In a time of economic downturn even believers can become fearful, as many struggle financially and some have even lost their jobs. In 28 years of marriage, Matt and I have received many blessings and victories. Yet, we’ve also experienced countless trials and tough times. It is during the tough times, when our faith has been tested, that we have seen God come through in amazing ways so that we could take none of the credit and all the glory belonged to Him.
When we face hard times, there is always a “pressing through” that is painful and discouraging to walk. In the midst of it, it’s hard to see God at work. We are so quick to fall into doubt and fear, asking, “Where is God in all of this?”
If you are in a difficult place and need a miracle from God, I want to encourage you to not lose heart. This is JUST the place where the door is wide open for you to see Him come through for you in a mighty way. There have been many times when I have said to God, “You sure must think I can handle a lot,” when I was sure it was more than I could bear. Yet, with His help, I made it through to the other side.
In tough times, we face two choices: be angry at God, OR, draw closer to God. Hebrews 7:25 says, “…He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Jesus is the one who makes intercession for us, that is, He acts on our behalf before His Father, the Lord God Almighty. Jesus acts on our behalf when we draw near to Him.
I like the saying, “You can become bitter or better.” The choice is always up to us. Sometimes, halfway through a trial, our frame of mind will change from one state to the other. It is of course best to work on “becoming better” rather than allowing ourselves to become bitter. Yet, if you find yourself becoming bitter, there is hope in Christ. It takes repentance, admitting that we have been wrong, and then choosing to turn in a new direction with God’s help.
James 4:8 tells us, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” Often in times of trial, I have had to take time to repent to God for my bad attitude, or for doubting Him instead of trusting Him. He is always faithful to forgive us and cleanse us. It takes recognizing that we are weak and He is all-powerful, but it also takes seeing that He loves us, even when we don’t endure a trial with perfect behavior. He isn’t trying to punish us. I have seen for myself that if I will submit my attitude to God, He will turn my outlook around and I will find it easier to endure a trial. Eventually, with His help, I will begin to see a way out of the struggle.
In Psalm 31:1-4, King David gives us a wonderful example to follow: “In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me! Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me! For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me; you take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge.”
If we think God is punishing us, or He has something against us, this false belief will prevent us from turning to Him. We will be too afraid to draw close to Him. I find that these false thoughts also stir up confusion. You wonder, “Is God done being mad? Is the punishment enough now? I don’t know what God’s trying to teach me, have I learned what I’m supposed to learn?” The Psalms and other books of the Bible contain many examples of times when someone experienced such troubled thoughts, and they ring true for those who are going through a time of difficulty. Psalm 107:6 tells us, “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress.” (Read the entire 42nd Psalm)
So often, we try to figure out everything before the trial ends. Yet typically, it is not until we are past the trial that we are able to see a purpose, or to understand that we have learned something of value. We see so much more clearly afterward. During a trial, we can see only part of the situation. Our vision is limited. God may speak to us during our struggle, but He usually only gives us a part of what we want to see and know. I believe this is because He wants us to keep looking to Him, trusting in His guidance and not in our own limited abilities.
I want to encourage you to look for the little things, the small morsels of understanding as you walk in the midst of your struggle. God is actively moving and speaking and revealing Himself all along. We just have to let our eyes see and our minds understand the little miracles He sends our way. I encourage you to journal everything, with dates, so you can keep track of the praises along the way. After the trial, when you read back through your journal, you will see God in every step of your journey.
There have been many times when I have been struggling and not able to see a way out, when a good friend would send me a “word from the Lord” that was just in time and so uplifting for me. First Corinthians 14:1 teaches us, “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” I have often held on to that special word to carry me through very dark times. Eventually, I would see God’s word fulfilled, but during the trial, my faith would be increased as I held on to the hope of victory before it came.
Jesus promised us that we WILL have trials and tribulations, but HE has overcome the world (John 16:33). HE has given us HIS overcoming power! In NO WAY does God mean for us to be defeated! Satan and his demons long to steal, kill and destroy, to defeat us every chance they can. We must recognize that there are forces of darkness fighting against us. We are in a spiritual battle. So know this: that God intends for you and me to be victorious overcomers so we can help others to also be victorious.
