Hard times. Difficult trials. Unexpected change of plans. Fear of the unknown. Overwhelming grief. Relationship struggles. Health issues. All situations none of us would sign up for, but things we all experience. I have countless friends and family walking through hard times right now. On this election day, I'm up early thinking about what our country is going through. Sometimes, my heart just hurts. How about yours?
When I find myself in this situation and thinking about loved ones experiencing the same, it can be easy to get discouraged or feel overwhelmed. Would you agree? Fear can set in while worry overtakes and that just adds to the difficult trial. We've all lived long enough to know life has it's moments, sometimes days or weeks or months or even years - we can say that in 2020 right?!?
In John 16:33b, Jesus told us, "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world." We can find peace in this promise! I also find encouragement in something my pastor said weeks ago, but I continue to think about - "Whatever you are going through, God is growing you through."
It is a catchy statement, but it's also a truthful one. God is always working and He has a purpose for our pain. His plan isn't all fun and games, but no matter what we are going through He is present. In the good times and the bad, He is working for our good and His glory. When things are out of control, we're reminded He is in control. When we feel unable to take another step, we realize His grace His sufficient. When we can't do it on our own, we're more likely to surrender our plan and submit to His perfect one.
This sounds good and I have no doubt it's true, but it's not always easy. So this morning as I spent time with the Lord, I found myself asking, "How? - How do I do it? How do I allow you to grow me through this? How do I encourage others to do the same?"
I heard no voice and I don't have the perfect answer, but as I look to His Word and reflect on my own life a plan came to mind. All things I've done, but practices I need to do better and more as I go through life and desire God to grow me through it all. If the cry of your heart is the same, I pray you find a piece of wisdom and encouragement as well.
FOCUS - When a trying situation presents itself, it can be consuming. Everything else fades away and the trouble overwhelms. When it's all I see, perspective fades and I'm blind to the Truth. In moments like this, I need to remember where to focus. Hebrews 12:2 tells us, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith." We can't deny reality, but we must remember who is with us in it. Jesus, the One who experienced immense pain, so one day you and I will be pain free. His Spirit in us can provide eternal eyes so that we can focus and see beyond "this light momentary affliction which is preparing for us an eternal glory." (2 Corinthians 4:17)
ASK - Tough times tend to cause me to close down. I can go into the quiet mode, pride keeps me from letting others know I can't do this on my own. Sometimes Satan's lies leaving me believing it's no big deal, others are hurting more and I'll bother people by sharing my struggle. Friend, as a mom I can better help my kids when they ask and the same is true when it comes to me - my loved ones can assist me more when I ask and more importantly God is there when I pray. When we ask God for help, answers, grace or whatever we need, He will provide. "Ask and it will be given..." (Matthew 7:7) Pause for a moment and think about when a hurting friend asks you for help...it's not a burden, right? Remember that when you are hurting...loved ones want to help, ASK.
SEEK - When we are going through a hard time, it often can be a new experience, a road we've never walked, which only makes the situation more challenging. We need direction. Looking for it and asking aren't always easy, but it always brings results. We can seek out one who's been in our shoes and they'll have traveling tips, but we must remember to go to God's Word. Here we will find promises and Truth, perspective and wisdom, instruction and training.
WORK - Trials in life not only overwhelm, they can exhaust as well. As we lose focus and wrestle with the unknowns, we can be tempted to quit. The obstacle in front of us can leave us defeated. Our inability to see the light at the end of the tunnel or the purpose in our pain can cause us to give up. I believe it was Elisabeth Elliot, who walked through an immense struggle of her own who said, "Do the next right thing." Whether you find yourself in a life changing struggle or daily difficult situation, don't worry about all the process involves...pour your energy into what comes next. Sometimes the most important work we can do in the midst of a trial is simply surrendering and admitting we can't do it all. James 4:7a sums it up quite well - "Submit yourselves therefore to God."
REST - I don't know about you, but when I'm going through a hard time I'm in a hurry to get through it. I want the struggle to be over. I want the suffering to end. Sometimes I'm tempted to busy myself with work that really doesn't matter. When I'm walking alongside a struggling friend, I can be tempted to carry a load that's not my own. In moments like these I need to rest. We need to heed the Lord's words in Psalm 46:10 and "Be still and know that I am God." It's critical we follow Jesus command - "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
As we focus on Jesus, ask for help, seek the Lord, do the work and find rest, God will grow us through whatever we are going through. As we mature and develop, we will experience hope and peace, we will find provision and perspective. God will offer protection and He will help us persevere. So today, whatever the struggle I encourage you to pause for a moment, shift your thinking and ask - "How is God growing me through what I am going through?"
Heavenly Father, I'm grateful to be your child. I know you have plans for good and a purpose for my pain. Give me eyes to see You. Give me a heart that seeks You. Give me a desire to live for You. Equip me to walk when life wants to knock me down. Humble me to ask for help. Assure me you are working even when I rest. Remind me it's ok to struggle, grieve and surrender, but don't let me forget that in my weakness you are strong. And in life's bad, you Father are always good. Thank you. In Jesus' Name, Amen.