We can go through, or witness some really challenging things in ours or other people’s lives. Some things can leave us asking “Is God really there?” It’s okay to be honest and reflect on things like these, maybe through prayer or chatting to a trusted person.
Last year was one of the most challenging years I’ve been through. Life-changing things happened in my family, I left what I thought was my dream job only to spend months trying to find a new one and I became ill after severe exhaustion. It led to a battle with anxiety and panic attacks, and my faith was at rock bottom. I couldn’t understand why these things were going on, if the bad things were going to stop, and why God would allow me to go through so much turmoil. But the only thing I could hold onto, was that I knew God was real.
Recently, a leader of our church came to tell her story of when she found out she had cancer. This came after she had lost a member of her immediate family in an accident. I remember our pastor asking her how she had managed to hold onto her faith, despite going through so much tragedy, only to now be presented with another blow to her life. She said that “[she] had experienced too much of God to know He was real, and good”. It was such a profound statement, and one I think we can all hold close.
Think about all the good things God has done for you; even the things we take for granted. When bad things happen, it can be easy to focus on the negatives, but we can choose to think about “what is good and praiseworthy” (Philippians 4:8). Sometimes people who feel anxious try to reflect on positive things and to practise gratitude. As Christians, it can help to try to find even the smallest of things to praise God for.
During last year, I felt God gave me the phrase “God isn’t the absence of problems, He is the presence within them”. Having God in our lives doesn’t mean that He takes away all of our issues, because it would mean that He would control our lives, free will wouldn’t exist and the choice to follow and love Him wouldn’t be ours. But He is there for us, even when He feels furthest away.
When I’m feeling distant from God, or life’s challenges are battling against me, I find comfort in Psalm 139. The whole chapter speaks intimately about how God knows us inside and out, and it’s a reminder that God doesn’t sit up in heaven, billions of miles away from us, nor does He move away from us when times get tough. He, and His Spirit, are always there. Sometimes we just have to call (or cry out!) to Him.
One story of holding onto belief in the bible comes from Hannah. Hannah’s story in 1 Samuel 1 tells how year after year, she poured her heart out to God, consistently praying to Him for a child. How heartbreaking and disappointing it must have been for her not to have a baby, but she still continued to pray and not give up. God was true to her prayers, and she gave birth to Samuel.
Sometimes the challenges and circumstances we face in our lives are extremely difficult, bringing up all sorts. It’s important to reach out and talk to trusted people about what’s going on, and it’s equally important to hold onto your belief, because, God is always there. He may not be able to take away the bad things, but He will always bring good things.
This may be a difficult time for you, but there will be good moments too. And even though we may not be able to see it now, God is doing something great with our struggles.
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” – Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)