The Apostle Paul writes, “In all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)
Yes, while going through a difficult trial it can seem as though the Lord is far away, that the difficulty has somehow separated us from God. But His word says nothing can separate us from His love. He IS love and He is always with us no matter what we may be facing.
Maybe someone close to you who is enduring a time of great difficulty. This can be a great opportunity for you to stand with that person, to pray with them and see them through the trial. We are not meant to live the Christian life alone. We are to walk together, encouraging one another in our faith. So let’s not encourage doubt and unbelief when someone is struggling. Let’s not agree with their negativity or bitterness. Let’s speak words of life and encouragement. Let’s speak scriptures that will build up their faith to understand and believe that God IS making a way for them because He loves them and is for them, not against them. More than ever, we need to support and encourage one another.
Father God, I thank you that your word is our guide through every path of life and it especially helps me when I am struggling. Thank you for your great love and mercy that never fail to comfort me, even when I can’t see what’s ahead. Help me to trust you in everything and to believe that You are for me and that You are making a way of escape for me. I can take comfort in knowing that You know all about my struggles and my weaknesses and you WILL see me through to victory.
In Jesus’ Holy name I pray, Amen.
By Sherry McPherson | December 1, 2008 11:53 am |
The title of this message is taken from James 1:2-4, “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.”
The first time I read these verses I couldn’t see how doing this could be possible. As life moved along, I endured many difficult trials, and I’ll admit I wasn’t successful in “counting it ALL joy” as James instructs. But before you agree whole-heartedly let me say that I believe there is something in “counting it all joy” that is possible for us to walk in. Let me start by sharing a personal experience:
I was lying on a small cot in the hospital room near the bed where our three-year old son, Mathew, lay sound asleep. Just two months after turning three, our first-born son began having seizures. After several of these episodes, a neurologist ordered E.E.G.s, brain scans and medications. This particular night was spent in the hospital after Mathew had endured numerous tests, all showing a normal brain.
I lay there unable to sleep, my heart racing from fear, my mind cluttered with doubt, confusion and the dreadful “what ifs.” In the midst of the turmoil, I uttered desperate prayers, crying out to the Lord for help, for mercy, for an answer. Suddenly, I heard a sound that seemed to envelope my entire head where I lay. It was unlike anything I had ever heard. It didn’t frighten me. There was a settling peace within the sound. It was like the sound of what I would imagine Angel wings making as they fluttered back and forth. As I heard this sound, a strong presence of the Lord came over every part of me and I heard a voice speak softly, “Mathew is going to be fine.” At that point I was in a soft whirl-wind of peace that settled everything in me, and I drifted off to sleep.
But the trial of seizures continued for seven long months, testing our faith, our spiritual strength, and our commitment to following God. Testing us more than anything we’d ever experienced before or since. I wondered, “Is there something we’re going to gain from this? Lord what do you want us to learn? Can we hurry up and learn it and bring this whole thing to an end?”
Medication after medication was tried with no success. The seizures increased, and toward the end, Mathew was seizing every few seconds. At this point, the Neurologist gave us a devastating prognosis: “I think your son has a rare brain disease and won’t live past the age of five.” Matt and I had been claiming promises in God’s word, we had been feeding ourselves with the Holy Scriptures, and when the doctor announced his diagnosis, my first thoughts went to these words, “I will not believe the report of man, I will believe the report of the Lord.” I remembered those soft words spoken to me in the hospital, as well as many scriptures of promise.
A few years before, I had experienced God’s divine healing in my own body, so as Mathew’s condition grew worse, everything in me was clinging to the promise, “God’s going to heal Mathew.” Even though I had all of this, I still had many opportunities to doubt those words. We are so moved by what we see and it is difficult to “Speak to that which is not as though it were.”
Matt and I had many godly people around us praying for us and Mathew, believing for God to heal Mathew. We are so grateful for such tremendous support. At the end of the seventh month, there was breakthrough, and Mathew was healed. Leading up to Mathew’s healing, we had begun seeing another Doctor. He not only confirmed the healing, but still says to this day, “God healed your son.”
