Have you ever been through a season in life that totally rocked your faith?
A time where everything seemed to be going wrong and nothing made sense? A time when your hopes were dashed – and then dashed again? A time when you wondered if God heard your relentless prayers, or maybe, wondered if He even cared?
My family and I have been walking through one of these dark seasons lately. And the truth is, from the many emails and messages I get weekly, I know for certain that many of you are walking through a similar time in life.
Most of you who follow this blog are coming out of your twenties and moving into your thirties, forties, and fifties. And the older we get, the harder life seems to get. Before, our biggest problems may have been car troubles or roommate drama…
Now, we look around us and we see bigger, harder, problems emerging…
Loss of a child.
Death of a loved one.
We look around and either we ourselves, or someone we know is facing something really hard. It seems as though injustice, evil, and pain are right around every single corner. The perfect life we had imagined took a wrong turn, and we find ourselves feeling helpless, hopeless, and maybe even feeling alone…stuck at a seemingly dead end, a place we never imagined we’d be.
Suffering comes in so many different shapes and forms, and even though I don’t know what it is you are dealing with, I do know one thing: it’s left you broken.
So what do you do when life doesn’t turn out as you planned? What do you do when you’re facing hard times and wondering how you’re going to get through? What do you do when the darkness seems so thick that it’s hard to remember the light?
Friend, I don’t know about you, but I know that this year, I’ve asked those same exact questions. I’ve wrestled with God, cried out to him, and wondered what on earth He is doing.
Yet, as I walk through my season of suffering, I have to believe that there is a purpose. I have to believe that there is a God that knows me, and loves me, and promises to walk with me through the valleys of the shadow of death. As I’ve been walking through my hard season, trying to get through day by day, here are the few things I cling to for dear life:
GOD LOVES ME.
Boy is it easy to forget this when you’re walking through a hard time. Honestly, sometimes in the middle of all the stress and suffering it feels as though God is against me. But in order to survive, I have to see past how I feel, and cling to the deep love of Christ. I have to remember that He is FOR me, not against me.
I have to remember that His heart breaks for me even more than my heart feels broken. I have to remember that every single tear, and every single prayer is caught, is heard, and is cherished by Him. I have to remember that He loves me so deeply, that He allowed Himself to go through the GREATEST suffering this earth has to offer, allowing His Son to endure a brutal, unjust, and humiliating death so that I could have the hope for something greater than this life. No matter what I’m going through, and wherever life takes me, I can be sure that His love is certain, His love is sure, and His love will carry me.
GOD WILL USE THIS FOR MY GOOD.
As I’ve thought through this specific point over the past month, I’ve often caught myself saying, “I’d rather not go through this in order to become better.” But to be honest, I believe my theology has been wrong when it comes to this point (all you seminarians out there feel free to correct me, but this is what I’m holding on to!). I used to believe that God makes you go through hard things in order to make you stronger, but you know what, I really don’t believe that anymore.
I think we live in a broken, sinful, horrible, wicked world…and sometimes, bad things happen that grieve His heart just as much as they grieve ours. I don’t think God wants for us to suffer. I don’t think He gives us cancer, and tragic death, and loss of children, and miscarriage, and persecution, and all those other horrible things JUST to make us better.
I have to believe that those are NOT from God, but rather, are from the enemy who wants nothing more than to STEAL, KILL, and DESTROY. When we blame God for all these horrible things, we can start to grow bitter and resent Him. God hates our suffering and the sin in this world just as much as we do.
I don’t believe these things are FROM God…But I DO think is that these things can be used FOR good.
You see, when we do suffer, He wants us to know that no matter what this life brings: He has the POWER and the PROMISE of using it for our good (Romans 8:28). He promises to take all the ugly, evil, sad things of this world and somehow orchestrate them in a way that will benefit us and His kingdom in the very end. He will use this for my good. And He’ll use it for your good as well. God is not the AUTHOR of evil, but he can take it, and weave it into a story that is better than we could have ever asked or imagined. For the believer in Christ He PROMISES that He can and HE WILL use it for our good. You can absolutely, certainly, without a shadow of a doubt bank on that.
GOD HAS GIVEN ME MY PORTION.
If you’re anything like me, when you’re going through a hard time, you often wake up hoping that it was all a bad dream. Then you climb out of bed, and realize that THIS is your reality. Those can be very hard moments, can’t they?
A few weeks ago I actually had a legitimately horrible dream…no, it was a full on nightmare. It felt so real, and so when I woke up I was left with all the details in my mind and the stomach sinking emotions still left in the pit of my stomach. It actually took me a few hours to shake those feelings, but when I finally did I felt the Lord saying to me, “This could be your reality, but it isn’t. Be grateful for that”.
You know, as hard as my reality is right now, that dream reminded me that my reality could be EVEN harder. Turn on the news on any given day and you’ll hear stories of Christians being persecuted and beheaded all around the globe for the sake of Christ. Mothers being killed in front of their children, husbands being burned at the stake in front of their wives. There are wars, famine, and straight up EVIL all across our globe, and often times it’s helpful for us to have some perspective when we’re walking through our own hard times.
I don’t believe simply thinking about these horrible things makes our situation any less painful, but what it does is offer us a chance to give gratitude in the face of our own really hard things. It’s a chance to see someone else’s story, and step out of ours for just a moment, raising our hands to heaven in thankfulness for the fact that God knows our portion, and He will help us carry it right here, and right now. Don’t try to think ahead, you can’t carry the worries of tomorrow on your shoulders. But what you can do, is simply focus on today. On this hour. On this moment, asking God for the strength and grace you need one moment at a time.
REMEMBER, THIS IS NOT THE END OF THE STORY.
When you’re walking through hard times, it certainly feels like the end of the story. Sometimes the clouds seem so thick that it’s hard to see past the current darkness. But from what I know of God’s word, He promises that THIS is not the end of our story. Our story is so much grander, so much greater, and so much better than we could even imagine from our limited vantage point. I love this phrase because it reminds me of that truth:
If I knew what God knows, I would want what He wants (Tweet It!).
Our God is not a God of sad endings. Even when life throws sad chapters our way, we have a guarantee in Christ that the end of our story will be better than ALL the other chapters. Because in the end, He has the victory! Over death, over darkness, over suffering, over injustice, over evil. In the end, we are on the winning side! For the believer in Christ, the REST of life is truly the BEST of life. This word we live in is such a small, faint, moment in the scheme of eternity, and the word of God reminds us that even the HARDEST times are “light and momentary” compared to the glory that is up ahead. I cling to that hope. I cling to that promise. I cling to that reminder that this life is fleeting…and the only thing that matters here on earth is becoming more like my Lord, no matter what challenges come my way.
But even so, we still pray as we walk through this current chapter one step at a time. We still wait. We still hope. We still ask God to bring us a little bit of heaven here on earth. That His will would be done on EARTH as it is in Heaven. For healing. For hope. For justice. For restoration. For forgiveness. For love. For all that is good, and holy. For a glimpse of the eternal, in our present time of trouble. We continue to pray and believe in it’s power. I know that you are praying for me, but I want you to know, that I am also committing to praying for you. No matter what it is we face, we’re all in this journey together, and we need each other.
If you feel comfortable, consider sharing all of part of your story in the comment section below, and I, as well as thousands of believers across the country and world, promise to commit to pray for you as well. And may the GOD of hope, fill you with joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may OVERFLOW with hope, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, national speaker, and author of the book True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, 21 Days to Jump Start Your Love Life, and 21 Days to Pray for Your Love Life, where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. You may also recognize her voice from her 150+ articles at Relevant Magazine or Crosswalk.com! She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog! Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!