We all know that putting our trust in God and being a Christian doesn’t exempt or shield us from life’s pains. Still, when we face challenges, trials, or God’s silence in the form of unanswered prayer, we can’t help but feel discouraged or ignored by God. The Bible says that we should expect suffering in this life, specifically in 1 Peter 4:12, but how can we learn to ache and endure them well?
How can we ensure we don’t let these moments embitter us, harden our hearts, or turn us away from God? First, we can take in heart knowing that we have a God who isn’t unfamiliar with grief and is fully present with us even in the deepest trials. Second, we’re surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses,” detailed in Hebrews 12:1, from past generations who’ve endured the same challenges and emerged with more robust faith.
Like His suffering served a redemptive purpose, all of our challenging moments and the ashed of our brokenness serve a purpose that will assert the beauty of God’s sovereignty and redemptive plans. If you’re going through a challenging time, or know someone who is, here’s some encouragement to remind you to keep following God, trusting that He’s at work in your life.
You’ve encountered failures or setbacks.
Most people believe that constant highs mark a victorious Christian life or that growing from glory to glory means we don’t face any obstacles. We typically struggle with guilt, questioning ourselves when we face failure. However, the Christian life rarely goes in a straight line. Just think of some of our favorite Bible characters’ journeys. For example, a false accusation sent Joseph to prison before he rose to become Pharoah’s right-hand man.
After years of waiting and many experiences of injustice and betrayal, Joseph was finally put in a position where he could see how God turned the evil brought against him into good to benefit people around him. Sometimes, life’s setbacks are beyond our control. Occasionally, we experience failure because we haven’t made the most intelligent decisions. Still, each time we encounter these situations, it reminds us that we don’t control our lives, but we can be sure that God isn’t leaving us to pick up the pieces by ourselves. Whatever circumstances behind your failure or setback, will you let it teach you to see how much you need God and depend on Him?
You’ve gone through trials.
Nothing strengthens or shakes our faith like being confronted with a trial. Maybe a loved one recently received a life-threatening diagnosis, or not everything’s going as planned regarding the baby you’ve prayed for. During these times, you can’t help but wonder, “Where is God in this?” While we know that God uses challenges and trials to sanctify us so we become complete and mature, it’s easier to wish we could fast forward through the pain or land at a point where we can glory in our challenges.
When we’re tempted to think this way or feel like we’ve been stretched beyond our limits, we should put our eyes on Jesus. He’s the one who’s gone before us, showing us what lies past our suffering, and He’s the one who will strengthen us with power through His spirit. He’ll be perfect as we cling to Him during our trials. Think about the joy and light on the faces of those you know who’ve gone through the most upsetting tragedies and emerged with a stronger conviction of God’s power in their lives.
We should see our sufferings as a privilege and opportunity to know Jesus and the power of His resurrection. May we lean into God’s embrace and experience the comfort from the God of all comfort, as detailed in 2 Corinthians 1:3.
You’ve experienced dissatisfaction.
You’ve achieved all your goals, got your dream job, found your soulmate, and can comfortably enjoy the pleasures and luxuries you’ve dreamed of. Perhaps you’ve been pining after the ideal life you don’t have yet, then you start scrolling on social media, and dissatisfaction starts rising in your heart, and you can’t help but feel a sense of loss or emptiness. You don’t know what’s next, but the world around you tells you you must keep climbing up the ladder, growing your finances, and upgrading. Where does it end?
The teacher in Ecclesiastes 6:9 says, “Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless, like chasing the wind.” If you echo the teacher’s sentiments, allow those moments of dissatisfaction to help you discern whether you’ve been creating your life on a shaky foundation of false hope. Instead of asking yourself what’s next, a better question is, are you gaining Christ in your pursuit of success? Do we find satisfaction in pleasing Him, or have we relied on the outer appearance of success to find happiness in life?
You’ve dealt with unanswered prayers.
How does it make you feel when God doesn’t answer your prayers? Most people probably feel unloved, abandoned, and confused. It can be challenging to hear a “no” from God. Still, even in a season of “no’s,” if we step back from the moment’s emotions, we can think of the times in our lives when God used an unexpected “no” for good. American missionary Elisabeth Elliot wrote that God only denies our heart’s desire to give us something better.
If you’re dealing with unanswered prayers, ask God to show any hidden desires and motives in your heart. Let Him bring you to a place of surrender, rest, and contentment as you fix your desires to God’s will. If it’s a call to wait on His perfect timing, ask Him to give you the endurance and patience to wait.
Whatever you’re going through, there’s no safer place to be than in God’s hands. He’s still holding the whole world, and yours, in His hands. Keep holding on to God and allow Him to continue to write your story. God is working in your life, even when it may not seem like it.