Praise…Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

It might sound doable, when in the midst of a trial to pray even when you don’t feel like it.  But to actually praise God when everything is going wrong?  Now I’m asking too much…right?

Praying or praising isn’t easy when faced with difficulties.  I won’t pretend otherwise.  But I go back to Job, who not only lost his wealth, health and the lives of his children…but his wife said he should curse God and die.  Talk about pouring salt on an open wound!

Job didn’t curse God, as many do when things go wrong in life.  He did the opposite.  He praised God!  Not for the circumstances He was in but for the majesty of who God is—which didn’t change despite all he lost.

I will never forget walking into my friend’s house the day after her husband was tragically killed in a workplace accident to the sound of worship music playing.  She lost not only her husband but her best friend.  They had just become empty nesters and were ready to finally have their time together.  In a heartbeat, he was taken away.

Who feels like praising God when death has taken a loved one away?  My friend recognized the importance of worshipping despite her circumstances.

The early morning hours when I left the hospice after watching my father die, I didn’t feel like praising God.  But it was like my heart had an urgency to declare God’s goodness.  So, with tears running down my face, I blasted worship music the whole way home.

We make deep connections with music.  That’s why it’s so important we’re careful about the types of music we listen to.  My spirit is lifted, regardless of what’s going on, when I listen to uplifting worship music.

But praise is more than music.  It’s continuing to declare God’s greatness even when things aren’t going great.  We don’t have to necessarily praise Him for the struggles we’re facing but we can praise Him for the way He will work through them.  We praise Him because He is worthy of it, despite our trials.

Trials got you down?  You may not feel like it, but praise Him anyway.  At your weakest, Jesus will show His strength through you.

Pray…Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

Sometimes there comes a point during a trial that you have no words for God.  You are so tapped out, disappointed, frustrated, hurt or angry that you can’t even pray.  Do it anyway.

There’s a great song by Martina McBride called “Anyway,” which speaks to this.  My favorite part of the song is this:

God is great, but sometimes life ain’t good

When I pray it doesn’t always turn out like I think it should

But I do it anyway

I do it anyway

This is a wonderful reminder that even when life isn’t good, God remains great.  And that sometimes things don’t turn out the way we think they should, but we pray anyway.

What’s the purpose of praying when nothing is going our way?  We have to get out of the mindset that praying is about getting something.  Prayer isn’t a tool we use to manipulate things our way.  It isn’t a means of telling God what to do.  Yet so often this is exactly how we act.

Prayer is communing with God.  The dictionary describes this as:  sharing one’s intimate thoughts or feelings with (someone or something), especially when the exchange is on a spiritual level.

When Job lost everything, he prayed.  It didn’t change his circumstances.  He still lost his fortune, children and health.  He had the right perspective on what prayer is all about.  He needed to talk to his heavenly Father, yes, even when everything around him was going wrong.

Here’s what I’ve come to learn about prayer during trials.  Even when I don’t feel like doing it, and the words seem pointless, and my heart isn’t in it…my soul is still making a connection to the One who holds my life in His hands.

It’s easier to “get back” to God after the trial is over when I’ve continued to pray.  It’s easier to see how God was working in the midst of my difficulty.  It’s easier to feel His peace and joy.  But more importantly, I’ve acknowledged that prayer isn’t about getting my way but getting closer to God.

Going through a trial?  Don’t let your feelings dictate your relationship with God.  Pray anyway.

Trials Will Show Your Inner Strength

Trials sometimes expose the parts of us that need work, but they can also reveal strength we never knew we had.  This has probably been truest for me in the years my son has served overseas, sometimes in hostile environments.  The worries, the separation, the inability to help him during difficult times were just some of the challenges I faced as a military mom.

Oftentimes we don’t know what we’re made of until we find ourselves in the fire.  We may come out a little burned but we still make it out.

The greater dependency we have on God, the stronger we’ll be.  Anything we try to muster up on our own is sure to be short-lived.  God is our everlasting strength.  He will carry us through; but we have to be willing participants in the process.

Psalm 121 gives us some insight on how to do this.  In verse 1 it says:  I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? 

Lift your eyes up.  Take the focus off your problem and put it on the Problem Solver.

Verse 2 is a great reminder of where our strength comes from:  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Honestly, feeling helpless is the best place to be in the midst of a trial.  You come to understand that God is our only help in times of trouble.

The road might feel treacherous but verse 3 says:  He will not let your foot slip—He who watches over you will not slumber.”

Whether you recognize it or not…regardless if you feel His presence or not…God is always watching over you.  He will hold you steady in the midst of the trial.

Your inner strength is birthed out of an intimate, growing relationship with the Lord.  It’s what gets you to this place of declaration:

The Lord is my strength and my shield;

my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me.

My heart leaps for joy,

And with my song I praise Him.

(Psalm 28:7)

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Embracing God’s Will in the Midst of a Trial

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The Biggest Mistakes Made When Someone Is in a Trial

How to Deal with Trials in Life

Embracing God’s Will in the Midst of a Trial

One of the more difficult things to embrace in the midst of a trial is when God’s plan is completely different than your own, or it doesn’t seem to make sense.  Yet the sooner we welcome His will, the better equipped we’ll be to deal with the process of the trial.

