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How Do You Remain Faithful to God When Life Has Been Terrible to You? (Part 1)

When I worked in adult education, I traveled to a state director’s meeting. On the morning of the meeting, I sat there listening to our speaker in a room that had amphitheater seating with desks in each row. Suddenly, I got this very warm sensation trickling down my back. I heard the man behind me chattering in a whispered panic. I turned around only to find that the man had spilled his tall cup of coffee down the back of my shirt. So there I sat trying to dry myself off and get the coffee out of my hair without making a scene.

Needless to say, I was excited when the day ended. I went to my motel and changed so I could go shopping. I am a big discount hunter and was so excited about getting to go to the Goodwill. I pulled in the parking lot only to find that the carts which were located outside were all connected. So I stood there struggling, trying to free a cart. That is when a woman came up and explained that you had to insert a quarter in order to get a cart. I had never seen anything like that at a Goodwill. She offered me hers. After searching frantically through my purse, I handed her a quarter. Finally . . . I had a cart.

In I went, excited to see what fashionable discount clothing I would find. But when I got inside, to my surprise, I did not find clothing. I looked around, and all I saw were . . . groceries. That’s when my eyes caught a sign hanging above one of the aisles. The sign read “Aldis.” Indeed, I had walked into an Aldi grocery store. Somehow I had missed the rather large sign in the front.

I went back outside and buckled my cart to the other ones. When I tried to walk away I realized I had buckled in my purse strap. After several more minutes of struggle, I was able to liberate myself from the shopping carts and drive a few parking lots down to the Goodwill.

Life is full of lemons. And though my story was humorous, many of the things we face are truly difficult and painful. Sometimes it seems as though we fight battle after battle. Physical and spiritual struggles leave us asking why. And even when the why questions seem answered adequately (e.g. suffering happens because it’s a fallen world), we are still left with a more pressing, sometimes more paralyzing, question: How?

When you get the cancer diagnosis. When you experience depression growing deeper and darker. When your spouse divorces you. When your kid rebels. When your job lets you go. How do you remain faithful to God when life has been terrible to you?

First, stay connected.

In Christ you have a constant companion, One who is always listening. I remember a hard night during my teenage years. I had just messed up big again. I thought surely this was it. Surely God was done with me. Surely He couldn’t still love me after the way I had continually disappointed Him. In desperation, I cried out to Him the only words I could think to muster. “God please, just let there be someone, somewhere praying for me right now.”

A few minutes later the phone rang. It was for me. It was Suzie. Suzie was the pastor’s wife at the church I had attended when I was a child. I hadn’t seen or talked to this woman in years. She spoke slowly. “Julia … Julia, I just wanted to call you and tell you . . . that I’m praying for you.” She went on to explain that God had strongly impressed upon her the inclination to pray for me and to reach out and share this.

God hears you. When hard times come, we must stay connected.

In his book, Blessed Be Your Name, Matt and Beth Redman explain that hard times give us a case of “spiritual motion sickness.” They write,

“This motion sickness is caused by your senses contradicting each other. For example, if you read a book as you travel, the balance sensors in your ears tell you that you’re moving quickly—yet your eyes report that you’re not. It’s a case of conflicting senses. One way to cure this is to add more evidence to what you know to be correct. For example, rolling down the window and sticking your hand out of a fast-moving car into the air will help confirm to your brain that you are indeed in motion.”[1]

They go on to explain that the same is true of the spiritual life. In painful times we try desperately to cling to what we know to be true about God, and yet we are utterly confused by the hardship we experience. We know Scripture speaks of the goodness of God, but our circumstances scream the opposite. This contradiction creates “spiritual motion sickness.”

What is the anecdote? Just like with the open window, Matt and Beth remind us that we must add extra revelation of what we know to be true about God. We must open up our Bibles and soak in stories of God’s faithfulness. We must cultivate our connection to God through prayer and the Word.

How do you remain faithful to God when life has been terrible to you? First, stay connected.

See Part 2.

[1] Beth Redman and Matt Redman, Blessed Be Your Name: You Give and Take Away, May Heart Will Choose to Say (Ventura: Regal Books, 2005), 4.

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