What are you going through right now? Something tough? Something you could never have guessed just weeks ago? Something excruciating? Something uncomfortable, frustrating, annoying, lonely, terrifying, tragic, tense, confusing, trying your patience, tempting you to the limits, shutting you down?
Chances are, most of us are probably going through something right now. The truth is, I’m with you. And honestly, I’m going through more than “something” right now. I’m going through some thingS. You too? Maybe we should schedule a coffee date to talk and pray?!
Life is pregnant with difficulty, no?
Well, today, I want to discuss not so much the why of difficulties (i.e.. Why is life so difficult?), though this would make a great conversation… But I want to get practical today, and discuss how we function through these seasons.
WHEN LIFE GETS DIFFICULT
When life gets difficult, the first thing we tend to do is turn inward. Most likely, we experience some version of mourning: sadness, rage, grief, suffocating fear, deep hopelessness, etc. From here, we tend to default to self-preservation mode. We begin building walls of protection around us, however they may look. They may be formed by words, actions, inaction, fear, drawing back, sleeping more than usual, eating more than usual, fighting with others, trying to feel nothing at all…
What we’re feeling because of what’s happening or has happened can be so crazy strong, can’t it? We feel deeply. And our feelings can dictate so much of our lives (good and bad). So today, let’s talk about how we can face difficulty and suffering with grace, strength, and, especially, victory.
1. VALIDATE YOUR WOUND(S)
First, validate the wound(s). What is hurting you is real. Rather than ignore it, deny it, pretend it didn’t happen, or tell yourself you shouldn’t feel pain, recognize and/or admit that something hard has happened. If there’s a possibility that you’re viewing the situation wrong, ask the Lord to give you clarity concerning it, and then change your heart if necessary. He only tells us the truth, and if you’ll lean into Him, He’ll show you what’s real and true.
2. VALIDATE YOUR FEELINGS
Second, validate the feelings. Something hard has happened/is happening. And it’s ok to feel pain because of it. At this point, use discretion though. We humans do a lot of foolish things because of our feelings. Go to the Lord over and over again. When you have the urge to unload your feelings on a loved one, unload them on Him first! When the feelings swell again, unload them on Him again. And then again. Him first. Always. He’s always ALWAYS safe to bring our feelings to! If they’re based on false premises, He’ll gently set them right. If they’re based on true occurrences, He’ll lovingly, intimately, profoundly comfort your soul.
3. REFUSE TO BE SHUT DOWN
Third, determine not to be shut down by neither the circumstance nor your feelings about it. What the enemy desires to accomplish through the difficulties he weaves in our lives is to shut us down totally. His desire is to take us out. And in particular, take us out of our search for and faith in God. He will lie to us as long as we’ll listen and receive it. And when one lie is no longer working, he’ll craft another. He’ll do whatever he must… He’ll tempt us to settle into a less full comprehension of and relationship with God. And above all, He’ll do anything necessary to stop God’s Life flowing through us. Determine today that you won’t be shut down by your sinister enemy. You won’t be the prey pinned helpless on its back, about to be devoured.
Listen, this is one point you’re going to have to fight for. And it’s going to take the faith the enemy is trying to squander in you. Which will make it seem excruciatingly hard to muster. But what feels easy to do now (shut down), you’ll grieve the choice of later. Believe these passages with all your heart, and get up to stand firm in faith against the enemy’s schemes:
…we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;… (2 Cor. 4:8-9)
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith… (1 Peter 5:8-9)
4. FIX YOUR EYES ON JESUS
Fourth, if you see that you currently are being pinned down by our enemy, have faith. Now is the perfect time to take your eyes off your problem, yourself, your fear, your feelings, etc, and fix them hard on Jesus. In your heart of hearts, cling to Him. Let His strength, tenderness, compassion, and love wash over you. Believe that He sees you, He understands the difficulty, He loves you deeply (even if the difficulty is your fault), He’s with you, and—perhaps most wonderful of all—He’s in you. Believe that He is your solution, your comfort, your strength, your wisdom, your peace, your Life for your circumstance. He’s your all in all.
5. ENTRUST YOUR DIFFICULTY TO HIM
Fifth, entrust your difficult season into His hands. God is for you! He is not against you! Did you know that? I didn’t always know that. It might seem minor, but realizing this changed my life.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom. 8:31)
Since God is on your side, and for your greatest good, you can entrust your circumstances, your future, and your vulnerable heart to Him. Entrusting may cause you to wait, but if so, wait on Him. Stretch out your tight grip before God, and let everything go… into His loving hands. He’s already got this, in case you don’t know. And He’s good. And He’s love. And He has what it’ll take.
Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator… (1 Peter 4:19)
6. ABIDE IN CHRIST
Sixth, abide in Him. Your identity IN Christ changes everything! Chances are, even after you’ve entrusted it all to Him, life will continue to be difficult. You may have a new peace about how things will unravel, but you’ll likely still face difficulty and temptation in the day to day. To face life any day of the year, the Christian must live abiding in Christ. This is really how we raise to standing firm against the enemy! Abiding in Christ involves counting on Christ’s identity. It means daring to live convinced you’re IN Christ now—the enemy having no power over you (as it has no power over Him), and Christ’s life having all power in you (as He has been given all authority in heaven and on earth). It means drawing everything you need from HIM. Not striving to get His life in yours, but trusting you already have it! Abiding in Christ only happens by FAITH in the facts of who you now are in Christ! Dwell on Galatians 2:20 for a moment:
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Abiding is not a one-time thing, or a thing we do only when we feel the pressures of life. God calls the Christian to perseverence! The original Greek word for perseverance can be broken down literally to mean “abiding under”. Under every circumstance (good or bad), we remain abiding. We press on toward the goal of fully embodying Christ. “Attaining to the resurrection of the dead”, as Paul said it. Of reaching the completed state. Not that we’ve already attained it or taken hold of it though, but we press on!
…for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. (Phil 3:8-12)
WHAT SUFFERING IS ABOUT
This is really what all suffering is about. And because increasing in the fullness of Christ and in fellowship with Him is such a blessed, wonderful thing, it is possible to have joy in the midst of suffering! To be even thankful for our suffering! Because God is working out an eternal weight of glory in us! And simultaneously, we’re growing in wonderful loving relationship with Him!
…now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory… (1 Peter 1:6-9)
Remember friends, if we’re not responding in the midst of suffering in the ways laid out above, we’ll neither experience intimate fellowship with Jesus, nor increasing fullness of glory within. We’ll simply be defeated by our enemy. And the good point of suffering will be wasted on us.
Today, if you’re facing something, be honest about it, but press on! Refuse to be shut down, fixing your eyes on Jesus, entrusting yourself to Him, and abiding without end.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)