So, how do we keep the faith in tough times?
I pondered this question this week. Why? Well just like everyone else I have good days and bad days and this week proved challenging with flaring emotions, less-than-graceful communication and the temptation to, yet again, go over details in my head. It was easy to say to my self, “where did I go wrong” “I don’t deserve this or that person doesn’t deserve this” and plain old “Where are you GOD?
Even with all the reading, all the praying and all the practice of trying to stay peaceful, this week was overwhelming, and I found myself begging God to drop me a line and send me the answers written in the sky.
I prayed over and over for Him to bring relief and change the scene. Nothing. I felt discouraged, depressed… and impatient. Why wasn’t He answering my prayers? Why wasn’t God showing up? And then I remembered something: We grow in our faith, and it takes time. The struggle strengthens us.
‘Poppycock’ I hear you say but its true, bear with me on this.
Our faith isn’t always tested in the good times; our faith is tested during trials and times of challenge.
When we ask, “Where are you, God?” and hear just birds singing or even just silence, that’s when we’re left to decide what to do. Will we believe anyway? Allowing ourselves to grow a more mature faith? Or will we decide Gods not there, falling back on all the voices we’ve heard in the past, from those around us?
Sometimes we can see the temptation at work in these moments; sometimes we can’t. We take forward steps and backward steps (and side steps and missteps), sometimes we just stand still, hiding our heads in the ground with all the pain. But we’re growing and being stretched when the number of forward steps we take -out grows the backward ones!
Taking that forward step is making yourself and your faith active.
Trust the faith you do have!
Choose to remain faithful when there is no visible finish line and no feeling of relief. Lean into it and bear through the discomfort that comes from trusting in what you cannot see. It’s not taking a risk–it’s strengthening your faith, your resolve. It allows you to change how you feel about the circumstances, taking back a little of the control allowing you to focus once more.
Are you struggling with trusting God? Because honestly, this is all of us at times. You are not the only Christian out there who is struggling, wondering if you really believe or even feeling like you just can’t feel God.
We all struggle in different ways at different times.
Why? Well for most of us we just cannot reach out and touch God with our hands like we can a person, a phone, computer screen or something in the physical world. And in that moment of nothingness, what do we do next? Where do we turn our eyes?
“I lift my eyes up to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2). This is the psalm my mother told me was mine- God wanted me to know it all of my life, and its sort of helped in these times, because our Faith is our freewill choice. It requires believing in what we cannot see. It is an action to take; it requires us to move. To take that leap of faith that we see Indiana Jones take in the final movie when looking for the Holy Grail.
What (You’re thinking) is she on about? But faith requires us to not just think about it. We need to grow into it and trust it.
Ask God for More Faith
Sounds simple. Have you tried it? James 4:2 says that we do not have, because we do not ask.
Jesus said that we should ask, seek and knock. Not my words, His:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be open to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matt 7:7-8).
And when we enter hard times that just keep getting harder, deeper, more intense its in those times we can pray- Lord, take me another step; allow me to have more faith in you.
The moment we face choosing to trust God or going it alone—which can happen many times in the course of a Christian’s life—we have an opportunity to put our faith in action.
We might think at times, But I’m tired of always choosing to take the high road. I’m tired of reaching out, giving, taking the food to foodbank, not yelling at other users of the road etc.
“We walk by faith, not by sight” is what 2 Corinthians 5:7 says. We participate in this process. We make these choices in the quiet of our hearts, when no one would ever know or see. Does it look weak on the outside? Well it requires great strength. We can get that strength from God.
“But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved” (Hebrews 10:39). We will not always (and in some cases ever) be noticed or thanked by the world around us, and thankfully, because that is not at all the point.
Allow God’s Word to Work in You and Through You
The Bible is called the living word. Hebrews 4:12 tell us, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it pierces even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Have you ever read a Bible verse and it cuts right through all the rubbish and gets right to the point? Maybe it convicts you or maybe it confirms something for you. It is powerful. So, if you are “staying in the word,” you are having this living water refresh you, fill you, nourish you, teach you, correct you, redirect you. The bible is still exciting, and more than that its formative. Yes, we need to ensure we understand the lens in which we read it. (by this I mean, if our culture reads it one way, doesn’t mean another culture may read it differently) God is ok with that, but Gods word is the inspired word of God. Written for the culture at the time, by the people of the time. It’s the Holy Spirit that will make it relevant for us today.
So, what can I do?
Well seek forgiveness when you get things wrong and try to do better next time.
We work at it because we want to improve. We have to forgive ourselves for the mess as much as the other person. If we don’t, we just eat ourselves up mentally. We are human and we will end up getting ourselves into problems and situations. We will make bad / wrong choices, but this is a process, and we’re all in it, and we all mess up.
Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven’ (Matthew 18:21-22).
Find Encouragement in New Places
Where is God calling you to learn more about Him? Maybe you’re trying to read the Bible at home on your own, and it’s a struggle. Some ideas:
- Have you considered watching an online Bible study?
- Listening to a podcast on your drive to work in the morning?
- Do you feel God calling you to a certain ministry?
- Maybe you could come on a Sunday to St Cuthberts or to a different Church in the area?
But I had also been taught my bible from a Baptist and a non-denominational. At first it felt strange because it was different to what I knew, but hearing the Bible taught in a way I could understand opened my eyes. After that point, I visited several local congregations, so why am I telling you this well just because generations of your family have celebrated their faith in one denomination, there may be something different for you. Ask God where He’s calling you. I hope I see you at St Cuthberts but I understand if I don’t!
Remember What God Has Done in Your Life
When I feel faith slipping in any way, I think about all the times God showed up over and over again, especially when I was broken and hurt. I think about these things and remember them.
How do you share your story with others? With those closest to you? With yourself when you need it the most? Remember a problem shared is a problem halved. In our modern lives we have forgotten how to communicate with one another. Put down the phone and have a chat to someone.
Remember too that Thomas didn’t believe that Jesus really appeared to the other apostles after the resurrection? So, then Jesus appeared to Thomas, right there in front of everyone, and Thomas said, “My Lord my God!” And Jesus replied: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
So be unshakable in your faith and believe.
Think of a yoga stretch or new skill; getting to the next level requires a time of discomfort while pushing forward. You will feel (and eventually see) the difference.
What’s the hardest part about keeping faith in tough times for you? Let us know….