Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Bo Stern's new book, Beautiful Battlefields (NavPress, 2013).
Life in this fallen world is full of suffering that tests our faith in God – from illness and financial crises to broken relationships and the loss of dreams. You can do more than just try to get through these battles, however: You can emerge from them with stronger faith.
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Here’s how you can rely on God to help you win the battles you face in life:
Discover beauty that only comes from battles. One of the most valuable results of engaging in battles is finding beautiful blessings hidden within the struggles that you couldn’t find any other way. Choose to look at the battles you’re facing from a positive perspective, expecting to discover blessings beyond the pain.
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Keep in mind that God has good purposes for the suffering He allows to enter your life. While God never causes suffering, He does allow everyone in this fallen world to experience it whenever doing so will accomplish good purposes in their lives. Ask God to show you the good purposes behind the suffering He let enter your life, and to help you learn whatever lessons He wants you to learn through your suffering, so you can emerge from it with stronger faith. Keep in mind that God often uses your suffering to fulfill good purposes not just in your own life, but also in the lives of other people who are watching to see how you’ll respond to it and how God works in your life as a result.
Trust God day by day to provide what you need. Follow Jesus’ advice to live one day at a time. Rather than worrying about what you anticipate you’ll need far into the future, rely on God to faithfully provide what you need every day as each day arrives. God wants you to walk closely beside Him daily, so He provides for you on a daily basis to encourage you to focus on developing a closer relationship with Him every day.
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Notice how your battles reveal God’s strength. Trusting God to fight for you during your battles helps you learn how strong He really is. Unless you’re faced with battles that go beyond your own ability to fight, you’ll never see God’s power at work in ways that will grow your faith. Expect God to empower you to face any battle, because He is more than strong enough for any challenge you’ll ever face.
Develop greater endurance. If you don’t try to escape from your suffering while it’s God’s will for you to endure it, you’ll develop endurance during your time on the battlefields of life. Endurance will then produce character in you, which will in turn produce hope.
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Ask God to give you an eternal perspective on the battles you’re fighting right now. Pray for the ability to understand the full significance of the challenging events that are currently happening in your life. Approach your battles with an eternal perspective in mind, willing to take whatever risks of obedience God calls you to take because you believe that doing so will be worthwhile in the end.
Discover the blessings of sorrow. Rather than trying to avoid the sorrow that you encounter during battles, discover the blessings that can result from experiencing sorrow. Realize that sorrow: connects you to the comfort of God’s presence, helps you learn more about Jesus’ compassionate heart for a suffering world, and makes you more effective as you minister to other people who are suffering.
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Fasten your heart to God’s love. Don’t let your suffering obscure your ability to experience God’s great love for you. In every situation (no matter how difficult), you can still know that God loves you completely and unconditionally. Rather than using your circumstances as a way to try to measure God’s love for you, gauge God’s love for you on the basis of Jesus’ ultimate for you in the cross. Keep in mind that God doesn’t just give love; He actually is love, and you can always count on His love in your life.
Make obedience your battle strategy. The most effective battle strategy in every situation is simply obeying whatever God leads you to do next. Choosing to obey, without delay, strengthens your dependence on God and gives you access to supernatural resources and results that have eternal value.
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Enlist an army of friends to help you. Ask God to help you identify friends whom you can trust to encourage and support you during your battles. Caring, trustworthy friends help keep you honest, see the big picture during your struggles, and share your burdens to lighten your load. Rather than assuming that your friends know how to help you, ask them for the specific types of help you need. Try to stay away from people who tear you down and surround yourself with people who strengthen you.
Be generous even while you’re suffering. If you answer God’s call to be generous all the time – even in the midst of difficult circumstances – you’ll experience God’s blessings as a result. Choose to be generous with your resources (time, money, and energy) and to freely give other people grace, mercy, and forgiveness. As you bless others, God will bless you.
Find refuge in God’s Word. Turn to the Bible – God’s Word – to reliably guide you to the truth during your battles. While your circumstances are constantly changing, the Bible remains the same. You can always count on God to speak to you through His Word, guiding your decisions and behavior. So engage the Bible regularly by reading it, meditating on it, speaking it, singing it, or studying it.
Escape the weight of bitterness. Ask God to show you any bitterness that may have crept into your soul during your suffering. Then let go of your bitterness by following God’s command to forgive people who have hurt you, and by regularly expressing gratitude to God for who He is and how He has redeemed you.
Speak words of strength. Since words contain the power to bring either healing or destruction into your life, make sure that the words you speak to yourself and to others in your life reflect biblical truth, build people up (rather than tearing them down), and express a worshipful attitude toward God.
Become outrageously brave. Invite God to use your fear during battles to help you develop more courage. As you take the opportunities that God gives you to trust and rely on Him completely during suffering, fear will have less power over you and you’ll gain the faith you need to overcome it.
Adapted from Beautiful Battlefields, copyright 2013 by Bonita Stern. Published by NavPress, Colorado Springs, Co., www.navpress.com.
Bo Stern knows the most beautiful things can come out of the hardest times. Her Goliath came in the form of her husband’s terminal illness, a battle they are still fighting with their help of their four children, a veritable army of friends, and our extraordinary God. Bo is a teaching pastor at Westside Church in Bend, Oregon.
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the new novel Dream Factory, which is available in both paperback and ebook formats. Visit her website at: whitneyhopler.naiwe.com.
Publication date: June 18, 2013