times when that is inappropriate. You need to bring your resources, your skills, and your personal involvement to a situation one-hundred percent.
The word slack is the Hebrew word raphah, which means feeble, faint, be disheartened, idle, to let drop. It seems to carry two ideas – one of laziness and lack of strength physically, and as the same phenomena, emotionally, disheartened.
God is saying that if you cannot, or will not, focus your physical strength to accomplish the crucial task at hand, then you are not as strong as you think you are. Also, if you fall apart when the pressure is on, then all your ability is really useless.
I saw an illustration of this recently. I was watching a basketball team that does really well during the regular season with lots of players performing well and showing incredible skills and stamina. But then when the pressure of the playoffs arrives, these same amazing players disappear as significant contributors. They miss shots, miss assignments, stop doing what they did, and just literally shrink back. When the pressure is on, they are gone. They don't mean to be, but they do not force their skills forward in a crisis; instead they shrink back. Solomon says in this proverb they are not as strong as they think they are; they are not as good as they want everyone to believe because they can't perform under pressure.
The Septuagint translation of this verse reads: In the day of evil and the day of affliction, don't be a quitter.
The literal Hebrew translation of this verse is: If you are weak in the day of distress or trouble, then your strength is trouble or distress. We counted on you but you could not be counted on; and, therefore, your strength and skills and abilities became an incredible stress and difficulty, because we were counting on it and it was not there. We would call this choking under pressure. In other words, if you are all skills and drama and wow in practice but can't perform when the real heat is on, then you are more trouble than help. Your strength has deceptively made us trust in you, but you can't really perform when the pressure is on.
What is interesting is that the word that God had Solomon select for slack suggests three different reasons for your skills being a liability: a lack of will, an inability to emotionally control yourself under pressure, and/or underdeveloped skills and abilities.
We have all seen a person who is full of potential but never develops that potential. We have all seen people who cannot control themselves emotionally, with either anger, tears, fear, whining, blaming, or any number of emotional outbursts. We have all seen people who do not force themselves to work hard at the moment they need to focus. All of these tendencies in people can be overcome. If they are not overcome and slackness becomes a permanent part of your character, then you are not as good as you think you are and are limiting your own success. Consequently, you are also a distress to others.