There is an indisputable fact among mankind: we all go through difficult times. In the worst of times, our very being feels defeated, overwhelmed, and plagued. We try each day with every breath to make it to the next hour, the next minute, and even the next second. Waking up to the bitter truth that this day will not go your way is an exhaustible way to open your eyes from one reality to the next. Like an army besieging a city, cutting off its water and food supply, so difficult times deplete our ability to function effectively.
As a man who believes in a God, a creator who has given a purpose and plan to each person, this fact takes its toll on me during rough times. How can someone who claims to create me allow such horrible things happen to me and others who have it worse than me? Because I’m not an atheist, I suppose I can’t speak for all atheists, but to believe that no god exists also suggests that you must do everything on your own. You have no help with the exception of your family or friends. And while it appears to solve the problem of evil, it leaves little hope for humans. Maybe you believe “The Universe” will help you, but you’re still suggesting that a higher being or entity exists to assist you or work everything out. But as God-believers, Jesus-followers, and so forth, we have a duty to have faith that God will come through.
The famous Romans 8:31 verse is looked favorably upon by many who read the Bible. Hearing the words, “If God is for us, who can be against us” are pleasing to the ears and hearts of those who benefit from such texts. Likewise, Romans 8:28 also breeds warm feelings that God will work out good for all who love Him. But Romans 8:32 is often skipped as a way to forget that Jesus told us to take up our cross if we want to follow Him. It reminds us that Christ died for us – that God did not spare His only son and in that sacrifice God showed His ultimate love for us. It’s a hard pill to swallow in a culture of motivational pastors seeking fame and mega-church status with the beneficial salaries that come with preaching only the blessings of the Gospel. But Jesus says that the sun and rain (blessings) fall on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). No one is exempt from bad things happening to them, it doesn’t matter how good or bad you are. Difficult times fall on everyone eventually.
During my current season of hard times I feel like God is against me. My life has been attacked at a level that goes beyond all coincidence. In early February I had a job interview in Florida I had to drive to, so my car broke and my ability to rent a car was nothing short of a 3-day nightmare. Then I receive an awesome website job, so out of nowhere my computer charger breaks and I have to spend almost 25% of my pay on a new charger. Then I get a drone job and get paid in advance…that weekend, before the shoot, my drone broke. To top off everything, my debit card was hacked into and all my money was stolen (what little I had, at least). Imagine you’re in a boxing ring and you’re trying to protect yourself but Muhammad Ali is punching you over and over. You know you’re going to win. You know in your heart and mind that the scorecards already show your victory. But you can’t see it because all you can see are knuckles. You can’t hear it because all you can hear is your jaw breaking in. You can’t smell it because your nose is broken. You can’t taste it because your blood is drowning you. You can’t feel it because only pain fills your senses. But that doesn’t change the fact that you still win.
Tonight, I had a hard conversation with my amazing, wonderful, beautiful, and Jesus-loving girlfriend. I shared with her that my prayer life has taken a toll because for so long I would go before God and ask for Him to help me get out of this season. But for the most part this season remains the same. Some weeks I move forward. Some weeks I move backward. Nevertheless, Lauren called me out and told me that now is the time to fight. Now is the time to get up, pray, fast, do what I have to do to fight. It’s a difficult thing to hear even when you know it’s true. Your spiritual life and relationship with Jesus is weary because you’ve allowed the lie to seep into your heart that God is no longer for you. That isn’t to say you believe that God is against you. Rather, you believe that God isn’t doing anything and allowing Satan to have a field day with your life. I relayed to Lauren the same picture I gave in the last paragraph of the feeling of being beaten up and defeated each day. How can I fight when I can’t even stand? Logically I know I win because Jesus already won for me. But emotionally I don’t “feel” like God is for me, let alone fighting for me.
There is a disturbing phenomenon among mankind: We allow our situations to dictate our feelings, which allow our minds to alter the facts. This is particularly true in 21st century America. Instead of relying on facts, logic, and truth, we’ve allowed our feelings and emotions to dictate everything. But God doesn’t just call us to love Him with our heart; He calls us to love Him with all our mind, soul, and strength as well. If one lacks, then there is an imbalance that takes place in our daily worship and practice of our faith. In the worst of times, our hearts need reminded of the truth. Sometimes we need pinched (or ran over by a train) so we can wake up and remember reality. We must try each day with every breath to move forward, because time will move with or without us and every hour, or minute, or even second that we stop…we waste and slide backward. Like gold being refined by fire, scraping off the impurities, so we must endure the flames knowing our worth and the end result.
Every Sunday night Lauren and I talk and we make sure to spend time being intentional with each other and listening to love. Every week we ask each other, “How can I love you better this week? What can I do differently?” We’ve been doing this since we started dating. It’s been a very honest moment for us each week to evaluate our relationship. But something I suggested tonight is that we need to also begin asking, “How can you love Jesus better this week? What are some things you need to change in your relationship?” If I didn’t have accountability and people who aren’t afraid to call me out in love, I would be in a very bad place right now and I can’t thank those people enough for being the people I need…but not the ones I deserved (I’m full of Christopher Nolan Movie jokes this post. I really wish I could sneak in an Interstellar one in somewhere).
Difficult times are just that – difficult. They are by their very name and nature not easy. Pushing through the jungle of hard times comes with a lot of traps. Occasionally they are obvious and other times they are subtle. Each one is designed to make you suffer, curse God, enhance feelings over truth, and most importantly make you believe a lie. Maybe it’s a lie that you aren’t good enough. Maybe it’s that God is not for you. Whatever that lie is, as Paul says, renew your mind. Renew through prayer, renew through Scripture, and renew through godly mentors you trust. Even though you’ve prayed that same prayer over and over and over…pray. In the Garden of Gethsemane during the night of his betrayal, Jesus prayed the same prayer over and over again. In his famous sermon here, Dr. Davis uses the phrase, “Repetition till resolution.” Jesus prayed until he was satisfied with the Father’s will. Likewise, I encourage myself and those of you reading this: you may feel like you’re beating your head into a wall. You may feel like punching that wall. I know it’s not easy. I know it’s draining. I’ve literally punched that wall several times (and yes, even a metal refrigerator door that broke my hand one time). But pray as many times as you need and as intentionally as you can until you receive resolution in the Father’s will. Then…once you receive that resolution, stand tall, put on your boxing gloves, and fight. Don’t let your emotions pervert the truth. Don’t let your intelligence distract from the hope and love of Jesus. Don’t let your circumstances lie to you.
God is for you.
מרנאתא / Maranatha