How Christians can Endure Long Trials
Sometimes our trials and tribulations seem never ending. How can we endure in what seems to be a hopeless, never-changing situation? I have been struggling to recover from breast cancer for about three years now. I spent many nights staring at the ceiling going, why me God?
Sometimes trials hit us through no fault of our own because of our environment or the people in our lives. These difficult times are tough because we also struggle with frustration and resentment at the injustice. The trial is a hard battle against becoming bitter and disillusioned. Other trials come because of our poor choices or our sin.
Either way, this can become a painful way for God to discipline us. In the end, we can experience joy, peace, and learn to become righteous. We can use the tools below the God provides for us to strengthen ourselves (Hebrews 12: 8-13).
I believe the words of Paul that say we are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair (2 Corinthians 4:8). We may not have any control over our circumstances but we do have control over our response to them.
Identifying the enemy
If our trials stretch into years, we may feel discouraged, hopeless and depressed. We are vulnerable to the wiles of Satan, who walks around like a lion looking for something to devour (1 Peter 5:8). There are several lies that he tries us to convince us to believe so that we are stuck in anger, frustration, hopelessness, and despair.
When we are going through a trial, it is easy to feel alone. We see smiling faces around us and think, why do they get to be happily married, financially secure, or in good health? In this busy day and age, sad to say, many Christians are so caught up in their own lives that they don’t realize that others around them are struggling. They don’t call or talk to others outside of church or Christian events. We sometimes take advantage of this situation to isolate ourselves.
Isolation is not a healthy state, however. Human beings were not designed to face life’s challenges alone. A pastor once demonstrated this principle dramatically by using a pencil to represent a person. One pencil was easily broken. Two pencils could be broken, but not so easily. Three, not so much. When we draw near to God, He draws near to us and walks with us. Talking to a close friend, pastor or counselor can also be helpful.
Friends help us up when we are down (Ecclesiastes 4:10-11), but in the hurly-burly of daily life, many of us do not have these types of relationships. A recent study in “American Sociological Review” showed that one out of four Americans report that they do not have close friends, and approximately half of Americans only have two close friends.
Satan loves to tell us that we have no power to deal with our situation. The truth is, we do have some power. I may not have the power to make the cancer go away, for example, but I can control my eating habits, exercise, and sleep habits.
We hate to feel powerless, so sometimes we try to fix things ourselves. We end up in a worse mess than when we started. For example, some people go into denial that they might have cancer and try to fix themselves through a healthy diet, herbal remedies, and exercise. Then when they are driven by desperation to get a medical diagnosis, they may be beyond help.
We need to surrender to God and acknowledge that we are powerless to fix things on our own strength. This principle is the first step in many 12-step healing programs such as Celebrate Recovery.
How long, Lord?
Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide
your face from me?
How long must I wrestle
with my thoughts and day after day
have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph
Look on me and answer,
Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes,
or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say,
“I have overcome him,” and
my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
Sometimes we feel like our prayers are bouncing off the ceiling and shooting into oblivion instead of being heard by God. We should have confidence that God will hear and answer our prayers, even if His answer is not what we expect.
The trials will never end
One of the biggest lies that Satan foists on us is that our trials will never end. When trials stretch into years, and prayers seem to go unanswered, we long for answers.
David’s words in Psalm 13 reflect this longing, but expresses his faith and trust in God. Trials do end, often in unexpected ways. In the meantime, we need to live one day at a time and not worry about what may happen tomorrow, just as Jesus instructed.
Survival tips: depend on God
If we wait upon the Lord, we will renew our strength, mount up with wings as eagles,run, and not be weary, and walk, and not become weak (Isaiah 40:31).
God is a refuge in times of trouble and cares for those who trust in Him (Nahum 1:7).
Use the power of the Holy Spirit
God instructs us to use the Holy Spirit to help us endure. The Holy Spirit helps us with our weaknesses because we don’t always know what we should pray for, and intercedes for us with God (Romans 8:26). The fruits of the Holy Spirit are tools that help us get through the tough times.
Patience: Sometimes life is a waiting game and we need to ask God for the patience to endure.
Hope: Hope is the soul nourishment that keeps us going through the hardest times (Romans 12:12).
Joy: The first chapter of the book of James tells us to have joy while enduring trials.
Self-control: We can control our negative emotions and focus on the positive things in our lives. We can use self- control to keep us from sinking into depression or despair, or fuming with rage.
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
Assurances we can cling to
God promises that He will always meet our needs. Sometimes, we confuse our wants and our needs. God assures us that He will hear our prayers. God won't allow us to go through trials we can't handle.
Sometimes our unmet expectations are a part of God's plan for us. We may have lessons to learn or need to build character in some areas.
God is always with us
We are never alone. God has promised that He will always be with us (Hebrews 13.5) and sends us Spirit to comfort us (John 14:16-17). God also sends us supportive people and wise counsellors to walk alongside of us.
Our trials will come to an end
We will not suffer forever, if not in this life, in the next. God promises a reward for those who endure to the end.
I actually wrote a lot of this article while waiting to see doctors about cancer surgery and treatment. The threat of cancer coming back is still looming in my life but is decreasing over time. Whatever may come in the future, however, I feel assured that God will bring me through it.
© 2013 Carola Finch