Do not worry about tomorrow. Each day has enough suffering of its own. ~ Jesus
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about suffering. Our family has been enduring some trials for a season and this has me reflecting on the way endurance brings about unexpected blessings. Like you, I’d rather tap out and avoid the pain. Yet, when I look at the deeper good God has produced through this hardship, I can’t help but honor the challenges and the way He has used them to produce growth, dependence, and patience, among other things.
When Jesus’ disciples encountered a man who had been born blind, they asked the question, “Who sinned? This man or his parents?” (John 9:2)
Someone’s Got to Take the Blame
Isn’t that often our innermost thought?: “Who sinned?” We want to blame ourselves or someone else when we aren’t experiencing, health, wealth, and popularity.
We don’t expect trials. Instead we avoid them like the plague, thinking, “If I have enough faith, live well, and make the right choices, I’ll avoid suffering.” Our comfort-driven mentality is a set-up. Worse than that, we often falsely believe, “If God loves me, He’ll spare me any suffering.”
When relationships fail, circumstances overwhelm us, or our inner world becomes unsettled, we might try to blame ourselves, someone else, or God. I sure have been there. I’m learning, though, to look beyond the moment to the larger picture. God, being loving and redemptive, takes tragic circumstances and brings good from them. God knew that this blind man would meet Jesus and that encounter would lead to healing. He knows where each of our trials will lead us as well.
Sometimes God takes awful circumstances and uses them to display His works – to show His love and to make His presence known to us and those around us. When Jesus’ movement in the midst of our suffering is tangible, it speaks volumes.
Jesus didn’t leave us with a hopeless statement as the final word. He adds, “Take heart. I have overcome the world.” Through our abiding relationship with Him and the power of the cross, we are more than conquerors.
In the face of external trials or internal struggles, I have some helpful “go to” strategies:
I Cast My Cares on Him Because He Cares for Me
In the Psalms we are shown the holy practice of bringing every emotion to God in prayer. He honors the lament of his people. Our loving Father wants us to bring our fears, burdens, anger and despair to Him. As we wrestle through these feelings with Him, we develop greater intimacy and dependence. The Psalms give us a common ground and words to express our aching heart. In Scripture we are reminded of God’s goodness and faithfulness.
I Look to the Day at Hand
Jesus knows we are human. We can plan and think ahead, but in times of trouble, and as a usual habit of the mind, dabbling in the future is not really our place. God will meet us each day with both His presence and His provision. Whenever we fear, we often project the worst case scenario. Did you ever notice how thoughts of God’s goodness are rarely included in your projection? I often remind myself, “Today is Monday, June 9th” … or whatever day it is. I tell myself to stay in that day – the day the Lord made. When I reduce my problem down to the day at hand, it invariably is manageable.
I Fix My Eyes Above where My Real Life is Hidden with Jesus
I used to run long distances. Whenever I had a lag in my energy, I would think about the next milestone. I would take my mind off the current lack of stamina and fix my eyes ahead. Paul reminds us that our real life – the one Jesus died to procure for us – is in heaven, not in the details of this earth. Our life is with Him. Someday we will be face to face with Him for eternity. Meanwhile, in the here and now, the kingdom of Heaven is at hand. We have the Holy Spirit. We have complete, unhindered access to the Father. Peter sank when he took his eyes off Jesus while attempting to stroll on water. When we fix our eyes on Jesus instead of the tumultuous waves around us, we rise above the circumstances that otherwise threaten to drown us.
I Rely on the Body of Christ
Christianity isn’t a solo mission. Though the practice of solitude is a beautiful component of any healthy walk with Jesus, we don’t walk alone. God gave us the church as a whole. When I’m in deep yogurt, I reach out. Sometimes it is an act of my will to call a friend, ask for prayer or share my heart. I feel like pulling the covers up and coping in the quiet of my heart and mind, but in dark times, I need you. We need one another. Reaching out gives us the ability to share our burdens and receive from Jesus through those who love Him.
I Cut Back on Commitments
Making room in my schedule gives me room to grieve, rest or think about alternatives in my difficult circumstances. We need to operate at less than 100% when we are burdened or hurting because suffering depletes our usual energy and reserves. God tells us to cease striving and know He is God. When a good portion of our brain is wrapped up in difficult emotions, we have to step back and say, “no.” Also, cutting back reminds me the world doesn’t rotate around me. I am allowed to quietly come to Him and take His easy yoke where I find healing and renewal.
Whatever trial you are facing right now, I hope you have found both encouragement and some practical ideas to help you hang on through the hurt while drawing nearer to God in the process. You are not alone. I would love to pray for you as you walk through challenges or pain.
This post was originally shared in 2016. I have rewritten it, changing some things, and am sharing it today to bless anyone who is struggling through trials and needs a dose of hope to help them through.