Suffering with hope

Three Pitfalls When Life is Hard

We were in crisis. 

The life-altering challenges of our child’s special needs were nothing new, but we’d reached a new level of desperation. We felt suffocated by the very air we breathed.

Our prayers had grown weary, our hearts felt numb, and if there was ever a time we stood on the brink of despair—this was it. 

Rewind four months and we were in awe of God miraculously moving a group of doctors to reach out to us with a desire to come alongside and fight for us and our child in ways we no longer had the strength to do on our own. The following months were a whirlwind of making difficult but necessary decisions. We finally felt a small glimmer of hope in the distance—a hope we had all but given up on, aside from a miracle. 

But then, as fast as the hope was ignited, it was gone. The funding and hopeful doors that had miraculously opened weeks earlier were slammed shut, locked, and dead-bolted. I sat in my car after hearing the news, gasping for air between anguished sobs as if I’d been sucker punched. Worst of all, I firmly believed God knew how beaten down, weary, and fragile we were—but he allowed it anyway. 

AT A CROSSROADS

Although several weeks have passed since these moments, we are still perplexed, disoriented, and confused over all that’s transpired over the past several months. My heart has been on an emotional rollercoaster and I still find myself fighting through feelings of shock, confusion, anger, hurt, sadness, weariness, and the temptation to give way to despair and hopelessness. 

Despite having faced countless years of chronic illness, thirteen years of life-altering challenges with one of our children, a debilitating injury that’s slowly robbing me of my ability to walk, four children with chronic illness, financial collapse, and more losses than I can count, this season has left me reeling in a way like none other. 

It’s left me at a crossroads between what God says is true and how my circumstances seem contrary to that truth. 

THREE COMMON TEMPTATIONS WHEN SORROWS MULTIPLY 

In the Lord’s sovereignty, he led me to Psalm 106 this past week. It’s a Psalm that recounts the Israelite’s journey through the wilderness. As I read it over and over, struggling to absorb much of anything, the Spirit began to open my eyes to three temptations of unbelief that plagued the Israelites—all of which I’ve seen in my own heart during difficult seasons.

WE FORGET HIS STEADFAST LOVE

“Our Fathers when they were in Egypt… They did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea” (Psalm 106:7).

Shortly after the Israelites were miraculously freed from the slavery and oppression of Egypt, they found themselves in a seemingly hopeless situation as they stood before the Red Sea with enemies closing in. Like us, the Israelites were in dire need of rescue. Yet, instead of remembering the steadfast love God had shown through generations (including their recent rescue from Egypt), they quickly doubted the steadfast love of God when a new threat stood before them. As we often do, they fixated on the strength of the waves, rather than the strength of the One who rules over them. 

When life hurts, we can be tempted to forget or question God’s steadfast, neverending, unfailing, unrelenting love for us. We forget that if he loved us enough to give his own Son to suffer and die in our place, surely he loves us enough to protect us and rescue us. Surely he will redeem and use all things to accomplish his good purposes in our life. 

Friend, it’s easy to equate our ease and comfort as God’s love for us, and our pain and suffering as his punishment or indifference. But his love is not dictated by the circumstances around us, it’s dictated by the truth that he loved us when we hated him, died for us while we mocked him, and pursued us while we were determined to go our own way. 

When we face painful circumstances, even the ones that seem senseless, we need to constantly remind ourselves of God’s steadfast love toward us. When we can’t understand his ways, we can trust his character. 

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23).

WE FORGET HIS WORKS

“So he saved them from the hand of the foe and redeemed them from the power of the enemy… But they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel” (Psalm 106:10, 13).

Oh how quickly we forget God’s past faithfulness to us and his children. And much like the Israelites, when I forget God’s past faithfulness to me, I’m quick to take matters into my own hands. Instead of allowing the roots of my faith to deepen in the discomfort of waiting and resting in God’s timing and purposes, I’m instead tempted to live in anxiety or make unwise decisions in the belief that my wisdom exceeds that of God’s (though I wouldn’t say that out loud). 

But when I look back and remember all God has done through previous seasons of trials and waiting, it encourages my heart to remember that Christ has always been at work for my good, even when I couldn’t see it.

Friend, we don’t have to look far in Scripture to be reminded of the power, miracles, character, sovereignty, glory, and faithfulness of God. But we must be in the word of God in order to remember all he has done. Trials and seasons of waiting will come, but if we continually remind ourselves of all he’s done, we will learn to trust him in the waiting and we will find that his presence is even sweeter than the outcome we desire.

“Only fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you” (1 Sam.12:24).

WE DON’T BELIEVE HIS PROMISES

Then they despised the pleasant land, having no faith in his promises” (Psalm 106:24).

