Things Christians Should Think About During Hard Times
2016 has been a very difficult year for me. Me and my family has been struggling financially for the past year-and-a-half. It only gets worse as time goes on. My parents are in bad health, we can't afford to do anything, and just recently I thought that my dog might pass away as he was behaving like he was very sick. Fortunately his problem was only emotional not physical, and he's fine now, but I will went through a period of worry. I have constant anxiety over my parents health and our financial situation. As a result of my anxiety, my OCD is the worst that it has ever been in my entire life. The OCD website said that stress and anxiety can make the condition much worse and before I read that, I was perplexed at why the rituals I had to do were becoming so much more frequent and greater in number. But after reading that anxiety and stress can make it worse, it was no longer a mystery. I am emotionally bogged down. I haven't even mentioned half of things I'm going through. At the time that I'm writing this (via speech to text on my phone), I am experiencing a bout of depression. I didn't even feel like getting on my computer to type this up. That's why I'm doing it on my phone's Blogger app while laying in bed.
Everybody is going through something. We've all got problems, we all have different kinds of problems but we all have problems nevertheless. As believers in Christ, there are things that we can remind ourselves to cope with the hard times that we go through in this life. It is these things that we can remind ourselves that I'm going to talk about in this blog post, and hopefully I can bring a little bit of comfort and peace to some of my readers who may be going through some stuff themselves.
God Can Bring Good Out Of Suffering.
The Bible says that "God works all things for the good of those who love him, to those that are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28). What this means is that God, even though allows all sorts of bad things to happen to people, he will, and his Divine Providence, work these things out towards the ultimate good of those who love him. Romans 8:28 does not say that all things are good, but it does say that all things are worked for the good. I know that God has a plan for my life, and I have faith in him. I have faith that he will not permit anything to happen to me unless it is 4 my good or at least the good of someone I know. We cannot know the morally sufficient reasons for why God permits suffering. But as I pointed out in my blog post "The Problem Of Evil And Suffering" and in my blog post "5 Instances In The Bible Of God Having Good Reasons For Suffering", we can know at least how He can bring good out of evil even if we don't know what the specific good is that He'll bring out of this specific evil. Every event that occurs sends a ripple effect through history. God's reason for permitting some instance of suffering might not emerge until centuries later and perhaps even in another country. Any time travel enthusiast will tell you that every single event that happens in the world has a radical effect that will determine what the future will be like. If God did not allow evil X to occur at T-1 then that would determine whether or not good Y occurs at T-2. It may be that the only way to bring about the good that occurred at T-2 is if God allows the evil to occur at T-1.
Or perhaps good Y would only occur at T-10 and perhaps there's nothing but sorrow and heartache in between T-1 and T-10. God, being omniscient, knows that if the evil events occurring at T-1, T-2, T-3, etc. Then the good event at T-10 would not occur. Only if God did not intervene to stop the evils at T 1, T-2, and T-3, would the good at T-10 occur.
William Lane Craig uses a couple of illustrations in chapter 7 of his book "On Guard: Defending Your Faith With Reason And Precision". He uses the movie Sliding Doors starring Gwyneth Paltrow as one of his illustrations. The movie starts out with Helen (Paltrow's character) rushing down the stairs to catch a train. As she nears the subway train, the movie branches off into two totally different paths that her life would take depending on whether or not she made it through the subway doors. On one branch, she enjoys a very happy and successful life. Everything is going right for her. However, on the other branch, she experiences a life of failure and unhappiness. Whether she experiences that happy life or the sad life all depends on whether or not she makes it through the subway doors. Just a single seemingly insignificant event had such a radical effect on her future. Even more interesting is the fact that whether or not she made it through the subway doors all depended on whether a little girl playing with a doll is snatched away by her father or momentarily blocks Helen's pass as she rushes towards the subway doors. And as Craig points out in his book, that difference might have been determined on whether or not they were delayed leaving the house because the little girl didn't like the cereal that her father gave her for breakfast or whether the man, while they were at the subway train, was distracted by something he read in the newspaper. The point that William Lane Craig was making in his book is that every event has a ripple effect on history. A seemingly insignificant event in a person's life can actually be very significant indeed. From our perspective, it may seem like God could have no good reason for allowing X to happen to us. But from God's perspective, things would look very differently. If Helen could see what the moviegoers saw about what her life would be like depending on whether or not she made it through the subway doors, she would be amazed. The most interesting part of this movie is its ending. In the happy, successful life, Helen is killed in an accident. In the life full of struggle and hardship, things start to look up and the life of hardship turned out to be the truly good life after all.
