Engage with God, through ‘hope’,
during all of life’s hard or tough times.
Deliberately connect with God.
Recognise his loving care.

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1.    INTRODUCTION

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 or connect with God in our lives. And how our lives can be positively transformed as a result! It also tries to put those available methods, and our overall relationship with the Lord, 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 of faith, trusting 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. Life isn’t always going to come up with the results we expect or want. I definitely speak from my own experience here.

This article then refers to those hard times, and how to connect with God’s help when bad stuff IS happening to us. But please, don’t forget to also access any available professional and qualified help, e.g. doctors, psychologists etc. I mean as well as engaging/ connecting with God of course.

And look, this article contains a lot of info BUT it also covers complex issues that will affect almost everyone of us somewhere in life.

2.    GOD’S LOVE WHEN BAD STUFF HAPPENS

I do realise that many readers will actually come to this particular article during their own difficult times. Maybe they are suffering from serious physical or emotional stress and pain, or even terminal illness. Possibly they have lost loved ones through death or relationship breakdown/ divorce. Perhaps they are facing cruel harassment or bullying at the hands of others. It could be hard times at work, or even at school. Or they are despairing because of their own self destructive addictions and bad habits etc. It may be that challenges ahead in life ‘just plain’ freeze their ability to step forward at all. And I know that so many people are really ‘doing it tough’ these days due to unexpected high costs of living etc.

No, none of those difficult times listed are good places to be. And of course there are so many other possible causes of hardship.

When any of life’s ‘turns’ leave you there in that ‘dark place’ … even then … there are ways to recognise God loving you all the more; normally ‘ready’ to reveal his presence to you through his support. We are talking here about dealing with the “pain”, as a minimum, no matter what the cause. And as difficult as the circumstances may be, the Lord’s presence can indeed be quite obvious there as he does assist you.

To be on the receiving end of God’s loving care, in these circumstances, we ‘normally’ just need to engage with him by applying ‘hope’ to our problems. In rare times too, ‘lamenting’ may be an option (and we also get to that later in this article).

That Christian concept of ‘hope’, is closely related to both ‘faith’ and ‘trust’.

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]

3.    HOW ‘HOPE’ WORKS FOR US

‘Hope’ is always available to us if, or more likely when, we find ourselves in one of those inevitable holes or abysses in life. Of course, it is not the place where we would choose to find evidence of God’s presence in our lives.

Now, I personally come from a ‘senior auditing‘ background, although most of my advisory team are Christian clergy. (Again click here to read more read about this website). And I realise that the first time something just ‘clicks’, in a fashion as above, won’t necessarily convince us it is God at work. But if you are a faithful, practising Christian then the examples of evidence will readily build up through many areas of your life. I explain this evaluation process, more fully, under subheading 5.2 in the article “God’s presence in our lives“.

But, let’s get into the details of ‘hope’ at work in our lives …

3.1    Real hope is not ‘wishing’

“Hope”, as far as Christianity is concerned, doesn’t relate to our normal everyday use of the word. That is ‘wishing’ something will happen without knowing whether it actually will or not.

With regard to this article, Christian hope (when applied in these tough situations) relates to our confidence that the God who loves us WILL assist us through his ‘grace‘ to step over that ‘hard place in life’ and go beyond it. And his assistance there should be a ‘standout’! Remember we have a God who, in the ‘person of Jesus’, died a terrible death ‘for each of us‘. This is a God who unconditionally loves us; who is ready to graciously give to each of us.

3.2    Applying hope to our lives

So generally, all we need do is to ‘hope’ (trust through our faith) that God will enable us to capably pass through those hard times. We simply place our situation completely in the Lord’s hands with utter trust. In effect, we can know that he will help us through it!

I must make it very clear at this point … when it comes to God’s help within hard times … that God will not make ‘everything rosey’ with regard to every problem we may come to face in life. But he WILL as a minimum … assist us to stand up to all those challenges in life, that is if we DO ask for it.

Just do not doubt the depth of love the Lord holds for each and everyone of us; his readiness to help. And I have soundly proven all this to be true to myself through my own experiences. That is during my own hard or ‘tough’ times during life. Christians who I have interviewed, and who have trusted him in the same way, also referred to his positive assistance. 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.
[Psalm 40:1-2]

4.    YES, WE DO NEED TO ASK!

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 … that is, ask for his help?