When the Israelites looked out at the Promised Land, all they could see were the barriers to reaching it. Despite God’s promise that he would bring them into the land,, the people of God gave more weight to the threat at hand than God’s ability to rescue them from it. 

When God grows small, our trials seem magnified, don’t they? But when we are confident in the God we serve, though our problems may be great, he is always greater. 

God sometimes uses the refining fire in our life to not only teach us to trust his promises, but also to shape our understanding of them. We may believe that his promise to provide means he’ll never let us lose a job or will always provide for what we think we need. But when those things don’t come through for us, we’re left with a conundrum. Is God not who he says he is or have I shaped him into a God of my own image? 

Needless to say, it’s always the latter, but we often don’t realize our false understandings of his promises until they’ve been put to the test. It’s his kindness, then, to bring our false view of him to ruins so that we have the eyes to see the true character and promises of God that cannot be shaken by our earthly circumstances. 

I can assure you, although the past several months have rocked me, I haven’t lost my firm foundation because the Lord has shaped, molded, and grown my understanding of his promises through countless trials before this. It still hurts, it’s still confusing, and I still grieve the pain it’s brought, but I am clinging to the promises of God’s goodness, faithfulness, sovereignty, and eternal hope. 

There’s no doubt that waiting is hard. At times, it’s excruciating. But when we learn to wait with confidence that God will be faithful to his promises, our waiting becomes fertile ground for heart transformation. It teaches us to trust who God is, rather than what he might do for us.

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments” (Deut. 7:9).

EVEN STILL, HE IS FAITHFUL

Remarkably, even when we fall short—doubting, grumbling, panicking, or giving way to unbelief—God remains faithful. After the Psalmist recounts all the failings, rebellion, and unbelief of the Israelites, he writes, “Nevertheless, he [God] looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. For their sake, he remembered his covenant, and relented according to his steadfast love (Psalm 106:45-46). 

Like the Isrealites, you and I may struggle with moments of unbelief when things get hard. But be encouraged, when we forget his steadfast love, he does not; when we doubt his ways, he hears our cries and delivers us in his perfect timing (and one day eternally); and when we forget to trust his promises, he remembers and is faithful to them anyway. 

I don’t know how the rest of our story will unfold. But I do know this: although I deserve nothing, God has loved me with a steadfast love, even to the point of death on a cross for my own sin, faithlessness, and unbelief. He has carried me through countless heartaches, trials, and seasons of confusion, and has worked countless miracles (both big and small). And he has never failed to be faithful to his promises—even when it’s looked different than I expected. 

Because of Christ, we have hope in and beyond our pain. As we traverse these difficult seasons, we may falter and lose our bearings at times, but by God’s grace, may we grow to remember his steadfast love, remember his works, and find hope and strength in the promises we have through Christ. Yet even still—he loves us, he is working on our behalf, and he will be faithful until the end. 

In and for Christ,

Sarah

To read more on the hope we have in suffering, you can purchase “Hope When It Hurts – 30 Biblical Reflections to Help You Grasp God’s Purpose in Your Suffering” authored by Sarah Walton and Kristen Wetherell here or here. Jeff and Sarah Walton’s marriage book, Together Through the Storms – Biblical Encouragements for Your Marriage When Life Hurts. Or pre-order Sarah’s new evangelistic book – Tears and Tossings: Hope in the Waves of Life.

*Article originally posted on Journeywomenpodcast.com

4 thoughts on “Three Pitfalls When Life is Hard”

  1. Hi Sarah, you can’t write what you wrote and give hope and insight to others, unless you have been through it yourself. Your post spoke to me about the enduring goodness of God that never fails, in spite of what we may not see or not experience. Our trials have not even been close to what you have gone through but in the last year my wife has been diagnosed with dementia and is no long able to walk without the aid of a walker, plus pain and discomfort, due to disk problems in her back, that were injured many years ago. I pray daily for healing, if it is God’s will and if not, then God being with us, as we go through this together, according to His will. It is not easy, on many levels, yet He sustains us and I know in my heart, that He will continue to do so. Thank you for your encouragement and for walking this path before us. Love in Christ – Bruce

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Bruce, you are always such an encouragement to me, brother. Thank you. I’m so incredibly sorry to hear about your wife suffering with dementia, along with other difficulties. I can’t even imagine the difficult journey that must be as a spouse. It’s difficult to pray boldly for healing, yet always hold our plans loosely as we try to trust God’s plan is perfect, even when it sure doesn’t feel that way to us at times. I’m stopping to pray for both of you right now. Thank you for sharing, Bruce.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your posts are always so encouraging and always go back to Gospel reminders! Thank you I needed this so much today! Think of you and praying for you lots and your dear family!💜🙏💜🙏💜

    Teresa Moore

    Liked by 1 person

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