There are times when life hurts, when just getting through the day is a painful experience. Bad things happen to all of us: loss of a job, death of a loved one, divorce, crippling injury, financial ruin, miscarriage, drug addiction, alcohol problems, natural disasters, decline of an elderly parent, and betrayal of trust to name just a few. The sad fact is that in a fallen world few people enjoy lives free of grief, disappointment, or discouragement. An even sadder fact is that when trouble pours down, the rain falls on believers and unbelievers alike. Being a Christian does not mean a life free of difficulties.
When tragic events or unwelcome circumstance intrude, you are forced to make a choice: you can run to God or run from him. In other words, you can ask God to lift you up during your time of need and, as a result, grow in faith or you can turn your back on Him and lose your faith. I have seen both happen, and can attest that few things are sadder than Christians whose lives are mired in hopelessness, bitterness, and resentment because their faith faltered when it was needed most. Correspondingly, few things are more encouraging than Christians whose hearts are filled with hope because they clung to Christ in their darkest hour. Helping Christians who are suffering achieve this latter and preferred outcome is why I developed my ten-step plan for growing in faith when life hurts. The steps are listed later in this article.
God understands that life sometimes hurts, that His children are going to suffer from time to time. Consequently, when we face sorrow, disappointment, or discouragement, He wants us to place our burdens at His feet in prayer and in faith. He wants us to trust in Him to bring us through the darkness that envelops us. If we do this, God offers hope, healing, and restoration. He might even use the suffering we are enduring to strengthen our faith in Him, thereby making us better able to cope with future hardships.
This is important because Satan also understands that life sometimes hurts, and he rejoices in the fact because our pain is one of his favorite tools for undermining our faith. Like the predator he is, Satan insinuates his way into your life when you feel weak and vulnerable. Recall the message in 1 Peter 5:8. This verse warns that we should be watchful because the devil is prowling around like a lion looking for vulnerable prey. Just as lions and wolves like to attack prey that has been weakened by physical injuries, Satan likes to attack people who have been weakened by emotional injuries.
We are most vulnerable to Satan’s nefarious schemes when life knocks us down, filling our hearts with despair. Satan chooses these moments to lure us away from God and into his evil clutches. When this happens, the hope, healing, and restoration that can come only from Christ are preempted by anger, bitterness, and resentment. When life hurts, only God can provide the hope and healing you need. Satan, on the other hand, offers nothing but hopelessness and despair.
When weighed down by grief and discouragement, just functioning on a daily basis can be a challenge. There are plenty of books available to help you cope sufficiently to function on a daily basis when life hurts. But just coping—just getting by—is not enough. God wants you to let Him guide you through the darkness while growing your faith in the process. He wants you to do more than just regain your emotional equilibrium. He wants you to emerge from the darkness stronger and closer to Him than you were before the circumstances that turned your life upside down occurred.
This is where my ten-step plan comes into play. In dealing with hurting brothers and sisters over the years, I have learned that guiding them to the applicable Bible verses, reassuring them, and praying with them is not always enough. These things are important, of course, even critical. But hurting brothers and sisters need more if they are going to move beyond just coping with adversity to growing in faith. They need specific things to do—specific actions to take that will help them apply the guidance they receive from Scripture, prayer, and the wise counsel of pastors, counselors, and fellow believers. These specific actions are what my ten-step plan provides for you.
The ten-step plan has three broad goals. It is my fervent prayer that the plan will help you achieve all three of these goals. First, each step in the plan is designed to help you find comfort, hope, and restoration in the loving arms of Christ as you struggle to regain your emotional equilibrium. Second, together, the ten steps in the plan are designed to help you draw closer to God and grow in faith as you heal, recover, and move toward restoration. Third, the overall plan is designed to strengthen you to the point that you are not just better able to cope with life’s difficulties as an individual, but also to help others cope with the heartaches in life that are certain to come.
THE TEN-STEP PLAN
A life restored and faith strengthened or a life of hopelessness and faith lost. The choice is yours. Having said this, let me be quick to add that I understand how difficult it can be to make the right choice when you are mired in grief, disappointment, or discouragement. Even the most committed Christian needs help in these situations. My ten-step plan provides that help. It is my sincere hope and fervent prayer that this plan will help you cope during times of great emotional turmoil, and do so in ways that bring you closer to God, while also increasing your faith in Him. The steps in the model follow:
Refuse to blame God for your suffering
Understand that your emotions will rise and fall from day to day
Look for God’s purpose in your suffering
Run to God not away from Him
Don’t try to cope with your suffering alone—get help
Know there will be times when it seems your faith is not being rewarded
Reach out to someone else who is hurting and help that person
Use adversity to develop Godly character
Take the long view—life is a marathon not a sprint
Share your growth in faith with others who are hurting
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press and Christians on the Job: Winning at Work Without Compromising Your Faith, Salem Books, an imprint of Regnery Publishing, 2019: www.david-goetsch.com