Throughout this very difficult trial, we turned to God’s Word and to worship. While Matt was at work and I was home dealing with the situation, in order to avoid giving in to fear, I had to focus on God’s Word and lift up praises with worship and singing. Before putting Mathew to bed at night, I would read the Bible to him and then he and I would worship the Lord together. Many times we would be engulfed in God’s presence as we lifted up our “sacrifices of praise.” Mathew’s small hands would be lifted up as he worshiped in-between seizures. Isaiah 61 begins, “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion, to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit, that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.” These words were quoted by Jesus in Luke 4:18-19.
The ultimate test for us came before Mathew was healed. Matt and I had to come to the commitment that even if God doesn’t heal Mathew, we would still serve Him. It was just days after we made this commitment that everything turned in another direction toward Mathew’s healing. Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.” We couldn’t rejoice in our son’s suffering, but we could rejoice in God and who He is in our situation. This was powerful for us to grasp. Matt and I received great encouragement from many of the Psalms. I love the words in Psalm 44:1-2, “Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; he is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge. . . .” We felt the battle of the enemy of our souls. Satan wanted us to give up and give in and lose hope.
What I love about King David is he was so real and honest about his emotions and struggles. I could relate to his words in these verses: “Give ear to my prayer, O God, and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy! Attend to me, and answer me; I am restless in my complaint and I moan, because of the noise of the enemy. . .My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me. And I say, Oh that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; I would hurry and find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest. But I call to God, and the Lord will save me. Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, he hears my voice. He redeems my soul in safety from the battle that I wage, for many are arrayed against me.” (Ps.55) “Oh God, save me, by your name, and vindicate me by your might. O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth. Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life. He will return the evil to my enemies; in your faithfulness put an end to them. I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good. For he has delivered me from every trouble and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies.” (Ps. 54)
What I appreciate about David is that he was honest about how he felt and what he was thinking, but he always came back to praising God and remembering His goodness to him.
It’s true that this life can dish out tough times where we are left with a desperation for God to send the breakthrough, our victory. Matt and I had many victories within our own hearts before Mathew was healed physically. We had spiritual surgery within us in the trial and testing. And we can “Count it ALL joy,” knowing that God will work good things out of every situation and He is ever working within us to make us more like Him.
Dear Heavenly Father, you are so wise, all knowing, you know everything about us and you know what needs to be rooted out and what needs to be formed in us. Please help us in these times of trial and testing of our faith that steadfastness will be produced in us and we will be complete, lacking nothing in YOU. Help us to never go back to who we were so we can become all that you want us to become. Thank you that we are never alone, that you are with us helping us through every hardship. Help us to stand on your Word and promises and to know that You are faithful and You will see us through.
We ask this all in the blessed name of Jesus,
*All scripture references are from the English Standard Version
By Sherry McPherson | July 24, 2008 9:04 pm |
The Eagle soars upon the wind,
High with so much ease.
If I could learn the spirit’s wind
I could fly like He.
A river flows with current set,
Over rocks and sand.
If I could learn the Spirit’s flow,
Through anything, I’d stand.
The stars at night, all held in place,
By powers we cannot see,
And every morning the sun will rise,
If I could put my trust in God
As much as earth and sky,
I would never fail to see
His Spirit soaring high!
His hand of grace, His heart of love,
His ever present care,
I would live each moment through,
Knowing that He’s there.
But I failed today and yesterday,
And the day before.
I failed to trust Him with my all,
The doubt has come once more!
When my life’s in the Father’s hand
Why would doubt prevail?
The enemy of heart and soul,
There to make me fail!
But I turn my eyes once again
To see and to believe,
That God is really big enough
And my heart CAN receive…
His grace, His love, His present care
That He has here for me.
Could it be that I must choose
To trust when I can’t see?
And place my hand upon faith’s door,
And live a life that’s free!
By Sherry McPherson | July 21, 2008 11:48 am |