Engage with God, through hope, during life’s hard times.
If you do deliberately connect with God in those times
you will then recognise his loving care.
You can read the introductory article to this section of the website, “God’s presence in our lives” before going on, if you have not already. It explains the various methods, available to us, that we can use to engage with God in our lives. And how our lives can be positively transformed as a result! It also puts those available methods, and our overall relationship with God, in perspective.
(To read about the ‘who’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ of this website please click here.)
For the majority of us, I believe, a life lived in faith with trust in God will generally deliver the sense of purpose and 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 definitely speak from my own experience here. This article then refers to times where that bad stuff is happening and you believe circumstances probably won’t change for the better, in the short term at least.
2. BAD STUFF AND GOD’S LOVE
I fully realise that some readers will come to this particular article during their own difficult times. Maybe they are suffering from physical or emotional pain, possibly having lost loved ones through death or relationship breakdown/ divorce. Maybe they are facing cruel harassment or bullying at the hands of others. Or possibly they are unable to end self destructive addictions and bad habits etc. If so, please read on.
When life’s 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’, 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.
3. HOW HOPE WORKS FOR US
And ‘hope’ 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 where we would choose to go to find evidence of God’s presence in our lives. (That is to assist us with building evidence-based belief in him and in turn support our Christian faith.) But, I am confident that he can be recognised, at times quite clearly, there in a positive sense within those times.
Now I personally come from an auditing background, and I realise that the first time something just ‘clicks’, in a fashion as above, won’t necessarily convince you it is God at work. But if you are a committed, practising Christian then the evidence will readily build up through many facets of your life. This website discusses so many areas in life where he can engage with any of us positively to our advantage. That is for us to build that evidence-based belief! (To read about the ‘who’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ of this website please click here.)
3.1 An explanation of “hope”
Hope, as far as Christianity is concerned, doesn’t 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 step over that ‘hole’ and go beyond it.
3.2 How “hope” affects our life
All we need do is to hope (trust through our faith) that God will enable us to overcome. If necessary, we deliberately ‘engage with him’, through that process of hope. We simply place our situation completely in God’s 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. And I write all this from the basis of my own experiences of God during hard times. From the Bible:
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.
4. DO WE NEED ASK GOD FOR HELP?
So, how do we engage with God during our hard times, so as to receive his loving care.
Will he just come to our aid? Or should we deliberately engage with him … ask for his help?
4.1 When hardship suddenly strikes a Christian
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 may just assist you out of his love for you. That is you may not even have to ask.
The faith and trust, that equals hope, was already yours. And he often responds to that alone.
I have experienced that myself, and have witnessed it occurring to other faithful Christians, so many times over. This spontaneous loving help from God may, for example, occur when simple yet extreme circumstances of hardship face us. I give an example of mine later under Heading 5.
4.2 When hardship for the faithful is long-term
On the other hand, if we find ourselves in a situation where physical or emotional pain is unavoidably going to be long-term, then we need to deliberately sit with the Lord. We concentrate on his loving presence; rest in him during the whole process, allowing trust and love to flow between us. We faithfully hand the issue to him. And we should do this as often as we feel the need. It will never be too often for him.
And trust me again, I write that from my own experiences.
Don’t worry about finding the right words either, when engaging with him, he will help you through that as well.
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.
4.3 If you have not yet committed to faith?
What 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 again under that Heading 5. Honestly, whatever the situation, God is ready to enfold you with his love. You just need to ‘engage’ with him to receive it.
I suggest you then seriously commit yourself to faith. ‘Fast forward’ that is! I am sure you won’t ever look back!
4.4 Poor life choices and hard times
If the ‘hole’ that you are in is of your own making, 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. Look … he does love you, do not forget that.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
I can do everything through him
who gives me strength.
And if you receive an offer of help from other caring humans, after engaging with him, go with it. More on that under the next heading.
5. 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 by God in all this. I just mean that God 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 obvious enough to be recognised by you. Remember, I do not write this stuff as an amateur. I have been there, and done that!
But … how does God assist us then?
5.1 Organising people to assist others
I discussed ‘hope’, and the way I knew God assists us Christians through its use, with a friend who is an ordained clergy woman (another on my team of advisors). Again, to read about the ‘who’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ of this website please click here.
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, “Advice from others” how God uses other people to pass on advice to us. That is when we need some important guidance in life. Well, in this area of ‘hope’, God can also orchestrate events for us. And through that process, if need be, he … orchestrates/ empowers … individuals to assist other people ‘doing it tough’.
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.
I witnessed many more such examples occurring for Christians during a lay ministry of mine in a hospital environment. I discuss it in the article, “Involvement in ministry”.
Looking back through my memories
A personal example in my own life, also related to a hospital experience, came to mind as I wrote this article. I had cancer, fifteen years ago, and was lying on a trolley awaiting entry to a hospital operating theatre. God had graciously made me so calm in the build up to this event (which is another story). My wife was standing beside me, and her anxiety was building seriously as she waited with me. The look on her face was enough to completely ‘rattle’ me. I was not worried about myself, but I was becoming increasingly stressed about her. Just when the situation got to fever pitch, I was wheeled away from her towards the theatre. I watched as she exited that waiting area, and entered a public hallway. In that instant, just before I entered the theatre, I caught sight of two clergy friends closing around her there.
They had arrived for a totally different purpose, and were passing through that hallway. But they took my wife straight to the hospital chapel, then consoled and prayed with her. The sight of them taking her into their care sent a rush of relief through me. I contentedly relaxed into my situation again. Within minutes, the operation was underway with a very calm patient (me).
What were the odds of those guys just turning up like that? Oh, and I must mention that one of those clergy members, who assisted my wife was my earlier mentioned friend. That is, she was the one who recently reminded me how God uses people as a ‘tool of hope’ to assist others! What are the odds now? What is the point God is making here? Yes, he certainly can set things up.
5.2 Hope and the faithful
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.
5.3 You will know!
Yes, when you look 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.
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
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 can’t fully know what I mean.
So be prepared to catch sight of hope in action. I am pretty sure you’ll get the chance, if you haven’t as yet. Again from Isaiah:
Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord, the Lord,
is the Rock eternal.
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’.
For the final piece of advice here, I quote this beautiful statement from Jesus. Yes, God again in the ‘person of Jesus’ is most definitely ready to assist and guide in these times.
“Come to me, all you who are weary
and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Continue to the next article, “Trusting God day to day”.
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