Almost from the time I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior, I have known what it is to live in hard circumstances. My husband and I had an automobile accident that took the life of our firstborn daughter and left me with numerous fractures. We have a special needs son (now an adult), who is completely bed bound and dependent upon others to meet all of his needs. For several years, my husband, adult daughter, and I were the main caregivers for my mother-in-law as Alzheimer’s gradually took her life. Now, my biggest struggle is with my own health, as I deal daily with a long list of chronic illnesses, including severe osteoarthritis of the knees and spine, lumbar and cervical spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, carpal and tarsal tunnel syndromes, plantar fasciitis in my feet, progressive polyneuropathy, and fibromyalgia.
I haven’t shared what I’ve been through to cause you to feel sorry for me. Rather, I want you to understand that I know what it is to face severe and on-going suffering. I’m not saying that I’ve always immediately turned to God when another painful situation arose. It’s been a growing process. But I can honestly say without God’s grace and strength, I wouldn’t have made it through all of these difficult situations without becoming a person filled with self-pity, anger, and bitterness. I can say that God is “enough” in hard circumstances, if we choose to allow Him be “enough.” And I can share some understandings and steps that have helped me to make this choice.
- Recognize that suffering is a result of the fall. We are not promised a life on this earth without suffering. Everyone faces times of suffering, and this will continue until we are in God’s physical presence, in the New Heaven and the New Earth.
- Know that God is not the cause of most of the suffering we face. Much of our suffering is a result of sin, either in our lives or in the lives of someone else. An example of this is the accident we had. It was caused by a driver who had been drinking and lost control of his car when he leaned down to pick up a cigarette.
- Understand that God allows suffering and works through it to accomplish His purposes in our lives. James addressed this in his letter. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4 ESV)
- Let go of the past, accept the present, and trust God with the future. Learn to live one day at a time. Take your worriesI about the future to the Lord and leave them in His capable hands. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 ESV)
- Lean on God’s grace and strength, especially on the hard days. As Elisabeth Elliot said, “God shields us from most of the things we fear, but when He chooses not to shield us, He unfailingly allots grace in the measure needed, It is for us to choose to receive or refuse it. Our joy or our misery wil depend on that choice.” Decide to live by the truth Paul learned by his “thorn in the flesh.” “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave 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 gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10 ESV)
- Take time daily to strengthen your spirit. Prayer, Bible study, worship and gratefulness are important disciplines for all believers in Christ, but even moreso for us as we deal with daily health struggles and challenges. Get to know God by spending time studying His names and character. Listen to worship music that reminds you of the truths you need to hold onto. Look for God’s blessings in the trials, and keep a gratefulness journal. Draw strength from His presence and His steadfast love.
- Finally, remember we are only in our present bodies for a short time. Focus on what counts for eternity. “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV)
So, back to our original question: Is God “enough” in hard circumstances? Honestly, the answer depends upon you. He will be more than enough if you choose to allow Him to be. As Oswald Chambers said, “We all know people who have been made much meaner and more irritable and more intolerable to live with by suffering: it’s not right to say that all suffering perfects. It only perfects one type of person… The one who accepts the call of God in Jesus Christ.” My prayer is that we all will choose to be that – the latter – type of person. Choose to be the kind of person James wrote about in the first chapter of his epistle: “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12 ESV)