Trials. They’re the universal commonality among Christ-followers, adversity being the thread of which the tapestry of life is intricately woven. The point being, that when viewed at the micro-level, you can see the fibers and the threads, but the picture blurry and indiscernible. But, when viewed from afar, all the little threads create something beautiful, a tapestry of grace, so to speak. That’s us! I don’t mean to minimize or moralize what you might be currently enduring, nor do I wish to sound trite or cliché, but the fact remains that there is purpose in our pain. So often, we miss that purpose because we resort to asking, “why” — “Why God, why me?” “Why is this happening to me?” “Why now?” “Why me?” Do you see the selfishness that’s innate in those questions? They’re rife with pride.
The Illusion of Control
The Protestant Reformers defined sin as incurvatus in se, that is, “man turned or curved in on himself.” Man’s natural bent is toward himself, it’s inward. It’s our instinct, our natural reaction, when facing adversity and hardship to ask “why.” But if we’re always asking “why,” we’ll miss the Who. And, at the end of the day, the only thing that truly matters when you’re in the midst of suffering is Who you look to for relief. And therein lies the most important question when suffering strikes, “Who’s in control?”
If you believe in your own illusion of control, which is nothing more than a mirage, you’ll end up asking “why,” you’ll get frustrated and downtrodden incessantly, because all the things you had in order and set up and thought you controlled are slowly being knocked down. The reality is, the more we try to fix things, and make things better in our own power, the more we fail. The more we try to control things, the more we’ll be shown our sheer lack of any authority over anything this life. When tumultuous times strike your soul, I urge you to look to Jesus, hold fast your Savior, and never waver from that gaze as long as you live. (Heb. 12:1–2)
Words of Grace in Times of Trouble
This is no light answer or simple construct designed to encourage. This is truth. God himself has made the promise, not to miraculously lift you from your circumstances, but to faithfully be with you among them.
Now this is what the Lord says — the one who created you, Jacob, and the one who formed you, Israel — “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are mine. I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you.” (Isa. 43:1–2)
“It is Jesus who walks the water of your trouble and comes to you,” Charles Spurgeon notes. It is Christ who meets us where we are and whispers, “It is I. Do not be afraid.” (Matt. 14:27) When we’ve run out of options, that’s precisely where God wants us, for if we have no other recourse, it’s then that the One and True option of Jesus and his gospel of grace will shine all the more and all the brighter as the light for our darkened souls. Grace always comes running; it meets us right where we are!
I don’t know the struggles you face nor the hardship you’re enduring. But this I do know: Jesus is sovereign. He’s in control and has a divine plan for your life. He promises to hear your cries for mercy and your prayers of deliverance. “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.” (Ps. 107:28–30)
Have confidence and reassurance that, as John Calvin notes, “the Lord indulges our weakness, and stretches out his hand, that the waters may not swallow us up altogether.” Just as Christ stretched forth his hand to the sinking Peter (Matt. 14:30–31), so too has Jesus extended his hand of grace to us. This is the Who we must look to, the Redeemer and Rescuer of our souls, Christ Jesus, the Lord. We can be encouraged, because these times of struggle and adversity are preparing us for something greater. (2 Cor. 4:17) “Your emptiness is but the preparation for your being filled,” declares Spurgeon, “and your casting down is but the making ready for your lifting up.” You will be lifted up. I know you’re pain right now is real, but my earnest prayer for you is that you don’t forget the Who.