The fact that God is able to bring good out of suffering gives me some comfort. I have a promise from him in his holy word that he will work all things for my good. My suffering and my anxieties are not purposeless. They are all a part of a much bigger plan. A much grander scheme of things.
God Promised To Look After His Children
Jesus said "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the Lilies of the Field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'what shall we eat?' Or 'what shall we drink?' Or 'what shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." - Matthew 5:25-34
Jesus said that God would take care of his children. This brings me great comfort. It comforts me to know that God will always give me what I need even if he doesn't always give me what I want. Just as God feeds the birds of the air even though they do not read or store away and barns, I know that God will feed me as well. God will clothe me just as he clothes the Lilies of the Field even in the Lilies of the Field don't reap or spin. If I did not have faith in God's promises, I believe that my anxiety would be ten times worse than it is. I believe that my faith takes the edge off of my worry. "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." (Psalm 73:26).
The verse I just quoted said that even though my heart and flesh may fail, God is the strength of my heart. My faith in God's promises keeps me going. Because I know that he will take care of all of my needs. However, that still does not remove my anxiety 100%, it only lessens the amount of anxiety I would have if I did not have faith in God. The reason I still have anxiety is because I know that even though God will always do what is best for me, I know that the best might involve terrible suffering. As C.S Lewis put it, "We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be." I worry not that God will let me down, or not take care of me, ; I worry that how He'll take care of me will be by allowing me to go through awful things. Yet, I still find comfort in the words of Christ as quoted above. I firmly believe that if it were not for my faith in Him, my anxiety would be so high that I would need to be on prescription meds to deal with it. I wish I had enough faith that I had no anxiety at all, but I am still being sanctified. I am still growing spiritually. Perhaps God will some day bring me to the point where I am at peace in all situations.
"God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'" - Hebrews 13:5b
The Sorrows Of This Life Cannot Compare With The Glory That's In Store
The Christian music artist Jeremy Camp has a song called "There Will Be A Day" which I have grown to love even more in the past few weeks given all the stuff I've been going through. The song talks about that glorious day when the evil and suffering of this life will be done away with, and we'll no longer have any burdens or heartache, "There will be a day when the burdens of this place will be no more. We'll see Jesus face to face."
Camp's song is based on and directly references the teachings of scripture. The Bible says "Then I saw 'a new heaven and a new earth,' for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.' He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!'" (Revelation 21:1-5)
The apostle Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, lived a life of incredible suffering. Yet he wrote, “We do not lose heart. For this slight, momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen, for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). The Christian philosopher William Lane Craig commented on this passage, saying "Paul imagines a scale, as it were, in which all the sufferings of this life are placed on one side, while on the other side is placed the glory that God will bestow on his children in heaven. The weight of glory is so great that it is literally beyond comparison with the suffering."
Knowing that I have an eternity of unending joy awaiting me in the future has always given me hope. I know that the weight of glory and the sum total of the length of time I'll spend in Heaven will make the sum total of suffering I've endured in the light infinitesimally small by comparison. It will be like the pain of ripping a band-aid off compared with the rest of my life. For the Christian, the time spent in suffering and the time spent in bliss will be an infinitely disproportionate ratio. I have an eternity of uninterrupted happiness to look forward to. Moreover, I'll be reunited with friends and family members who have physically died, and I know I will be for all four of my grandparents and my parents know Christ. In fact, most of family knows the Lord. I can endure this life because I have the promise of a better one in the future, a perfect one. Until then, I'll hold onto Jesus always, and try to bring as many people with me through my ministry.
I hope what I've said in this blog post has encouraged you if you're going through a rough spot in your life as I am. Hopefully 2017 has better things in store for The Mintons. "Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning." - Psalm 30:5