We all go through tough times, some tougher than others. For myself, I never really had to grow up with some devastating life event that threatened to pull me away from God, but as I’ve gotten old my faith as seen me through many up’s and down’s. As teenagers, you want to be growing constantly, getting stronger each day in the spirit, so that when tough times arrive you will be strong in spirit and full of Grace.
God Sees Our Pain
When we first face our fears and the struggles of a tough situation, it helps just knowing someone is there. Whether that’s a parents, a sibling, a church leader, or a friend, we’re designed to lean on other people. As Christians, it’s just as important to understand that God sees our pain.
Take the Hebrew people in Exodus, for example. When speaking to Moses, God makes it abundantly clear that he saw the people’s pain.
Adonai said, “I have seen how my people are being oppressed in Egypt and heard their cry for release from their slavemasters, because I know their pain. (Exodus 3:7)
We all know the story of Exodus and know what amazing things God did for the Hebrew people. All of that started with God realizing the pain of the Jews and setting a plan in action that would further his glory. Likewise, when we find ourselves in tough situations, we must remember that we do not know the plans God is setting in motion. Just because we don’t see relief doesn’t mean God doesn’t see us and it definitely doesn’t mean that there isn’t something amazing God is about to do in our sorrow.
Be Encouraged and Stay Strong
Let’s consider who suffered tremendously and showed tremendous faith.
Paul was a man who faced many, many trials in his life. Beginning as someone who gained statue and popularity as a ruthless Christian “hunter”, he saw Christ and knew that grace was king over all.
This faith would be put to the test time and time again during his ministries. Paul was imprisoned, beaten, and eventually killed for his beliefs. The entire time he affixed his eyes on Christ and was encouraged by his faith. This can be seen in his introduction to 2 Corinthians.
Praised be God, Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, compassionate Father, God of all encouragement and comfort; who encourages us in all our trials, so that we can encourage others in whatever trials they may be undergoing with the encouragement we ourselves have received from God.
For just as the Messiah’s sufferings overflow into us, so through the Messiah our encouragement also overflows. So if we undergo trials, it is for your encouragement and deliverance; and if we are encouraged, that should encourage you when you have to endure sufferings like those we are experiencing. Moreover, our hope for you remains staunch, because we know that as you share in the sufferings, you will also share in the encouragement. (2 Corinthians 1:3-7)
Paul tells us a couple of things about suffering. We’re going to go in reverse order that Paul states them.
First, when we are unified with Christ through grace, we become tapped into a source of power and strength that we can’t even imagine. We get our strength from two things: Christ and the body of believers. In verse 5, Paul talks about the encouragement of Christ flowing through us. We know that through the Holy Spirit, we are never further than a prayer away from the same God who parted seas, flooded the earth, and lit mountains on fire. Whatever you’re going through is probably smaller than that. We also know that when we are unified with Christ, we become unified with everyone else who has unified with Christ. It’s like Jesus specifically designed our unification with God to be social; we aren’t meant to be believers in our own little corners. We are here to encourage and strengthen one another and something the vehicle Jesus uses to encourage us are other believers.
Second, he tells us that those who don’t know Christ, and those who are weaker Christians, look at us when we go through tough times. It’s like when someone describes a child around an older sibling. Children watch their siblings and pick up a lot of habits or behaviors by watching others. If they see their older sibling throwing things when they get mad, the child is likely to do the same. When we go through tough times, those who don’t know Christ and younger Christians are like children watching us to see if “all this Jesus stuff is really true”. From an earthly perspective it makes sense because it’s easy to be “churchy” when you don’t really have any stress in your life. When tragedy strikes, people get to see what you really value. It becomes a huge opportunity to glorify God through your pain, but we have to be mindful of how we react to our circumstances.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
Regardless of how hard the trial may be that we are going through, it is critical that we remember that whatever we face on earth is only temporary and pales in comparison to the awesomeness of God (Romans 8:18). This is both encouraging and humbling.
It encourages us because we know there is something far grander than anything we may experience now. We know that we may lose our lives today and still call ourselves victors over death. The entire world can turn from us and we would still have the approval of a mighty, might God. No matter what may befall us, we have the ultimate victory through Christ’s death on the cross.
At the same time, we are humbled in our knowledge that our life circumstances are so much smaller than a mighty, mighty God. Sometimes our worry comes from a place of weakness, but other times it begins to give way to disbelief. Consider Job. Job suffered horribly at the hands of Satan. While Job never turned from God, he did begin to feel sorry for himself. God wants us to call out to him for help and strength, but when we sit there and act like our suffering is too great for God, it’s like we’re insulting God’s power. That’s probably why God reacted so harshly to Job when he started thinking his suffering was stronger than God’s power to save…
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell me, if you know so much.
Who determined its dimensions
and stretched out the surveying line?
What supports its foundations,
and who laid its cornerstone
as the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?
“Who kept the sea inside its boundaries
as it burst from the womb,
and as I clothed it with clouds
and wrapped it in thick darkness?
For I locked it behind barred gates,
limiting its shores.
I said, ‘This far and no farther will you come.
Here your proud waves must stop!’
“Have you ever commanded the morning to appear
and caused the dawn to rise in the east?
Have you made daylight spread to the ends of the earth,
to bring an end to the night’s wickedness?
As the light approaches,
the earth takes shape like clay pressed beneath a seal;
it is robed in brilliant colors.
The light disturbs the wicked
and stops the arm that is raised in violence. (Job 38:4-15)
In God’s response to Job, he makes it abundantly clear that even when things look their worse, we would be wise to never question God’s power and his ability to save us from whatever we are going through. God’s plan may involve saving you from your current circumstances, it may involve opening new doors you never new could be opened, or it might involve needing you to endure for just a little bit longer in whatever you are struggling with. Regardless of the circumstances, we must trust in God’s justice and God’s plan. Lean on the love and grace of Christ for strength and surround ourselves with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. When we enshroud ourselves in God’s glory while we suffer in pain, that’s often times when God is able to do the biggest most unbelievable things.