A couple of years ago, I found myself struggling. I found my faith and trust in God decrease and increase hugely within a 24-hour time period. It seemed like all of a sudden I went from believing in God and His Word to a strong sense of hopelessness. Everything I’d built my life on moved from feeling very close to very far away.
I guess it’s fair to say I’m a church kid. I love the Church, I love community and I love God. I’ve been part of the Church my life, but my Christian faith has been through phases and seasons.
If you’ve been around Christian culture long, you know we have language for this: mountaintops and valleys. We all know that’s just the way it is. Much of life is out of our control, and these seasons come and go. We all have these stages with God that shape our faith and who we are today.
But somehow we still try to control everything, especially when it comes to parts of life that involve struggles and trials. I’m learning more and more that my reactions toward trials become some of the most shaping experience in life.
Most of us run away when trouble comes because we haven’t prepared to react to this with hope and strength. And that’s because it’s hard to prepare for trials when you’re in the middle of them. But it’s a whole other thing to prepare for it beforehand.
If you’re like me, you tend to let your feelings and experiences dictate how you react to trials in your lives, and that’s a dangerous thing. But if we choose to let our “good” times shape who we are in the “hard” times, we will form a much stronger foundation to build our lives upon. Jesus is so much bigger than whatever we’re feeling and so we need to let our faith be shaped by who He is—and not how we feel.
Three ways to find hope in the midst of trials
1. Even Jesus saw beyond Himself.
Jesus knew His “why” behind all of His actions and He was determined to do the will of His Father and nothing else. Why did Jesus, the Savior Himself, have to endure pain? He could’ve just sent a fire, a flood or something else to save Him, but He didn’t. Why is that? Because Jesus knew that this was ultimately not about Him. It was and still is about the Father and His will.
I believe this is the same mindset that we need today. If you believe that your life is all about how YOU can advance, how YOU can take the next step etc. then I believe you need to reshape that perspective. Obviously God wants you to dream and develop your strengths and skills but in the end it’s all about doing His will. The only reason that Jesus could endure the horrific pain before and during the crucifixion was because He saw beyond Himself even in the midst of terrible trials.
Joel Houston, worship leader and co-pastor of Hillsong NYC, puts it like this: “God wants the inadequate you, the one who doesn’t measure up, the one who’s been hurt and abused, the one who doesn’t know what he’s doing in life, the one who’s dying on the inside, the one who’s dying on the outside—because it’s all about HIM and not about YOU.” I love this.
2. You’re not alone.
As cliché as it might sound, you’re not alone in this. I honestly believe that’s an important fact to realize. We live in a more and more individualistic world where it’s all about “me, me, me” and being as exclusive as we possibly can, but we as Christians are not called to be selfish and individualistic but instead to be of community. And in that community, we are to share with one another. The fellowship of the believers in Acts 2 sets an honest example of how we are to have fellowship today.
Of course, you can have a movie night with your friends, go on a picnic with your classmates or go swimming with your best bud, but the essential part is not what you’re doing in fellowship rather the authenticity behind it. Authenticity is everything when it comes to relationships and community. Find people who are behind you—on mountaintops and through valleys. They’re important. 1 Samuel 14:14 talks about how important it is to have people behind you no matter what. Read it.
3. Declare the resurrection of Jesus over your life every single day.
The Bible talks about persevering under trial, as this is one of the greatest and most powerful declarations of your love for Jesus. As we’ve already talked about this is hard to do when you’re in the midst of trials, which means you have to build that foundation before these trials occur.
This is always a lot easier said than done, I know, but if we don’t tell ourselves to actually prepare for the trials, how are we supposed to remain faithful in the midst of it? Have confidence in the resurrection and the hope that’s within it. The resurrection is always stronger than whatever you’re facing.
Timothy Keller puts it like this: “It doesn’t matter how dark your life is right now—because of the resurrection, light will come.” It’s not in your hands to control the trials of tomorrow but you can always choose to declare truth over yourself today. Jesus never said it would be easy to follow Him—in fact, He actually said the opposite. He promised, however, that He would never leave us.
So hey, I don’t even care if you’re approaching this through Bible studies, worship sessions, prayer or whatever—I’m just here to tell you it’s important that you do.