To live life in full and continuous connection with God. Isn’t that our desire? Isn’t that what we are designed for?
And yet how often can life pull us off course?
Perhaps life is fabulous. Good things are happening. Everything we touch turns to gold. We’re Mr or Mrs Popular. We’ve moved to the nice part of town. The bags are packed for Tuscany. We’re enjoying the best (or so we think) of what life has to offer. And somewhere along the line our sense of needing God slowly fades away. Possessions, success, popularity become the focus of our delight. Jesus gets sidelined.
Or maybe life is wretched. We wake each morning (if we ever got to sleep in the first place) with aching guts and tear-soaked pillows. An unrelenting pain filling each moment of the day. That diagnosis. That betrayal. That abuse. That bank statement. That redundancy. That failure… overwhelming us with grief, confusion and more. The struggle is all-consuming. And we make no room for Jesus.
Yet the truth of it is, whatever circumstances we are facing – whether they’re blissfully good, gut-wrenchingly bad or somewhere in between – we have a choice, an opportunity, an invitation from God, to remain in full connection with Him.
I was at Gillingham Community Church yesterday preaching on 1 Samuel 1 (the same passage Brook spoke on at BEC). Based on the story of Hannah’s desperate longing for a child, here are 4 things I would suggest God would say to us when life is a struggle, 4 things that will help us to stay connected with Him even when life is at its toughest.
1. Be honest with me. Don’t believe the lie that we have to make ourselves ‘presentable’ to God. Hannah was a wreck, pouring out her heart to the Lord in great anguish and deep turmoil. Remember David’s prayers of raw, pained emotion that are captured for us in the Psalms. Neither thought to make themselves ‘presentable’. Both knew they didn’t need to. God knows our hearts. He knows our circumstances. He invites us to come to him as we are. He can handle it. Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’. If you’re feeling poor in spirit, Jesus has a gift for you.
2. Know that I am with you. Why is it that our experience of life being tough can often coincide with our feeling of God being a million miles away? The Footprints in the Sand poem expresses this felt emotion so movingly. Yet the biblical truth is that God is always with us.
Hannah’s experience of God being with her in her turmoil was expressed in the way she named her son: Samuel sounds like the Hebrew for ‘heard by God’. And remember the 3 friends in the fiery furnace? God was there with them (Daniel 3). And when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, God is there too (Psalm 23). In the very hardest, most difficult, most arduous times of our lives, God remains faithful, our strong tower and refuge, never leaving us or forsaking us. Even though you might not feel like it, please know in your spirit that God is with you.
3. Receive my peace. Did you notice the moment at which Hannah received peace? It wasn’t when God she received the answer to her prayer. It was when she encountered God in prayer. After she prayed she started eating, her face was no longer downcast, and she worshipped the Lord. Something had changed – and it wasn’t her circumstances. She had met with the Lord, and in the midst of her pain she now had peace.
Jesus said, ‘ Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you… Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid’ (John 14:27)
Do you need to ask God for His peace today?
4. Walk in my power. Hannah received the answer to her prayer. She saw God move powerfully and miraculously in her life. And how many other times in scripture and in our own lives have we seen God move powerfully in response to our prayers?
Furthermore, God actually said ‘No’ to Paul when Paul repeatedly brought his ‘thorn in the flesh’ to him in prayer, but Paul still got to walk in power because God supernaturally gave him the grace he needed to cope with his difficult issue.
Whatever it is you are facing, you can walk in power as you bring your needs to God and see Him active in your life, providing for you, strengthening you, working out his purposes in your life.
Remember, there is nothing that can separate us from God’s love. If life is hard for you right now, please hear God say: Be honest with me, know that I am with you, receive my peace, and walk in my power.
What’s your experience of God when you’ve faced difficulty? Please share your comments.