4.1    When hardship suddenly strikes a Christian

Yes, normally, Christians do need to DELIBERATELY ‘engage with God’ through their trust and faith when they suddenly find themselves in trouble and pain (whether emotional or physical). As with other forms of prayer, God usually waits for our requests before coming to our aid.

Of course, he knows we are caught in ‘dire straits’ before we ask. But by waiting for us to connect with him he can then PROVE his love by assisting us. That is by ‘lifting us’ through the hard time; by at least giving us the ability to cope with it.

YET, on vary rare occasions, where the Lord actually can highlight his loving involvement – letting you know it is him within the process – you CAN note him assisting without even being asked. I mean when his assistance happens through events that are ‘very obvious’! (That is events clearly set-up by him.) I have experienced that for myself too, and have witnessed it occurring to other faithful Christians. I give one simple example of mine later under Heading 5 in this article.

One way or another though, I understand that our ‘engagement’ with him has to be obvious!

4.2    When hardship is long-term for a Christian

If we find ourselves in a situation where physical and/ or emotional pain is unavoidably going to be long-term, then we seriously need to sit with the Lord. We ‘concentrate’ on his loving presence; rest in him, allowing trust and love to flow between us. We faithfully and deliberately hand the issue to him through our prayers of hope.

We should do this as often as we feel the need. It will never be too often for the Lord in these cases. During these ongoing times of hardship, it is especially wise to begin our days by spending time with him in prayer, handing over our pain whether emotional or physical. And keep doing so as the day passes. Remember how he loves each of us, as you do open yourself to him. He will empower you to pass through it, no matter how long-term it is. I assure you again, I also write all that from my own experiences and that of other Christians who have been involved in similar siuations. 

And remember to look out for any ‘guidance’, related to your problem, that the Lord may offer at any time. There is a whole subsection called, “God’s guiding hand” within the “God in life” section. Please see the Menu Bar above.

Look, you don’t have to worry about ‘finding the right words’ for your prayers, when engaging with God under these circumstances. He will even help you through that as well. The following, beautiful advice in the Bible makes that point clear.

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]

4.3    If you have not yet committed to faith?

What if you are not yet a faithful Christian though, 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, and time spent together, as explained above. Then it should come too. The importance of faith, and its use in all these situations, is mentioned again under that following 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 Christian 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 personal habits, and you do want to change your ways, then pray. And pray with hope. And pray often. You know … he does love you! Do not forget that.

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]

And if you receive an offer of help from other caring humans, after engaging with God, go with that. More on that under the next heading too.

5.    JUST HOW WILL GOD ASSIST US?

HOW does God assist us then, in our hard or tough times?

5.1    God’s usual response to our hope

So, if we already have our faith, or we are trying to gain it – through the means offered in other articles on this website: attending church, reading the Bible and following its guidance in life – it is much easier for us to utilise the power of hope. Through deliberately engaging with him.

And if we do so, i.e. use this mix of faith and trust, then hope is a tool that definitely ‘can 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]

Again I am not saying that the whole issue, in our difficult circumstances, will always be swept aside by God in all this. I just mean that God will AT LEAST help by ‘enabling’ us to pass through our ordeal, and grow emotionally and spiritually as a result.

The following Bible quote is from St Paul’s second letter that he sent to the Corinthians. He is discussing a painful condition that he was suffering from:

Three times I pleaded with the Lord
to take it away from me.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Therefore I will boast all the more
about my weaknesses,
so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
That is why, for Christ’s sake,
I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships,
in persecutions, in difficulties.
For when I am weak, then I am strong.

[2 Corinthians 12:8-10. ‘Bold font’ added by me.]

Now, verses like that make us take notice eh? It certainly seems to be the ‘real deal’. No made-up story! Paul was writing in his letter about real ongoing suffering, and his interaction with God as a result. There was a way through it for him, and it was based on faith and trust. Yes … it was hope. He was not going to receive a ‘miracle healing‘ on this occasion. No! God, in the ‘person of Jesus‘ was giving Paul the ‘strength’ to get through it. His ordeal. And other challenges that Jesus knew would face Paul in the future.

Like Paul, if you are in a really bad place, then God’s ’empowering you through it’ should be obvious enough to be recognised by you. For example (related to subheading 3.2 above) your ‘coping powers’ can be greatly improved: God simply empowers your ‘headspace’. Yes, it can literally be a recognisable and sizable shift in your psychological strength that occurs. And so, the situation that you are suffering from just won’t ‘rattle’ you anything like it had before.

