There are some facts right now I wish I didn’t have to face, whether in my life or in the lives of many of my dear friends.
This summer, I’ve made many phone calls and written many letters, because most of my friends are out of college, scattered across the country. What has come of the countless times I’ve tapped the red button and heard the “bum-bum” of a finished call?
I’ve never been so impressed with the curse, meaning all that’s wrong in the world (Genesis 3). Sometimes, more feels wrong than right; more feels dark than light; life feels heavy. I’m sure you’ve felt this too, at some point.
Heartbreak. Health complications. Emotional trials. Financial burdens. Uncertainty. Sleeplessness. Grief. Death. The burdens pile up. Not to mention the sin I recognize hidden in my own heart. The unseen muck within us adds to the mess—and apparently, we all contribute. Evil is everywhere. And trusting God gets harder and harder.
Bad things happen to many decent people for reasons beyond my comprehension. And all of them whisper deceitfully, What a perfect reason to despair.
We All Have Trials
We’re bound to experience trials of various kinds (James 1:2). The Bible isn’t as specific as we may like about the kinds of trials we will face. God’s Word simply tells us we will experience trials.
Our trials come in various—diverse, assorted, different—kinds. At times, your trials may be identical to your neighbor: the death of a loved one, depression, or a sense of meaninglessness. Or, they might be downright weird—a trial that no other person you know has been through, a thorn of a shape you’ve never seen.
Each heart knows its own bitterness,
and no one else can share its joy. (Proverbs 14:10, NIV)
Trials are the fruit of sin—whether from our own hearts, others’ hearts, or from the effect of sin (the curse) on creation. One of my friends put it this way: pain comes from sin, suffering, or sorrows.
The Devil Tempts Us to Doubt
Through all of these conversations with my college friends, I’ve realized I’ve become surprised by sin again. I don’t mean just the “bad things” people do. I mean the cumulative effect of everything that’s opposed to good in the world.
Those who have faith in Christ are free from sin. Though we walk in this world—the dominion of darkness—sin has no power over us any longer because we’ve been buried and raised with Christ (Romans 6:7, 14). But oh, how the devil would like for us to doubt this!
One of the biggest barriers to belief in God is suffering. Pain makes faith hard. Satan sees pain as the perfect opportunity to start attacking our faith. God is good, but life hurts and makes us wonder at the One who claims to be in control. Reading the Bible, though, is the best weapon against Satan and his schemes.
It’s Okay to Face the Facts
In the book of Romans, we read about Abraham, who was facing a trial of his own. He wanted a son with his wife, Sarah, yet they were both nearly a century old. Here’s what we read about him:
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. (Romans 4:18-19 NIV)
Abraham “faced the fact.” He didn’t deny his age or the difficulty of the circumstances. He acknowledged that he faced a real, physical dilemma: His body was “as good as dead!”
This is where we have to begin as we look at our trials. It’s okay to “face the facts.” We can’t deny reality. Heartbreak really hurts! The cancer is not being cured. The lies are being believed.
Whatever facts surround your scenario of suffering—they’re facts. They may be discouraging, but take comfort that even God’s Word says it’s okay to honestly assess our bleak circumstances. This isn’t a lack of faith. It’s staring facts—truth—in the face. It’s what Abraham did.
Abraham’s Example: Trusting God
“Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” (Romans 4:20-21 NIV)
Aren’t you glad we don’t read, “So, Abraham said, ‘Forget it. I’m old; she’s old. Kids aren’t born to old people. There’s no way. God must mean something else.’”
Thank God that isn’t what he said. Abraham stared the demoralizing facts in the face, and he stood his ground. He didn’t waiver and stop believing God when he saw what looked like poor providence.
How did Abraham keep believing?
Being Strengthened in Our Faith
Well, he did not “waver in unbelief”—he didn’t let poor thoughts of God take hold in his mind. In the book of James, the author tells us that when we pray “you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do” (James 1:6-8 NIV).
It’s very easy to say that we trust God, but then entertain all sorts of “what if’s” and other doubts about his ability, his willingness, or his care. Instead of letting our minds run with our own wonderings (Proverbs 3:5-6), we need to fill our minds with God’s true promises. For “faith comes through hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Keep your mind fixed on God’s promises, rather than letting them run rogue.
We read that Abraham “was strengthened in his faith”—passive voice. That means an action was done to him. God’s Spirit strengthened him. God, by his Spirit, gave Abraham strength to believe that God could do exactly what he said. He was “persuaded” that God would fulfill his promise.
And Isaac was born—just as God said.
The Best Story for Stirring Our Faith
Let’s go back to another story. Think of the disciples, the best friends of Jesus, watching him die on a cross.
Well, he said he was the Christ! He said he would rise again. He said he came to save his people and bind up the broken–hearted. And he is hanging on a cross, literally dying! They saw the spear go into his side. They saw his stone tomb.
And Jesus was raised from the dead and glorified and sits at the right hand of the Father, just as he said.
We receive the promise of salvation by believing that what Jesus says about himself is true.
And for the rest of our lives, we believe in him, in God, who raised Jesus from the dead, not only for his promise of free forgiveness for sin but for everything else he says in his Word.
Face the Facts, Then Trust God
I don’t know the shape of your suffering. But there’s a whole Bible available to you, and God’s Spirit to strengthen you. Read the Psalms. They lament with you. They’re an excellent place to turn in God’s Word when we are suffering.
Face the facts, bleak though they may be, but don’t back down in disbelief.
After taking a good look at the facts, look at God’s promises in his Word. Ask for his strength to believe that he will do exactly as he says. Ask him to persuade you to believe that he has the power to do as he promises. And give him glory and praise as you wait for him to fulfill those promises.