3 Things To Hang On To During Tough Times

Four weeks ago I had an extra bounce in my step.  You know – in all that really matters, things were going quite well.  I was re-focused.  Energized.  God had provided in ways that my wife and I had recently been praying about.  Like sitting on the top of a mountain cabin porch sipping coffee early in the morning, life was peaceful.

Like they say, mountain top experiences aren’t meant to last.  The descent to the valley quickly turned into an avalanche.  In the weeks that followed life got pretty tough.  From 2 kids in the ER to family conflict, the hits just kept coming.  I went from a feeling of freedom to stress and exhaustion.

 Like standing in the middle of a room when the lights are turned off, I was frozen still, afraid to take another step for fear of the obstacles all around.  The very definition of an obstacle is a thing that blocks one’s way or prevents or hinders progress.  If tough times are anything – they are obstacles.

They seek to rob you of peace.  Threaten the strength of the relationships around you.  Even compromise your health.  Ashamedly, I found myself questioning God during these times.  While much greater men of God can debate on why things happen, my goal is to simply not trip and fall.

How can we have peace in the midst of chaos?

How can we walk in the dark and make it to the door without tripping and falling?

How can we leave the mountain top and learn to live in the valley?

Since none of us can escape tough times, we desperately need to learn to make it to the other side in one piece.   When tough times hit, my first reaction is to fight my way through it.  Figure it out.  Make it happen.  Solve the problems.  If it was only that easy.  There are so many things in life that aren’t under our control that we struggle with.

So we get discouraged.  Worry.  Maybe eat a little more and sleep a little less.  As I look back on the last month, the greatest things these obstacles attacked was my view and trust in God – that all would be okay because He is God.  There is such a fine line between working to solve problems and trusting God to take care of it.  Let’s face it – we can’t be the ostrich and ignore problems in life and walk around quoting Romans 8:28 all the time.  But on the flip side, we also can not inject ourselves into our troubles so much that we lose the perspective that God truly is control.  We find ourselves asking why is this happening and when we get no answer, it is real easy for that to affect how we see God.

We start to get a little angry and impatient that things seem to be going against us.  These tough times can cause a man to shrink back from life out of fear or anger or some sort of unresolved pain.  Any man that says otherwise just isn’t being honest with himself.

The days went on as I struggled to find my way. Then it happened.

A few days ago I reached into my briefcase for my computer to do some work.  I inadvertently pulled out some papers along with my computer.  As I went to place them back in my brief case my eyes were drawn to the attention of one particular sheet of paper.   On this paper were notes I had jotted down in a past meeting.  In the margin, scribbled on the side, were these three sentences:

God is good.

God is strong.

God is here.

God is good.

I can’t remember when or why I wrote those three phrases down.  Perhaps it was something I read or a sermon I heard.  Maybe it was some encouraging word someone had said to me in the past.  I don’t know.  But what I do know is the sense of peace and empowerment that came over me as I thought about those three short sentences.

They are light to our darkness.  They are the map through difficult times.  They are the path from the mountain top to the valley.  The way out of the room.

God is good.

Challenging times can threaten this idea.  After all, what kind of God allows suffering? Why can’t a simple prayer just make things better?  Our great enemy has a way of distorting the circumstances in our life.  He would have us believe that God is some sort of Santa Claus.  And when life hands us trouble, it has to be God’s fault.  No, God is good.  Through tough times, temptations, trying times and attacks by our enemy – God remains good.

“For the Lord is good. His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.” – Psalm 100:5

Lose sight of this fact, and everything that flows out of the situations we are in will be true disappointment.  When we don’t understand.  When we have lots of questions and little answers.  When we feel like we are fighting for our grip on the edge of the cliff.  God is still good.

God is strong.

God can do what He wants – when He wants.  He is able to defend us – yet still judge us.  He has the memories of His creation of the world and, at the same time, His great plan to bring it to an end.  He is justice.  He is peace.  He is love.  He is jealous.  Christianity is nothing if it isn’t salvation from ourselves and this world.  In His strength, Jesus died on the cross- setting us free.

And part of this freedom is from the uncertainty of this life.  Where life is uncertain, God remains steady and true.   Don’t give up just because you are behind in the game. God is strong.  The way things are today isn’t the final frame of the picture.  Even when it may not seem like it, God fights for us.  And since He is the God of the universe – by laying ourselves at His feet – we can assure ourselves of victory.

The LORD is a warrior. The LORD is his name. Exodus 15:3

God is here.

Just like the sun dries up the fog on a cool November morning, the scorching heat of tough times seem to threaten the presence of God in our lives.  It is easy to feel empty of Him when things are not going our way.  Make no mistake about it.  God is present.  He is with you on the descent from the mountain top to the valley.  He is in the dark with you as you try to find your way.

It doesn’t matter why the tough times are here. Consequences of your own actions?  The results of someone else’s?  Or maybe just under unexplainable attack. The why isn’t as important as the fact that God is here. Ready to help.  Ready to bring peace and power in the middle of chaos.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Psalm 46:1

Last month I felt like I was on the mountain top.  Enjoying the view.  Living in the peace.  But we just aren’t built to live on the mountain top.  Sure – it’s great to visit from time to time.  But on the mountain it’s really hard to breathe.  It’s dry and hard to survive for very long.  But make your way to the valley and everything is green.  You can plant and grow and truly live.  Yes, planting, growing and harvesting has its challenges, but three little secrets exist to help along the way.

God is good. God is strong.  God is here.

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