Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dealing with Difficult Circumstances – Part 1

I. Introduction

A frequent theme in the Bible is people crying out to God for help in times of distress. In many of the Psalms, the psalmist calls on the Lord in desperation. These psalms start with a lament about what’s happening, and the psalmist wondering where God is in all this. They typically end with a statement of assurance that God is with the psalmist and God will be faithful in helping him through his challenges.

There are many other passages in the Bible that have to do with seeking comfort and help from God in the midst of trials. With that in mind, let’s see how we should deal with adversity based on what Scripture tells us. We’ll also take a look at some hymns to see how they might help us when we’re going through a tough time. Often the melody and the poetry of the lyrics can be effective in soothing the soul. Think of the hymn “It Is Well with My Soul” and the story behind it.

This post is intended mainly to encourage Christians, but parts of it can be helpful to any person of faith.

II. Jesus Died for Us

Thinking of all that God has done for us, including sending Jesus, can help us through tough times. Remembering why Jesus came to earth and what he came to accomplish will help put events into perspective.

1. Restoration of Relationship

Jesus laid down his life so we could be in relationship with God now and spend eternity with him. Jesus didn’t lay down his life so we would have an easy time of it, much as we would like that to be the case. We are subject to the same challenges as everyone else, as God clearly tells us in through Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:13, but God also put limits:
No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. NRSV

We may not be tested beyond our strength, but sometimes it comes mighty close! As God’s people we do receive help from the Lord when we have difficulties – we aren’t left as orphans. God is with us and will guide us through whatever we are facing, as God assured Joshua in Joshua 1:9b:
“Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” NRSV.

So we have to remember that Jesus didn’t come to restore the Garden of Eden at this time, so bad things still happen. He came to restore the fellowship we had with God before the Fall. While we don’t literally walk with God as Adam did, we can have a close relationship with God through worship, prayer, and faith development.

2. Restored Earth

Ultimately there will be a new heaven and a new earth, which is described in those reassuring verses at the end of the Book of Revelation. But in the meantime we will have troubles, as Jesus told us in John 16:33:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” NIV

Notice Jesus said: “I have overcome the world.” What does that mean? It means that if we keep in mind that the ultimate victory has already been won by Jesus, we can claim the peace of Christ in any circumstances.

III. We Have Hope

Let’s look at three difficult situations from the Bible and see what happened.

1. Lamentations

In the Book of Lamentations in the Old Testament, the writer is mourning over the destruction of his beloved Jerusalem and its beautiful temple. This was an incomprehensible tragedy. The city had been completely destroyed by Babylon, most of the people were being forcibly relocated to foreign lands, and it seemed God had abandoned his people for good. Life as he knew it had come to an end for him and his nation, yet despite this heartbreak, he still found hope, as we read in Lamentations 3:22-26:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.

God didn’t spare the city and the people went into Babylonian captivity, but the city was eventually rebuilt and people were allowed to return. After disappearing as a sovereign nation for millennia, Israel was once again restored in 1948, and I am convinced that was God’s doing.

More about this subject in a future post.

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