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GOD DURING HARD TIMES

How we engage with God through 'hope', during life's
difficult times,
and receive his support there.

-----------------------------

1.    INTRODUCTION

For the majority of us, I believe, a life lived in faith with trust in God will generally deliver the contentment that is expected of it. But please bear in mind, as I have often advised in this website, this does not mean that bad stuff will never happen to us, or our loved ones. I speak from my own experience here. This article then refers to times where that bad stuff is happening and you believe circumstances probably wont change for the better.

I fully realise that some readers will come to this particular article during their own difficult times: suffering from illness and pain, having lost loved ones through death or relationship breakdown/ divorce, facing cruel harassment or bullying at the hands of others, unable to end self destructive addictions and bad habits etc. If so, please read on.

When lifes turns leaves you there in that place  ... even then ... there are ways to recognise God loving you all the more; ready to reveal himself to you as he assists. And as difficult as the circumstances may be, his presence can be quite pronounced there.

That Christian concept of hope (e.g. Romans 15:13), is closely related to both trust and faith.

May the God of hope fill you with all
joy and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
[Romans 15:13]

2.    HOW HOPE WORKS FOR US

And it is available to us if, or more likely when, we find ourselves in one of those inevitable holes; or potential abysses in life. Of course, it is not the place in life where we would want to go to find evidence of Gods presence in our life; to assist us with building evidence-based belief in him. But, I am confident that he can be recognised, at times quite clearly, there in a positive sense within those times.

Hope, as far as Christianity is concerned, doesnt relate to our everyday use of the word, i.e. wishing something will happen without knowing whether it actually will or not. Christian hope when applied, by comparison, relates to our confidence that the God who loves us will enable us, through his grace, to traverse that hole and go beyond it. All we need do is to hope (trust through our faith) that he will enable us to overcome. We simply place our situation completely in his hands with utter trust. No matter what our difficult circumstances in life may be, God will assist us to get through them if we rely on him in this way! Just do not doubt the depth of love he holds for each and everyone of us.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
[Psalm 40:1-2]

3.    DO WE NEED ASK GOD FOR HELP?

Now if the difficult position you are in is not of your making, i.e. random life circumstances have placed you there, and you are already a committed and faithful Christian, then the Lord will often just assist you out of his love for you. That is, there may be no need even to ask! The faith and trust, that equals hope, is already yours. And he often responds to that alone. I have experienced that myself, and witnessed it occurring to other faithful Christians, many times over. That is very solid examples of it!

If it just does not seem to be happening for you though, and physical or emotional pain continues, then start to deliberately sit with him opening yourself and the issue to him. Concentrate on his loving presence during the whole process. Allow the trust and love to flow between you and the Lord as you faithfully hand the issue to him. Dont worry about finding the right words, he will help you through it.

In the same way the Spirit helps in our weakness.
We do not know what we ought pray for,
but the Spirit himself intercedes for us
with groans that words cannot express.
[Romans 8:26]

If you are not a committed and faithful Christian, but are ready to commit yourself to the Lord, and you find yourself there in one of those positions of extreme difficulty, then in hope just ask for his help through prayer, again as above. Then it should come too. The importance of faith, and its application in all these situations, is explained under the next heading.

If the hole’ that you are in is of your own making, maybe from poor choices in life, e.g. addictions or bad habits, and you know you do want to change your ways, then pray. And pray with hope. And pray often.

He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
[Isaiah 40:29]

I can do everything through him
who gives me strength.
[Philippians 4:13]

4.    JUST HOW WILL GOD ASSIST US?

Again I am not saying that the whole issue, in all the above mentioned circumstances, will be swept aside in all this. I just mean that he will help by enabling you to pass through your ordeal. And if you are in a really bad place initially, then his empowering you through it, should be dramatic enough to be recognised by you.

I discussed hope, and the way I knew God assists us through its use, with a Christian friend. She is an ordained clergy woman. Agreeing with my understanding, she jogged my memory as to a specific tool that the Lord can use there. Not surprisingly, you might think, it is people. I highlighted in another article, how God uses people to pass on advice to us when we need some important guidance in life (see Heading 4 in that article).  Well, in this area of hope, God can if need be ... empower ... individuals to assist other individuals doing it tough.

And when I look back through my own memories, I do know that the right people, with the appropriate knowledge, skills and attitude, often seem to turn up at the exact time when they are most needed by us faithful believers. In the examples that spring to my mind, the timing of arrival and personal skills on hand, were ballistic’ at times. I knew that God had to have orchestrated the instances; had to be behind them. The odd example was related to my own life, but I have also witnessed many more examples with Christians during my lay ministry in a hospital environment.

So, if we already have our faith, or we are trying to gain it through the means highlighted in other articles on the website: attending church, reading the Bible and following its guidance in life it is much easier to utilise the power of hope. If we do so, i.e. use this mix of faith and trust, then hope is a tool that definitely will pass the test of time. In effect God will shine through, evident there, lifting us through our ordeal. We just faithfully trust him, as he rests his love on us!

We wait in hope for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love rest
upon us, O Lord,
even as we put our hope in you.
[Psalm 33:20-22]

Yes, when one looks back over the time in question, whether it has ended yet or not, the very ability to persevere with or readily stand up to the circumstances will make his loving presence clear to you. You will know that you could not have endured it, as well as you did, without him. This fact will stand out. Of course, until you are there to see it for yourself, you cant fully know what I mean. But be prepared to catch sight of hope in action. I am pretty sure youll get the chance, if you havent as yet.

Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord, the Lord,
is the Rock eternal.
[Isaiah 26:14]

Also please read the article, “Suffering and Evil” for a bit more information on the subject. A good example of hope in action is included there. I also recommend that you read “The Beatitudes” as presented in the Bible’s New Testament [Matthew 5:1-11]. Even Jesus’ disciples suffered on their paths after his death on the cross, and Jesus prepared them for it – offering them ‘hope’.