Struggles stink. There is no amount of scent that can cover up the odor of a time of trial. We naturally do not want to gravitate towards or slowly marinate in troubles. I think most of us would rather avoid or fix what pains us as quickly as possible.
How do we find encouragement in the middle of our struggles?
Let’s face it, the majority of the time we are going to spend in messy situations is the time in the middle.
When we are waiting for appointment times, test results, plans of treatment. When we are learning how to adapt to a new normal following an unexpected event. When we are working towards a goal that seems to be moving farther away with each step we take.
When the season we are in continues on day after day after day, even though months or years of the calendar have passed by. When our hopes, dreams, and prayers seem to be stuck on pause. While we wait for others in our lives never really knowing if the relationship will change.
These are our stinky struggles, our difficulties, and our strife. The strenuous efforts to endure these struggles can be exhausting, draining us of encouragement rather than helping us to persevere.
Take the Time to Listen
It can be really tempting during times of struggle to want to tune out, avoid, and distract ourselves from what is going on.
I can not even count the times that I have silenced my phone, set it in another room, made a big bowl of popcorn, and sat down to drown my stresses in a combination of salt, butter, and romantic comedy with a big gulp of sweet soda to wash it all down with.
Inevitably the anesthetic qualities of this escape wear off quickly. When the movie ends, the bowl is empty, and the remorse of another poor dietary choice creeps in.
Don’t get me wrong. A bit of rest and comedic refreshment is good every now and then, but refreshment and avoidance are not the same thing. When we are discouraged in the middle of a struggle there are truths we may need to hear, but that we don’t want to hear.
In avoiding what we think we do not want to hear, we may miss out on promises that will help us get through whatever we are facing.
A great example of this comes from Moses and the Israelites in slavery in Egypt. Pharaoh is piling work on the Israelites and finding very creative ways to make the work they are required to do more difficult. It’s one big stinky struggle after another, all before the 10 plagues, and prior to the great exodus.
This is what the Lord says to Moses in Exodus 6:6-8 (NIV):
“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. 7 I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. 8 And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.’”
God is saying to His people I will bring you out of the struggle. I will free you. I will redeem you. I will take you as my own. I will be your God. You will know who I am. I will give you the promised land.
Those are some pretty powerful and encouraging promises to hold to in the midst of times of struggle and trials.
Then we have Exodus 6:9 (NIV):
“Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and harsh labor.”
Moses goes to share the promise he has received directly from the Lord and the ones chosen to receive the promises do not listen. Because of their discouragement, because of the harsh struggle, because of their strain, they do not listen.
How many times have we not listened because of our discouragement and struggle? How many times have we tuned out what a friend was saying to help us because we were tired or frustrated? How many messages have gone in one ear and out the other in times of trial?
Perhaps that is why it says several times in the New Testament, “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (In case you are wondering I found this in Matthew 11:15, Matthew 13:9, Matthew 13:43, Mark 4:9, Luke 8:8, Luke 14:35, Revelation 2:7, Revelation 2:11, Revelation 2:17, Revelation 2:29, Revelation 3:6, Revelation 3:13, Revelation 3:22, and Revelation 13:9)
In seasons of strife we need to take the time to listen to the Spirit, listen to the words of scripture, and listen to those we trust in our lives. We may hear a promise that will give us a hope to hold on to through the struggle.
There is a sweetness to truth that soaks into parched souls.
A reward that is thirst quenching and rich,
to encourage us and sustain us through the struggle.
Remember God is Infinite
We are surrounded by struggles. On all sides. Think of the struggles you are personally facing. Consider the trials your closest family and friends are experiencing. Take into account the challenges that your colleagues and acquaintances are going through. It’s more than enough to get us all depressingly stuck without hope.
So many of our struggles are brought on by our limitations, physical, mental, emotional, financial. When we have reached what appears to be our end. Stuck. Bound. Constrained. Exhausted. Spent. Restricted. All of these things may describe us, but they do NOT describe the Holy Trinity – God the Father, Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit.
God is without limits. God is limitless. God is eternal.
God is omniscient. He is all knowing. “He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.” Psalm 147:4-5 (NIV)
God is omnipotent. He has unlimited power. “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'” Matthew 19:26 (NIV)
God is omnipresent. He is always present. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)
God is so much more than we can ever know or experience. Yet, in His love for us, the Lord wants us to experience and know Him the best that we can. God wants a relationship with us. He wants to give us revelation about who He is for us. He desires to show us glimpses of His glorious goodness.
When we see the end, the Lord wants us to trust in His higher vision that reaches beyond our limitations. God wants us to remember who He is and what He is capable of when we struggle with who we are and what we are limited to.
God wants to transform our thoughts, our actions, our hopes, and our prayers through knowing more of who He is. We could spend days listing the struggles of ourselves and everyone in our personal circle – from great sickness & tragedy to tiny scratch. We could sum them all together, and yet God would be so much MORE than all we could list.
When we remember and mediate on who God is, then our praise, our prayers, and our thoughts become so much more. We start to see that a miracle or answered prayer for one does not diminish God’s power to provide miracle on top of miracle. This drives our actions to take steps in faith. Like the Israelites walking between parted waters or into the promised land.
As we learn more about God’s infinite wisdom, power, and presence, it can encourage us in the middle of our struggles. We will remain limited in our own wisdom, power, and presence. We will still have moments of struggle, of weakness, of discouragement, of mistakes. We will never have the full understanding that can reveal why somethings go one way, and others the complete opposite.
When we experience the infinite love of God in those hard moments our faith grows, our ability to persevere strengthens, and our wisdom widens allowing us to endure the struggles.
Live it Out
Whatever limit you are facing right now, whatever struggle you are in the middle of, whatever trial is testing you, you are not alone. God is with You. The wholeness of the trinity hems you in, behind and before, surrounding you completely (Psalm 139:5 NIV).
Our infinite Lord is watching over, listening to, and holding His beloved. In the middle of your circumstances, in your past, and in every moment of your future, God is there.
The Lord is calling out to you, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)
The messages of scripture are worthy of taking the time to listen to. Hear them in your ears. Let them wash through your mind and soak into your heart so it may quench your parched soul.
It is the Lord who gives us rest. Rest is not a task for us to accomplish, though we may certainly pour effort into trying, especially in the middle of discouraging struggles.
Rest is a gift from a God who is good. A beautiful treasure offered to you. The cost has already been paid through the infinite love of the Lord. Let that love be the encouragement that you need in the middle of your struggles.
Pray Through It
Beloved and Treasured Lord,
There is so much in our lives, our world, our circumstances that can bring us discouragement and struggle. Lord, reaching the end of our limits can just wreck us, leaving us feeling debilitated and stuck.
Lord, in our trials help us to take time to listen. Help our ears to hear the truth, the promises, that we need to endure and persevere. Help us to seek the guidance of the Spirit and scriptures, the wise counsel of those believers close to us.
Help us to remember who You are Lord; infinite in power, limitless in wisdom, and a presence that boundlessly surrounds each of us. Help us to know you better, to desire more revelation of who You are even if we will never fully know.
Help us to rest in that we are fully known and fully loved by You. Lord, for each of my readers today, please bless them by infusing sweetness into their day today that would quench the parched places in their lives and bring them a restoring refreshment.
In the infinite name of Jesus, I thank and ask You for these things. Amen.