I refer to the Christian life as a journey because each believer/follower of Christ is on a journey with Christ. In our journey there are moments of joy and peace but also times of darkness, discouragement, and soul crushing silence from God. So much of what I see written is all about the “good” and “happy” things. We tend to forget about our fellow pilgrims who are struggling in a dark season.
As I write these words to you, I am thinking about the souls who are experiencing a time of grief, difficulty, or loss. When I encounter someone in a fiery trial/difficulty and want to encourage them, I find simple platitudes and “feel better” advice to be lacking and insensitive to the hurting. So what can we consider ourselves and encourage others when dreams come crashing down, and life becomes difficult?
The answer centers itself in abandoning self to God. When encouraging a person facing difficulties, we can help others:
- Verbalize difficult emotions before God in prayer. Pick a Psalm that matches the situation or emotion(s) and use it as a prayer template, and pray together!
2. Practice active listening focusing on the present moment and feelings. Offer your time to be emotionally present.
3. This is the time to dig deep into His Word– seeking applicable truth. Share relevant truth when appropriate–read scriptures together.
4. Finally, turn focus away from this world and it’s fleeting pleasure(s) and troubles to consider God and the joys of eternity with Him! Read aloud and pray God’s promises and truths! Listen and recite words to Jesus Paid it All, My Hope is Built On Nothing less, Blessed Assurance, and other applicable hymns.
God speaks even in our grief! Think about Jesus, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. See article below about why Jesus Wept
Here’s what Jesus was doing and revealing in this situation:
We should communicate our own pain and difficulties to God. We best minister to others by walking with them through their times of grief and loss. Consider how Jesus interacted with Mary and Martha.
All quotes in this article are from Larry Crabb: Shattered Dreams: God’s Unexpected Path to Joy unless cited otherwise.
“The search to discover God requires that we (1). abandon ourselves, that (2). we give up control of what matters most, and that (3). we place our confidence in Someone we cannot manage. These requirements are vital as they are difficult”
Who are you trusting yourself to? Are you trusting in your own understanding and wisdom for life? What happens when your situation exceeds your abilities? This is an opportunity to trust and appreciate God more! We all know that it’s easier to trust and obey God when things are going well. Who is in control of your life? What is life all about?
Of all the many idols that snare mortals, self reliance is the most dangerous. When we can’t understand God and then begin to try to figure out things on our own/or make things happen apart from Him! Abraham and Moses made these mistakes. Saul lost dynastic rule because he wouldn’t wait on Samuel! God’s Word includes these narratives to show us the folly of self action apart from God.
Likewise, we err when we totally focus ourselves on our mortal lives. How much do we invest in our “earthly” life while neglecting our “spiritual” life and journey with God? Why might God send difficulties and trials? He exercises Divine Mercy in working to refocus us–to get us to look to Him for True, Abundant Life–more than natural life can possibly give us!
Confidence in God as we work through the rubble
Larry makes the point that “confidence in God is not best described as a pleasant emotional experience.” Confidence in God requires us acknowledging Him and being patient. We can’t always feel God’s presence but that doesn’t mean He isn’t near us or working behind the scenes! He adds, “the presence of God is not naturally discerned. But as we abandon ourselves more to Him. . . a confidence emerges, a sense of His Presence, that only the awakened spiritual capacities of the soul can identify.” We can be confident of God through His Holy Spirit. God uses our broken dreams and pain to alert us to the need to desire Him above all else. We have to be aware of this “deeper desire for God” in order for us open our souls to receive.
We can be encouraged in knowing that God is working in our pain and weakness(es) to cause us to “do whatever it takes to create an awareness of space in our souls that only He can fill.” Happy people fill their lives with whatever or whomever makes them happy. Difficult times shatter our false, shallow happiness and beckons us to seek Someone bigger and better than that which the world offers.
The saints of the Bible (Hebrews Chapter 11) turned away from the world and it’s fleeting pleasures/happiness because they desired God more. Being happy and content in anyone or anything apart from God is a dangerous place to dwell. Is it possible that God love for us moves Him to act when we are astray? Scripture teaches that God seeks us first and creates faith in us through working through events/setting of our lives.
What if Abraham had been content to remain in Ur? What if Moses had contented himself shepherding sheep in the desert? What if the disciples had went back to their old lives and didn’t share the Good News? The main point is that God called each of the above to Himself and none of their lives were easy, comfortable, completely successful, or appreciated!
Why doesn’t God just eliminate all suffering and make things “right” immediately
God has something better for us than an easy, trouble-free existence! God works to draw us closer to Himself and to work through our lives to love and serve others. We truly don’t desire God properly when we are focused and content on lesser things. God’s desire is for us to desire Him above all else. God doesn’t leave us contented on the lesser things!
May God increase your desire for Him! The best thing that can ever happen to us is anything that causes us to long for Him more! Remember that God doesn’t waste our pain! David Mathis describes this in his blog post:
For Christ’s glory and to encourage you to desire Him more, I write these words