Engage with God, through ‘hope’,
during all of life’s hard or tough times.
Deliberately connect with God.
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 tries to put 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 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, when bad stuff is happening to us. Don’t forget to also access any available professional and qualified help, e.g. doctors, psychologists etc. I mean as well as engaging or connecting with God of course.
I must warn you though, this is a big article … one of the biggest on this website. But it covers complex issues that will affect almost everyone of us somewhere in life.
2. GOD’S LOVE WHEN BAD STUFF HAPPENS
And I fully realise that some readers will 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 readers 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 tough times at work. Or they are despairing because of their own self destructive addictions and bad habits 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 life’s ‘turns’ leaves 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. We are talking here about dealing with the “pain”, whatever the cause. And as difficult as the circumstances may be, the Lord’s presence can be quite pronounced there.
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. And I do explain about this later. In rare times, ‘lamenting’ may be an option too (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.
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. (That is to assist us with building ‘evidence-based belief‘ in him, and in turn support our Christian faith.)
Now, I personally come from a ‘senior auditing‘ background 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. And this website discusses ‘those areas’ in our lives and the Church where any of us can engage with God positively; to our advantage. I explain this evaluation process, more fully, under sub heading 5.2 in the article “God’s presence 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 enable us through his ‘grace‘ to step over that ‘hole’ and go beyond it. In other words, 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 God’s hands with utter trust … that is to the best of our ability. In effect, we know he will help us through it!
Yes, in other words, we don’t just ‘think’ he will help us, WE KNOW HE WILL!
Now, I’m not saying that God will make ‘everything rosey’ with regard to problems facing us etc. No, I am referring to him assisting us to stand up to those challenges in life that we will come to face eventually.
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 have soundly proven all this to be true to myself through my own experiences of the Lord. That is during my own hard or ‘tough’ times in 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.
4. DO WE 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 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. Yes, he knows we are in ‘dire straits’ before we ask. But by waiting for us to engage with him he can then prove his love by assisting us.
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 being asked. I mean when his assistance can happen through events that are ‘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 such example of mine later under Heading 5.
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 him 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. As explained above, use that gift of hope by KNOWING that he will assist you. 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. I assure you again, I also write all that from my own experiences.
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.
Don’t 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.
4.3 If you have not yet committed to faith?
What if you are not a 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, 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.
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 God, go with it. More on that under the next heading too.
5. JUST HOW WILL GOD ASSIST US?
HOW does God assist us then?
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 the 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.
Again I am not saying that the whole issue, in our difficult circumstances, will be swept aside by God in all this. I just mean that God will 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 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 he knew would happen 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 your ‘coping powers’ can be greatly improved: God simply empowers your ‘headspace’. Yes, it can literally be a recognisable shift in psychological strength that occurs. And so, the situation just won’t ‘rattle’ you anything like it had before.
As a direct result, you will 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.
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, 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 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 had to have set-up the instances; had to be behind them. As far as I was concerned, it was usually ‘obvious’.
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 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 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 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’!”
My two friends had arrived for a totally different purpose in the hospital, and were just passing through that hallway obviously ‘against the odds’. 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 a short time, the surgical procedure was underway with a very calm patient (me).
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.
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?
Sure, God can change any circumstances if he feels it is useful for us. But as a result of those hard or ‘tough’ times in life we do mature and grow spiritually. And that too is useful for us. We will come to recognise that in hindsight.
Yet, the Bible tells us that we can change God’s mind at times. Remember, 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, bringing us positive changes on 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 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.
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 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.”
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.
But, always REMEMBER to ‘engage with him‘ during those times!
Whatever the cause of your tough or hard time, don’t just ‘think’ he will help you, KNOW THAT HE WILL! 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.”
Continue to the next article, “Trusting God day to day”.