"Hope itself is like a star; not to be seen in the sunshine of prosperity, but only to be discovered in the night of adversity." (C.H. Spurgeon)
Are you going through a time of real trial and adversity in your life?
By "real" trial and adversity, I don't mean discontinuing your satellite dish service because the economy stinks. I'm not talking about the 'sacrifice' of giving up the Range Rover, or your summer house on the lake, because times are tough.
No, I mean real adversity. Crushing trials.
Crushing adversity; such as, your spouse, your child, or your best friend just passed away after a long battle with cancer. Real adversity; such as your wife just dumped you like yesterday's garbage and ran off with another man, leaving you alone with your children. Real trials; such as losing both your parents in a horrific car crash. Real adversity; such as suffering through mental illness or a life-changing, painful medical condition, but no one can relate with what you're going through and you feel rejected and alone. Crushing trials; such as, enduring a bitter divorce and a family torn apart by sin, adultery and unfaithfulness. Crushing adversity; such as you saw your brothers in arms killed in war in the Middle East, and you yourself lost limbs, and now you're suffering through Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Crushing trials; such as your child or grandchild just committed suicide.
We can't even begin to understand what someone else is going through until we have walked in their shoes.
When you're young and strong, it's no problem to take that hill. When your marriage is rocking, you feel invincible. When your health is perfect—can't touch this. When you have a great job and plenty of money in the bank, you can kick back in the hammock with your iced tea and relax.
Having faith is easy when life is easy.
But when you are really tested—when your life, marriage, family, or health is in serious jeopardy, you really have to trust in God. When things get so bad that you can't possibly fix it by yourself—when all you have is your faith.
Hence the old saying: "You'll never know Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have."
Having faith means to trust in, believe in, to have reliance upon. As followers of Christ, it isn't about "our great faith"... since faith itself is a gift from God. It's all about Who we place our trust in. My faith is not in my faith. My faith, trust, reliance upon—is fully and only in Jesus.
Here's an account from Paul, a fellow brother in Christ, who was no stranger to trials and adversity:
“Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fasting often, in cold and nakedness.” (2 Corinthians 11:25-27)
How did Paul endure these perilous times of intense trials and suffering? When he asked God three times that a painful "thorn in the flesh" might be removed from him, God's response to Paul was:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”Paul went on to say:
"Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
When we have no strength; when we can't fix it any longer; when Jesus is all we have; then we are strong: because Christ is strong in us.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit—for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
The longer I live—the longer I walk the narrow and difficult path of following Christ—the more I'm painfully aware of just how desperately I need Jesus; every minute, of every day. Truly, without Him—I can do nothing good.
For years, throughout my life-struggles, I sought comfort and solace in men's bible study groups. And there were some good moments and friendships in those groups. We are told in scripture to study the Word.
“Study to show yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
However, if we're not careful, we can get so caught up in the intellectual 'study' of the word of God, that we miss the God of the Word altogether. The bible is not a college text book. It is the living word of God.
“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me—But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40)
The whole purpose of Jesus coming to earth and dying on the Cross was to restore intimacy between God and man. He wants us to come to Him. It's personal. He wants a relationship with you, with me. He gave His life on the Cross for that intimacy of personal relationship with us.
Don't drive yourself crazy trying to understand why she left you. Stop trying to figure out why God would let him die. You won't understand it. It won't make sense now. It may later. It may never.
God's thoughts are higher than our thoughts. His ways, higher than our ways. Only God knows why He allows things to happen in our lives. He has a purpose for allowing them to happen. Just trust Him in it.
All you can do, should do, by far the best thing to do; is call out to Him. Come to Him—that you may have life.
As a friend once put it;
"Sometimes the best place to be is flat on your back, looking up, crying out to God—"Help!"Here is an old song that really speaks to me of God's love and faithfulness to us:
“I have journeyed through the long dark night,Out on the open sea, by faith alone, sight unknown,And yet His eyes were watching me.The anchor holds, though the ship is battered,The anchor holds, though the sails are torn.
I have fallen on my knees, as I faced the raging seas,The anchor holds, in spite of the storm.I've had visions, I've had dreams,I've even held them in my hand,
But I never knew, they would slip right through,Like they were only grains of sand.I have been young, but I am older now,And there has been beauty that these eyes have seen.
But it was in the night, through the storms of my life,Oh, that's where God proved His love to meThe anchor holds, though the ship is battered,The anchor holds, though the sails are torn.
I have fallen on my knees, as I faced the raging seas,The anchor holds, in spite of the storm.”
Sometimes we can help each other. But while we may mean well, we are still imperfect human beings. The Word does tell us though, that part of the beauty of the Body of Christ is that we can comfort others who are going through the same kind of troubles that we've been through:,
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
But only Jesus can truly fill the empty places in our hearts. Those dark places of pain, loneliness, rejection, sadness, grief, depression, and hopelessness.
God has always been with me through every trial I've faced. He doesn't always take away the pain and suffering. Sometimes He does. But not often. I used to really struggle to try and understand why.
One day I cried out to Him in my desperation and said, "Lord, You can do all things! You could change us in an instant, and we would no longer sin and struggle any more. Why do You leave us in this condition?!!"
He said: "So you'll stay close to Me."
I love the picture of Jesus sleeping in the ship while His disciples are freaking out thinking they are going to perish in the tempest. But Jesus is fast asleep. After they wake Him up He rebukes the wind and waves saying, "Peace, be still." But to His disciples...His friends, He said, "why did you doubt? Oh, you of little faith."
For me the take away from this story is that we tend to freak out and worry that we wont survive the current trial we are going through, but Jesus is at rest. He is not worried. He is not freaking out. He is fully in control of the ship, the wind, the waves, the storm. And we are with Him in the ship.
There's no place I'd rather be, than here is His love.
"Peace, be still."
—God is Love, and Love Never Fails.