Life is tough; there’s no doubt about it. I’ve seen people handle adversity well and I’ve seen others fall to pieces. Some trials are tougher than others and we can’t judge people harshly not having walked in their shoes. At the same time, trials are opportunities to put the glory of God on display. If at all possible, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, we don’t want to fumble those opportunities away. How can we keep from doing just that; how can we honor God when we’re hurting? Three things.
The first thing we have to do is deal with God. No relationship is more important; how we think about God, approach God, and respond to what God is doing is our first priority. When we get that, we confirm in our hearts that He’s real. So, what do we do?
1) We have to seek Him. We do that first through prayer and we begin our prayer with praise and thanksgiving. When Job lost all he had including his family, he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Paul says that even when we ask God to help us, we do so with a heart of thanksgiving (Phil. 4:6). It’s not that we’re happy about the calamity and have to thank God for giving us a tumor. But we thank Him for His presence, wisdom, and grace in our lives.
Further, we’ll want to confess our sins; we’re told to do that when we’re sick (Jas. 5:15). We should ask God to work sanctification in our hearts; give us strength to be witnesses for Him; help us to endure the trial for our good; and deliver us according to His will. In this way we’re doing business with God, and in so doing, we’re honoring Him. Dealing with God is critical because God is the one who tests our faith, which is precious to Him, that we might be a conduit for His glory as we trust Him (1 Pet. 1:7).
We seek God through searching the Scriptures as well. We do that not necessarily to find a direct answer to all of our questions, though we may get some answers; we search the Scriptures to know God better and to know His ways. The more we know Him and His ways, the more peace we’ll have.
Of course, we must be careful not to take a mystical approach to seeking God in His Word. One time I was trying to figure out if God wanted me to accept a call to pastor Mt. Zion Church. In my daily devotion, I came across Ps. 2:6 which says, “I have set my King on my holy hill of Zion.” I thought God had spoken to me! But that’s not how to use the Scriptures. That verse is about Jesus as king or head over His people; it has nothing to do with a local church called Mt. Zion. What we want to do is understand what the Scripture says and apply it to our own hearts and lives. That’s how to honor God.
2) We have to trust Him. No matter what’s going on, we must cling to His promises; to the reality of who He is; and to what His ultimate purpose for us is, our sanctification. You honor God when you remember that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). He promises not to withhold anything from you that is good for you (Ps. 84:11). And, just as He gave manna to Israel when they needed it, He’ll give you what you need when you need it. You can trust Him.
3) We have to cling to Him. Sometimes all we can do is hang on for dear life. I know a man whose wife died a few months back. He tells me he’s so lonely he doesn’t really know what to do; but he’s hanging on to God. That’s what trust is, of course. It’s just that we don’t always understand and that some trials are really hard to bear. But, through the truth of His Word, the fellowship of His body, and the ministry of His Spirit, we can hang on; because He hangs on to us (2 Tim. 2:13).
There’s more, but that’s the first step; dealing with God. He’s real and He’s of main concern in our lives. If we don’t get our relationship with Him right, nothing else matters. He’s doing something in our lives through the pain. Remember, “We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:3-5). God uses the tough times to build His character into us. That’s why we must deal with Him, and in so doing, we get hope that does not disappoint.
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