In other words … you will then be able to handle your situation.

Yet again, I do not write this stuff as an amateur. I have been there, and done that! In fact, for long periods of time.

And on some occasions in our lives, he ‘may’ even set-up or orchestrate events that address the actual ‘underlying cause’ of the problem facing us. On occasions where that does happen, from my examples, it will in fact be ‘bleeding obvious’! But when it doesn’t, then almost certainly as I have previously explained we WILL be able to cope with the resulting hard times.

5.2    How God organises 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 of hope, she jogged my memory as to a specific ‘tool’ that the Lord can often use there. Not surprisingly, you might think, it is ‘people’. I highlighted in another article, “Advice through others” how God uses other people to pass on important advice to us. That is when we need some serious guidance in life. Well, in this area of ‘hope’, God can also orchestrate or set-up events for us. And through that process, if need be, he  … encourages or 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 just 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 just knew that God must have set-up the instances; had to be behind them. As far as I was concerned, it was usually ‘obvious’.

I witnessed many such examples occurring for other Christians during a lay ministry of mine in a hospital environment. I discuss it in the article, “Involvement in voluntary ministry”.

Looking back through my memories

A personal and rather simple example in my own life, also related to a hospital experience, came to mind as I was writing here. I had been diagnosed with life-threatening cancer, many 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 we waited. The look on her face was enough to really concern me.

No, I was not worried about myself, but I was becoming more and more stressed about my wife. Just when the situation got to fever pitch, I was wheeled away from her towards the operating 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 Christian clergy friends of ours closing around her there. In my mind, I knew exactly how it had all been set-up. And WHO had done so. As I wrote under sub-heading 4.1, this stuff happens “through events that are ‘very obvious’!”

Our two friends had arrived for a totally different purpose in the hospital, and were just passing through that hallway obviously ‘against the odds’. The sight of them just taking her into their care sent a rush of relief through me. I contentedly relaxed into my situation again. Within a short time, the surgical procedure was underway with a very calm patient (me). And my clergy friends took my wife straight to the hospital chapel, then consoled and prayed with her.

Again, what were the odds of those guys just turning up like that? At that exact moment she past through that door! 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 that God is making here? Yes, he certainly can set things up to help us.

6.    LAMENTING

As I wrote under Heading 2, ‘lamenting’ is another option for engaging with God when we are suffering without any relief. Indeed the Bible offers it to us as an option in those circumstances. Here is one example from the Old Testament, but there are ‘heaps of them’ through the Bible:

How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
[Habakkuk 1:2]

Sure, God can change any circumstances for us if he chooses to do do. But as a result of those other ‘hard’ or ‘tough’ times in life, when they are clearly not going away any time soon, we will mature and grow emotionally and spiritually. Our use of ‘trust and faith’ and his empowering assistance in this regard tends especially to draw us ever more deeply into a sincere loving relationship with him. And that is ‘oh so’ useful for us as we move along through life. We will come to recognise that in hindsight. Big time!

Yet, the Bible tells us that we CAN change God’s mind at times. Remember, as I wrote above, he wants each of us to be in a close, intimate and loving relationship with him. And yes, because of his love for us, God can respond to our continuing cries for personal help or justice. That is by bringing us more positive changes than we expect to happen on some occasions.

So bear with that one, there is nothing un-Christian about seriously ‘pleading’ with God, through faith, during hard times when all else fails.

7.    YOU WILL KNOW!

When you look back over the hard time in question, whether it has ended yet or not, the very ability to 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.
[Isaiah 41:10]

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 won’t fully understand what I mean.

Remember those previously quoted words of God, taken from 2 Corinthians 10:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

8.    CONCLUSION

Be prepared to catch sight of ‘hope’ in action, when those hard times happen. 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.
[Isaiah 26:14]

But, always REMEMBER to ‘engage with him‘ during those times!

Go for it, again and again. Keep that ‘attitude’ of hope powerful within yourself. Grow all the deeper in your loving relationship with him as a result, just as he intends of each of us.

Also please read the article, “Suffering and Evil” for a bit more information on the subject: God’s role in related events.

For the final piece of advice here, I quote this loving 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.”
[Matthew 11:28-30]

Please continue to the next article, “Trusting God day to day”.