Life hurts, doesn’t it?
I think we all get that. Bad things happen. It’s when bad things pile up in batches, arriving in threes—or sixes—or a never-ending conveyer belt delivering waves of pain and sorrow—that our faith can take a real beating. So let’s talk about how to hang on to God when life really hurts.
The past year (2022) dished out the most brutal batch of pain and loss I’ve ever experienced: Hero, the dog who grew up with our kiddos, died; the church we planted closed after eight years; I broke down in the aftermath of that loss with a crippling season of burnout; we lost many of our friends and support systems; I got pneumonia with a gruelling pleurisy attack; my dad died suddenly; one of my dearest friends passed away from a long battle with cancer; my wife, shauna, and I were in a car accident involving a semi-truck; Shauna fell and broke her ankle; my hearing loss and tinnitus have gotten worse; and my migraines have increased.
I’m not saying this for sympathy, but to show you that I get it. These are not things any of us pray for; they are things we pray against, trusting that God will deliver us from them. And then they happen, and keep on happening, and it can become difficult to keep our heads above water. In the midst of this severe trial, there is one thing that I have come back to over and over again—one thing I have set before me, that banishes the lies of the enemy like nothing else.
He loves me, He loves me… not?
Have you ever picked a daisy and played the children’s game? You pluck a petal and say, “He loves me.” You pluck the next petal and say, “He loves me not.” This continues until you run out of petals, which leaves you either with “He loves me,” or “He loves me not” as the final, fateful verdict.
It’s far too easy to play this game with God: He answers a prayer? He loves me. My car is vandalized? He loves me not. A friend sends me a card? He loves me. My IBS is acting up? He loves me not.
If you don’t settle God’s love for you once and for all, your soul will never be settled. If you hitch God’s love for you to Your happiness, or specific outcomes, you’re doomed to ride the roller-coaster of emotional highs and lows. Your faith will struggle every time your life hurts.
The most important issue of all
It all comes down to this, for me, and for you as well:
If God sending Jesus to die a horrible death on a cross in my place… so I can go free and live an everlasting life of meaning and purpose… culminating with eternal fountains of bliss and joy in heaven… isn’t enough, nothing ever will be.
If Christ is enough, however, I can rest in that fact and grab stability from His centre of gravity. I can revel in the beating, beautiful heart of His attentiveness and peace. And with God’s love for me settled, three massive, despair-inducing struggles are settled along with it!
1. God isn’t punishing you, or even disciplining you. You may be surfing the wave of consequences for poor decisions, but that’s not God’s doing, it’s yours. If you’re a Christ-follower, Jesus took your punishment for sin, so no, God isn’t punishing you for it. And He’s not disciplining you for it, either: If we could be trained out of sin, Jesus wouldn’t have had to die! If you’d like my full expose of why this is true, check out my full teaching on this. It will blow. Your. Mind.
2. God is definitely not doing this to you! You just happen to live in a massively complicated, sin-sick world. If that weren’t enough, your life also happens to be ground zero for a spirit-war waged by a demonic despot hellbent on stealing, killing, and destroying everything good, noble, right, and true. The Father’s heart breaks over the state of his once-gloriously perfect creation, and His Spirit groans with us in our pain and suffering. Jesus clears up any notion of blame when He says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10). Which brings me to my last point:
God isn’t holding out on you. As Paul wrote, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). God’s highest goal has never been to guarantee a life full of what we think we want. Our greatest need is not a life free of pain, or existence infused with pleasure, but a life full of His presence. He gives the gift of Himself.
This is the lifeline I’ve been holding onto: Jesus Himself, who gave himself for me. The Spirit of God, who indwells and encircles me. The Father of love and light, who invites me home and runs to embrace me.
Do I understand why all this has happened to us? Nope. And I probably never will. What I do know is, He has never left my side, He never will, and that’s the most important thing of all.
Next post: Practical tips on winning the inner war during pain and hardship.
What stood out to you about this post? Do you agree? Disagree? Let’s talk!