We’ve all been there. Not one of us has escaped some form of injury, whether physical, mental, or emotional. Heartbreak. Overwhelming grief. Crippling fear. To hurt is as human to breathe.
This is not a new concept. Suffering is commonplace throughout the Bible, but there is a twist.
When David heard that his son was dead, he “arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped” (2 Samuel 12:20).
When Job learned that his seven sons and three daughters were killed, he tore his clothes and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away,” he said in 1:21, “blessed be the name of the Lord!”
Our fight in this world is not against each other or our physical conditions but against the supernatural forces that tempt us (Eph 6:12). Satan is actively working to use our surrounding circumstances to get inside our heads and lead us astray from the One calling us to Himself. The battle against the devil’s opposing forces is a very real one, but, what Satan means for evil, God intends for good (Gen 50:20).
A surgeon does not cut except to bring you closer to health, just as God does not allow suffering except to draw your heart closer to Him so you can better reflect His glory. This is the reason we can find joy in our trials. Our pain is for a purpose. God is using this to grow you, and oh how wonderful it is that He loves us enough to discipline us! (Prov 3:12)
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”— James 1:2-4
My pastor noted that trials are not a sign of rejection but reception. You’re suffering? Congratulations! You are on the team! You are wearing the uniform! Therefore, you can be confident that (1) you are a child of God, (2) God loves you, and (3) God is changing you for good.
“…we can rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”— Romans 5:3-5
As the president of my university says, “rejoice” doesn’t mean “I feel good,” it means “I know God is in control.” Holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom similarly said, “When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.”
Furthermore, the song “Thy Will Be Done” by Hilary Scott is a comfort as it proclaims the truth that God sees us. He knows this is stretching us. He knows this is breaking our hearts. “He knows your going through this great wilderness” (Deut 2:7). YET He would not allow it if it were not for our good and His glory. You have to hold on to that. You have to hold on to the fact that God would not allow this to happen if it were not ultimately for your good and His glory (Romans 8:28).
“What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”— John 13:7
You are a ship in an ocean full of waves of doubt, anxiety, fear, and insecurity. A vessel, however, does not sink because it is in an ocean. A ship sinks because water gets inside. To make the journey you have to keep your eyes above the waves. Look at the One who is walking on the water. Do you hear Him? He’s saying, “Look at me! Look at me!” Not at the chaos surrounding. Focus on Him. His goodness. His glory. Hope, trust, have faith, which “isn’t a feeling. It’s a choice to trust God even when the road ahead seems uncertain” (Dave W). Lay aside the desire to give up, to quit, to throw in the towel and run with endurance the race that is set before you, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:1b-2a).
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace
When you doubt God’s sovereign care, remember all the works of the Lord, all the good He has done in your life (Psalm 77:11-12; 145:5). Meditate on all that He has saved you from, on all the trials He has brought you through in the past, and tell others how Jesus has changed your life. Never cease thanking Him for all that is good and all that is hard because all is growing you, and never lose focus on God. As Colossians 3:2 put it, you have to set your mind on things that are above, not things that are on earth. A few ways you can do this are as follows:
- Be in the Word: all throughout scripture there are repeats of the command to meditate on the truth of the Bible (Deut 6:6; Josh 1:8; Psalms 1:2b, specifically). But don’t just think about the content of scripture while you are reading. Apply the themes throughout your life.
- Journal: the benefits of journaling are profuse. Although I have not been as devoted to this art as I have in the past, any time taken to still my thoughts on paper always leaves me in a clearer mindset.
- Listen to God-honoring music: Music is powerful in that it can easily change your mindset and mood. When going through troubling times, music can be an excellent tool to reorientate your focus on what really matters. My worship leader once said, “Music through praising God helps connect us to something so much bigger than ourselves.”
- Pray: God cares about everything that concerns you, so talk to Him about it. Satan often makes a situation seem complicated and chaotic to discourage us from praying because prayer limits him. Additionally, be sure to take the time to thank God for everything you do have versus continuously asking.
- Look for God in everyday things: In nature, people, and circumstances. His presence is everywhere! And when you see Him moving, don’t hesitate to exclaim, “THAT was God!” Boast in Him continually!
- Surround yourself with Godly people: people rub off on you (Prov 13:20). No matter how valiant your efforts, you will take on traits of the people you surround yourself with. However, you will never have a better friend than one who points you to Christ, so make sure that those who influence you are beautiful people.
Of course, this mindset is not a “one and done” kind of change. You will need constant reminders to continually surrender your cares to your ever-caring Father. Then, as Jesus said in Matthew 14:27, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Otherwise translated “be of good cheer” or be happy. God is in control! He is watching! He is working! He is moving! Praise Him! As Michael W. Smith put it, this is how you fight your battles.
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