There are times I am truly thankful for the challenges before me. I am grateful for the painful trial and the aches in my heart. It isn’t that I relish these seasons but I am thankful for them
I am thankful for such seasons as God has a creative way of using such pain to show me my frailty, weakness, blind spots, and most importantly my utter complete need of Him
Think with me for a bit. If God is Sovereign and All-sufficient then he must have known about such seasons before they come to be. Since He allowed it, it has to be that in his love and mercy, he has a purpose for it. It could be a singular purpose or a multi faceted one. It could be limited to you or to other parties.
If there was another, easier, way for God to continue to forge you into who he intends you to be, without the pain or ache, then love demands he takes that path. However if there is no other way, love compels him to take you through the valley of shadows
When I consider things the right way, I have this joyous hope (certain expectation not optimistic expectation), not in the end result that I desire, but in God, knowing that whatever He purposes for me, it will be good!
With such hope (certain expectation) I am better positioned to be fully dependent on Him. I can be more yielded because I have a certain expectation that good is coming out of this
Seasons of affliction aren’t easy (Heb 12:5-13). It usually is quite uncomfortable. There will sunlit and overcast days. Dependence on God becomes a life line not just for this season, but for the rest of life.
In some ways, I am beginning to see affliction as being a necessary part of our growth curve in God
Let me share certain outlooks that I have found helpful in my journey. As always, please do compare these ideas with the Word of God
1. In the midst of this painful time, do not rush out of the season. Do not be so quick to look for a way out. The journey is the goal for God, this is where you are are molded, bit by bit. It might take a while and sometimes it is downright uncomfortable but do not avoid the process. Stay with it.
Let the pain drive you to God, to utter dependence on Him and stay in that place. Do all you can to stay in that place of dependence on him. Engage Him with that heart attitude that is associated with the poor in spirit
2. Be open to follow God. Let go of all the deadlines and timelines you have. He exists outside of time and when he is leading, understand that he has taken all other things into consideration, even your hesitation to follow
Carve out time and space with God. Be faithful with this and churn on God’s words to you as much as possible.
3. Do not let the pain or loneliness drive you to activities that dull your senses to the Holy One and what God has called you to do in this season. The activities do not have to be sinful. In my experience, the activities I run to usually make good sense but they are weights that are distracting
However by engaging in them, I am distrusting the One who called me and chose me from he end of the earth. By stepping out of the process, I am saying (through my actions) that I have a better way than the Almighty
Ruthlessly eliminate anything that subtly or directly stand against (or isn’t in complete alignment with) what God has said to you – even if that has to do with eliminating staples of your life like certain routines, friendships, harmless pleasure pursuits, etc.
4. Do not let “fun” cover up your “lack.” Rather let that “lack” humble you and drive you to God. Whatever the lack might be, let it spur you to cast yourself unto God.
In this sense, your faith (which really is submission to God) or relationship with God should never be an accessory of something nice to have or something to engage when trouble stirs.
It should be to you, what air is to your lungs and physical health, what blood is to your internal physical system, what food is to your physical energy
5. Confess your sins often to God and trusted folks around you. Confession is not for God. It isn’t because God doesn’t know what you did. It also isn’t just an official statement so that you and God are on the same page.
Confession, as is with all of God’s directive, is primarily for your benefit. It is meant to help you see where you really are, to see your need of God, the necessity of his presence and to create godly sorrow that leads to repentance (2 Cor 7:9-10)
Confession for me has been powerful as it has been quite humbling. I do not see His rebuke (no matter how painful the realization) as condemnatory. Rather I see it as mercies that have a way of making me see my wretchedness. It also helps me mediate grace unto others because I see the extent of his love
Write down your confessions and revisit them so they serve to break your heart over and over again – leading to godly sorrow and repentance.
There are times the enemy can leverage our inner critic to put us down and we must be careful here to ensure it is God doing the search and rescue (Ps 139:23-24)
6. Engage in disciplines/practices that open you up to God. For me a couple practices help:
- Worship reminds me of who He is and helps me look at things through His lenses. Worship heals my heart as I recall that I am His beloved! And yes so are the other millions of His children. His love is more than enough to go around lol
- Scripture Meditation (actively reviewing, repeating and/or thinking about scriptures to get different views) helps me get the truth of God into me such that it becomes second nature. It’s the same way how you respond to your name anytime because you have been called that all your life – your name has been actively repeated to you for so long it is second nature for you to respond to your name, sometimes even while you are asleep
- Reflection helps me stay aware with what God is doing in me; of what He is weaving in and through me. With reflection, I, potentially, connect dots that I would normally not connect. It is a wonderful thing to see the trees that make up the forest and the forest itself. Seeing the synergies between both helps you to potentially distinguish between correlation and causation, to ultimately know God, to know myself and to see that man does not live by bread alone (Deut 8:2-3). Many times you see God admonishing us to “remember” who He is, to remember who we are, to recall His deeds, our history and the journey. Reflection helps me do this. Journaling helps me capture my reflections
This piece is not meant to glorify pain or encourage silly acts that leads to pain. This is also not meant to minimize anyone’s trials or make it seem like it is walk in the park. Not at all. Quite frankly, to come out refined you will have to truly rely on God. It is no mistake that apostles felt they were under the sentence of death in 2 Cor 1:8-9
While it is easy to think all the above applies to circumstances beyond your control. I believe it does also apply to situations you brought on yourself, where your mistakes have brought affliction on you
For those going through rough times, I leave you with the words below for you to see and know you are in good company. May grace be multiplied to you for the sake of Christ:
For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake (Phil 1:29)
When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:21-22)
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim 3:12)
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you (1 Peter 4:12-16)
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Rom 5:3-5)