FACING HARD TIMES
We all go through challenges in life, but at different times we react differently to similar situations. The way we respond, to what hurts us is affected by other variables in life. Some of which we cannot control, because they are the effect of the actions (or non-actions) of others, but there are also factors over which we have control, simply because they are directly related to us. Because God has given us free will, He never forces anyone to do what is right. The Lord speaks to our hearts and warns us when what we plan to do is wrong, but we decide whether to obey Him or not.
If Jesus Christ, who had no sin, learned obedience and was perfected through suffering (Hebrews 5:8-9), how much more must we go through multiple sufferings to learn to control our rebellion, selfishness, doubt, and anything else that stands between us and God, so that we can grow and mature spiritually.
We do not like to suffer or go through hard times. Because we live in this sinful world, where pride makes us believe we are great when all is well, suffering has the role of bringing us "down to earth," to realize that without God we are weak and unable to accomplish anything. We cannot even take our next breath without God’s help! But, praise God He is in us all the time and we can do all things He has called us to do, in Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:4)!
What strengthens us when we desperately cannot see any way out of the trouble we are in, or we do not believe that we will ever be made whole again? Let us never forget that the devil “does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy,” while Jesus came “that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10). If we truly know that all evil comes from the enemy and that God wants what is best for us, we can handle the difficulties we go through much easier.
It is important to see things in the right perspective, when we face trials and tribulations, as well as in any of the facets of life. If we fear suffering and believe that the Christian life is only joy, success, and nothing can ever harm us, then we are certainly victims of the lies of the devil. Jesus did not promise us such a life here on earth. Perfect joy, happiness, peace and fulfilment, we will experience only in heaven, after we leave these physical bodies with all their problems and weaknesses.
If Jesus was rejected and mistreated by those who had the devil as their father (John 8:44), why would we believe that we would be treated any differently by those who are not God’s children, today? The Lord has warned us that we will suffer in this world.
If we look at suffering as an opportunity to see the manifestation of the Lord's love and goodness in our lives, knowing He will surely bring us "out of dire distress, into a broad place” (Job 36:16), it will be much easier for us to go through what the devil has planned for our destruction. We must always remember that, just as the Lord never forsook us in the past, He will not now or in the future either and “no one is able to snatch” us out of God’s hand.
What should we do when we find ourselves going through a hard time? The first step is to identify the lies that the devil whispers to us, that are the opposite of God's Word, and then firmly declare the truth. We need to declare out loud that we know that God loves us, that He values us, and that He will surely help us as He always has. By declaring God’s truth out loud, we hear it from the most credible source for our brain, and that is our own voice. As a result, we strengthen our faith, and instead of being despaired, we trust the Lord that He is for us, not against us. We can declare Bible truths such as: God is good, His goodness has no end, His faithfulness is new every morning, He loves us with a perfect love, and will cause all things to work together for our good, because we love and obey Him.
The “light affliction,” which Paul was referencing, lasted two decades, but because he put it in the right perspective, in relation to eternity, he could say that they lasted just a moment. We have all experienced hardships, which because they lasted longer than we expected, we feared they would never end.
Recently I had an experience that the enemy wanted me to believe was the most terrible, that it will never end and that nothing would never be the same afterwards. In such moments, because we are discouraged and we suffer, it is hard to be filled with the Holy Spirit. That is why it is easier to believe the lies of the evil one who wants us to doubt the love and help of the Lord, so that we lose our hope and faith and fall into the pit of despair. If we go through an illness that makes us unable to think logically, and we are not rooted in the truth of God’s Word, we may suffer greatly. Even if we fail to realize that the enemy is the source of discouraging thoughts, despair, fear, and doubt, if we have a living relationship with Jesus, we will not believe the lies for very long, because the Holy Spirit reminds us that God is good, loves us, and wants our best, even if we don't feel His presence. Sometimes while we are being tested, we no longer feel the presence or love of our Heavenly Father, because His desire is that we rely on the truth of His Word, which tells us that “He does not leave or forsake us” and that nothing can separate us from His love. A simple but truthful sentence can lead us from despair to victory, and this is, “Lord, You are good!” If we begin to tell the Lord how much we love Him and how grateful we are that He loves us, it will not be long before the Holy Spirit reminds us of other wonderful experiences, when the Lord has given us victories and brought us out of even more difficult situations than the current one. If we spend time daily studying and memorizing God's Word, the Holy Spirit will remind us of the verses we need to fight the devil's lies with and get through the hard times.
Sometimes while we are being tested, we no longer feel the presence or love of our Heavenly Father, because His desire is that we rely on the truth of His Word, which tells us that “He does not leave or forsake us” and that nothing can separate us from His love. A simple but truthful sentence can lead us from despair to victory, and this is, "Lord, You are good!" If we begin to tell the Lord how much we love Him and how grateful we are that He loves us, it will not be long before the Holy Spirit reminds us of other wonderful experiences, when the Lord has given us victories and brought us out of even more difficult situations than the current one. If we spend time daily studying and memorizing God's Word, the Holy Spirit will remind us of the verses we need to fight the devil's lies with and get through the hard times.
Mankind's greatest fear is death. But we already know that for a true Christian, death only means to leave the physical body and to instantly be in the presence of the Lord, where there is no more pain and torment. When we realize that we should not fear death, many other fears lose their effect on us, and it will be way easier to keep our peace and joy. Jesus shows us that the only fear we should have is the reverential fear of God. It is the fear to not sin against the One who has done and is doing everything for us and who deserves all our love, honor and obedience.
When we become convinced of the truth of Paul's words, "to live is Christ, and to die is gain," we will not fall so easily into the snares of the enemy. And if we do not fear death and know that the Lord is with us in every situation, and that "He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4), we trust that God’s help will come in His perfect timing. The Lord is never late and never early, but does everything exactly when it is needed.
The following verses strengthened me the most, during my recent tribulation:
Jesus is full of mercy and compassion, and He understands us because He too lived in the flesh and was tempted just like us. He experienced life in this world, but He never sinned. That is why He could be the perfect sacrifice to saves us. It means a lot, to know that we can “boldly” approach the Lord, who has absolute power and gives us "grace," that meets our every need. Jesus, our High Priest, fully knows what we need and will help us at the right time, if we have faith that He will do it. Also during my recent tribulation, the Lord helped me, as always, to the glory of His name, and I know He does the same for you. Let's choose to trust the Lord based on what the Bible says and not on how we feel. God's Word is the truth, and we can be sure that the Lord does not lie and is always there for us, in the bad and good times of life.
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Eli Cockrell and Carmen Pușcaș share thoughts about the end times and life as a Christian in the world we live in today.