While you can with confidence say I do not know you personally (many of you) and I have no idea what you’ve been through or what you may be going through now - I would say we are kindred. We all have things in our lives that are hard, painful, and at times heartbreaking. But, whatever the circumstance, we can share a level of empathy as we have all been through or are going through tough times.
In fact, the Bible says we should expect it.
The promises some so-called Bible teachers spout off about how with the right attitude you too can have your best life now and positive things will come your way or life’s circumstances will be good if only you have enough faith, is NOT biblical folks — turn that mess off!
Peter, James, Jesus, and Paul all say trials will happen. Paul is not the only apostle, or person in the Bible who had an incredible track-record of hardship and trials in the midst of serving the Lord. And like you, I too have experienced much loss and pain over the years. I have also watched friends go through horrific things, such as the sudden death of a child, a 4 year old battling cancer, and a friend who has had chronic pain for over 15 years. We have friends who have been out of a job for over a year going deeper into debt and not knowing how to climb out of the hole they are in.
What do we do? I mean really – what does trusting God look like during these times?
James, wrote to a group of believers who were being persecuted for their faith. In fact, many were forced to leave their homes, their livelihoods and their community of friends, and were scattered because of this persecution going on in the early church. James didn’t tell them to ignore their sadness, or their emotion, but he told them to consider it joy when (not if) they encounter trials.
How in the world do we consider it joy in the midst of our very real pain and confusion?
We know that God is in the midst of it. We wrestle with why He gives us certain paths, why He allows some things to touch our hearts, but as we feast on His Word and know His character, and encourage one another with His truths, we trust He is good. The verse in James chapter one – continues to explain whey we can consider it joy. “Because the testing of your faith produces endurance (maturity), and let endurance have it’s perfect result that you may be more mature (more like Christ) lacking in nothing.”
Though there is a period there, that is not the complete thought. James continues. He reminds us of the Father we have. He says – in the midst of these strength-sapping trials, “if any of you lack wisdom – ask God, who gives to all men liberally, without reproach, BUT ask in faith without any wavering, for the one who doubts is like a wave driven and tossed by the wind”.
Our trials, our heartbreak, sometimes the effect of the sins of others — like the persecuted church was experiencing, all of it was still used to conform them to Christ.
I think in those moments, in the darkness of that very real pain, we may be honest to say, I’m done growing — I don’t’ want to learn anymore – I just need rest from this situation. Even in those dark moments, we cry out to our loving Shepherd for peace, for comfort.. and yes, dear sister, He says that He does give rest, perhaps not from the trial itself but from the anguish of the “whys” as you once again surrender your heart and jump in the pool of trust. All in – trusting your Father will catch you and guide you with wisdom through the sadness, through the loss, through the trial.
Let us today, spend time in prayer interceding for those in the midst of hardship today. Allow the Lord to lay on your heart those in need. As I type this, I am lifting you up as well. The Lord knows. By His grace, may we count it joy — not as an emotional response but rather a response to the very real God we have in all His fullness, and all He is and His promise to use our pain and hardships as we continue to trust Him fully.
One day, every tear will be wiped away and the pain will be over, and we will kneel before our King. May you run the race with your eyes on the prize – Jesus – the author and perfecter of our faith. Praise the Lord He is with us in the midst of the race, the hurdles and the struggles and He is our strength!