How Do You Remain Faithful to God When Life Has Been Terrible to You (Part 2)
How do you remain faithful to God when life has been terrible to you? First, stay connected.
Second, stay focused.
What do we focus on? On Christ our Savior and the price He paid. We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses but One who has experienced everything we will suffer. Death, pain, sickness, loss; He endured it all.
“Therefore since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
It goes on to say that the reason to do this is so that we will “not grow weary and lose heart.”
The Cross is the most beautiful display of love in human history. Through it we hear God say, “I will endure anything for you. I have endured it.” Beaten and bruised, Jesus bled on the cross for you. Panting for air, chest heaving, He bore on His body the weight of every sin you and I will ever commit.
Isaiah refers to Him as “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:5). When we suffer we must run and collapse at the foot of the cross. It is there that we look up to see His hair blowing in the wind, His blood dripping on the rocky ground. It is there that we lift our face to see that this Man, the One in the center, is staring at us, not with eyes that condemn but with eyes of love.
Third, stay purposeful.
In other words, we must choose to suffer with purpose. As believers we can do this. In Christ we know that our suffering is not mere random chance or an unfortunate series of events. God infuses our suffering with purpose, useful and valuable for ourselves and for others.
Paul and Silas’s night in jail would result in the jailer’s conversion. In other words, Paul and Silas weren’t crazy to sing through the night. God knew what He was doing, and they knew it.
Many have gone before us. Many have chosen to glorify God in their trials. Our brothers and sisters before us have maintained their hope in the face of cancer, their strength in the face of divorce, their love in the face of undeserved hostility, and their peace in the face of uncertain circumstances. And as they let go of their tightly held grip of control and chose to suffer well, it was then that they became rich with the fragrance of Christ. When we suffer with purpose, we draw people to our King.
After the Tornado
When an EF5 tornado ripped through Joplin, Missouri, it left thousands devastated. During that time I had the opportunity to go down and work with College Heights Christian Church in Joplin, MO. In addition to leading rescue and clean up teams, they transformed their large building into a makeshift resource center where victims could come to get food, water, clothing and other necessities.
That experience changed me. I just can’t describe the level of emotional and spiritual devastation of those who walked through the doors. These individuals had lost everything. I still remember some grandparents who were so elated to find a new package of underwear for their young grandson. They had been to several other resource centers and hadn’t found any. The grandmother had tears in her eyes and she said, “They’re just his size, they’re just his size.” I remember unpacking a boxes of secondhand toys for children who suddenly had none. One box read, “From Arkansas with love.”
I remember greeting an older woman who came in with her family. We spoke briefly about the situation. She remarked how terrible it was and that they had lost everything, but then she turned to me with sobering conviction and said something I will never forget: “But we still have God. We still have God, and that’s all that matters.”
I’ll leave you with a quote from Randy Garris, at that time the senior minister of College Heights Christian Church. In reflecting on the post-storm events a year later, he said this: “It is an experience that has ripped into my heart and my soul deeper than anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. It is by far the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced.”
“But,” he continued, “I also have this funny paradox and I don’t know how to put the two together. It has also been the most profound, impacting, triumphant celebration. It has been one of the most meaningful things I’ve ever had in my life. And both are true.”
Whatever you are going through, you don’t have to pretend like it’s “nothing.” It might very well be something that’s ripping into your heart and soul deeper than anything you’ve ever experienced. And yet . . .
You can choose to suffer well for the glory of Christ. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Fight the good fight. Endure to the end. Remain faithful.