In difficult times, many experience diminishing strength and hope especially when it seems God is taking His time in answering our prayers and/or we don’t get what we expect. In such times, we tend to feel abandoned, confused and disappointed. Deep within, a crisis of faith brews that throws up questions like, ‘Where is God?, Does He care? or Why is this happening to me?’. When care is not taken, we find ourselves stuck in one of the three phases of discouragement I highlight in my new book, Healing A Discouraged Heart: Getting Back On Track When Life Lets You Down, namely the ‘S.A.D.’, ‘Dormant’ and ‘Hopeful’ Phase. We cover up with our ‘religious’ masks; whilst the real state of our hearts betray us.
God Is Not The Problem!
It’s a common tendency to blame God when things don’t turn out the way we want. But I beg to differ. From my personal and professional experience, I believe the issue lies firmly with us. The fact is God has not changed nor has He abandoned His own. He is still in the business of answering prayers and always has a plan. One challenge we face is giving God the reigns of our lives so His will can be done. Though we pray ‘let Your will be done’, this is only when it suits us.
Another challenge we face is the spiritual junk (e.g. wrongful beliefs and incorrect teaching) we pick up along the way. For instance, one I hear a lot is the presupposition that bad things don’t happen to Christians. Hello! Reality check here. Glance through the Bible and you will see Jesus, Paul and many others living as suffering servants. I believe we have become out of balance (if not consumed) with ‘prosperity-type’ messages. The fact is life happens though God remains firmly by our side always (Isaiah 43:1-4). Get this warped and you are heading for trouble.
It’s Not About Getting What You Want
In the book, Healing A Discouraged Heart, I share stories of Christians facing challenges. One that always pulls my heartstrings is the case of Rachael who never thought that after fifteen years of marriage, rounds of IVF treatment, words of prophecy, prayers, fasting and much more, she would still be childless. Yet Rachael represents many Christians experiencing various forms of barrenness, fruitless efforts and failure. She, like many others, became discouraged after waiting on God. However, as you continue to read her story, you notice a turnaround in Rachael’s attitudes, beliefs and behaviours. In case you are wondering, it’s not because she became pregnant. Rather, it was the fact that she allowed God access into her heart. Instead of trying to make things happen, she handed over the reigns to God. This brought about a change in her heart even whilst her present situation persisted.
Getting Back On Track
Personally, one of the lessons I felt God teach me, which I share in Healing A Discouraged Heart, is to focus on the real state of my heart. So, below are some questions to ask yourself, to help move you forward like Rachael:
• Do I really trust God like I proclaim I do?
• What's my relationship/standing with God presently?
• What beliefs/principles am I standing on – Gods word or mans wisdom/formulas?
• Am I willing to let go and let God or do I have control issues I need to work on?
• Who’s running the show - my mind or the Holy Spirit?
• Have I become fixated on the facts of my situation rather than on God?
• Do I need to confront my ‘what ifs’ i.e. issues with fear? (Will God come through?)
• Do I only experience joy and peace when I get what I want from God and throw a tantrum at other times? (A reflection of my maturity perhaps?)
• How do I react towards God when He seems to be taking His time in coming through? (The silent treatment?)
• Are there other factors in my life making me prone to feeling down/discouraged (e.g. stress/burnout, sin, battle fatigue from previous trials, etc)?
These are just a few insightful nuggets worth reflecting on. Say the prayer David prayed in Psalm 119:29, ‘Keep me from lying to myself; give me the privilege of knowing your instructions.’ (NLT). Enlist Gods help so you can find your way back to a life of renewed hope, strength, peace and joy regardless of what you are going through.
Lastly, remember all trials have an expiry date. None last forever!