When our family fought a custody battle for our granddaughter that lasted over a year, we experienced quite a few obstacles.  I would say I wanted God’s will done…but my reaction to what that sometimes meant demonstrated otherwise.  The truth was that I wanted God’s will to be done but it had to line up with what I thought was best.

A friend in my prayer group directed me to a song called “Even If” by MercyMe.  I could relate to so much of it—how I was losing bad (as others with wrong motives seemed to win) and how sometimes God would leave mountains unmovable (we just couldn’t seem to get breakthrough).  Yet the plea is that no matter what, our hope would remain in God alone.  That we could say all is well with our soul.  Yes, God can do anything—but even if He doesn’t, will we find the strength to embrace His will?

I won’t pretend this is easy.  I fought it with heels digging in and with a great deal of anger.  How could wrong get rewarded and doing right bring pain?

I’m convinced the trial lasted as long as it did because I fought it for so long.  My stubbornness and what I believed was right became greater than my faith in God.  He loved me enough to keep me in that place until my eyes were finally opened and I came to the realization that He was everything I needed.

Once God broke me (because that was what needed to happen), the focus became seeking Him for the strength to accept His will.  And one day, in the most unexpected and unexplainable manner, everything changed for good.  A hopeless situation became a miracle.  I learned that fighting against God’s will gets you nowhere.  Embracing His will grows our faith and draws us closer to Him.

If you’re going through a particularly difficult trial, take time to listen to this song “Even If.”  Let it minister to your heart and soul and know that even if God doesn’t change a thing, He is our only hope in this world.

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Trials Expose What Lies Beneath the Surface

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Trials Expose What Lies Beneath the Surface

Trials are quite revealing.  They get below the surface level of our faith to the deepest parts of our soul.  This is where fears, mistrust, anxieties and other hidden issues finally get exposed.  Trials peel away the Christian mask to unveil who we really are—not what we’ve portrayed to others or even what we’ve tried to convince ourselves is the person inside.

There was a period of time in which I felt pretty secure in my Christian walk.  My faith remained intact, despite some challenges that had come my way.  And then…well, let’s just say one particular trial seemed to resurface a part of me I had thought was long buried.

You see, there were some issues that I’d never fully dealt with, which were lying below the surface—waiting for just the right opportunity.  Only those closest to me got to see the awful effects of it.

It’s painful and embarrassing to reflect on this time.  There is nothing pleasurable about exposure.  It puts us in a very vulnerable position.  Yet this is where the real work can be done in us, as God begins to peel away the layers.  Exposure isn’t about embarrassment, it’s about getting to the core of our heart, mind and soul.

We can pretend with others—maybe even fool a few.  We can try to convince ourselves that everything is good.  But God will use whatever means necessary to expose those parts of us that need refining.  It’s the only way I can make sense out of James, when he tells us to “consider it pure joy, my brothers and sister, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” (James 1:2).

Not joy for the trial itself…but joy because it means our faith is being tested.   It’s the only way we can grow as a person and in our relationship with God.

Don’t be afraid of exposure that leads to greater growth.  Revealing what’s hidden is the only way to be changed from the inside out.

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How to Deal with Trials in Life

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Remaining Faithful NO MATTER WHAT

 

Remaining Faithful NO MATTER WHAT

 

Dealing with trials is part of life.  We can’t outrun or outsmart them.  We can’t even be a “good enough” Christian to avoid them.  What we can do is remain faithful to God…no matter how hard the road before us, no matter how uncertain things seem or how painful it becomes.

Easy?  Hardly.  Heck, we oftentimes blame God in the first place!

When everything is going right in our life, it’s easy to stay faithful.  But what happens when everything is going wrong?  Or the worse thing we could ever imagine happens?  What if our greatest fears come to pass?  Or a difficult season stretches on for weeks, months or even years?

I almost always think about Job of the Old Testament.  He lost everything that mattered to him.  It’s one thing to have empty pockets and a broken body…but to have all of your children die?  Even the loss of just one I cannot imagine.  And so, I have to ask myself, would I be able to remain faithful if I were in Job’s shoes?  I would like to be able to say yes, that I would…however, I really don’t know.

I know it’s not the Sunday School answer.  But it’s my honest answer.

I’ve been mad at God plenty of times.  Even if I haven’t blamed Him for circumstances, I’ve been sure to remind Him of the power He has to change them.  I might have lost my way and my faith may have been teetering on the edge, but I never fully turned my back on God.  The good news is that even I had, He would welcome me back with open arms.

Deep down inside we know He is the answer to our trials.  And even if He chose not to do anything about what we’re going through, He is the one who will carry us through.

Life is full of unfair events, tragic loss and disappointments.  We have little control over much of what happens.  But we can determine there is no better place to run to, than His arms of comfort.

After all…

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

Psalm 139:7-12 (NIV)

 

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The Biggest Mistakes Made When Someone Is in a Trial

Going through some personal trials in my own life, I’ve learned what not to do when someone else is suffering.  Although people generally have good intentions, oftentimes they become more of a hindrance than a help to the healing process.  While I certainly don’t have all the answers on how to help someone, I’ve come to an understanding about some of the biggest mistakes we can make.

Mistake #1 – Pretending to understand someone else’s trial

If you have not personally experienced what someone is going through, it’s a disservice to pretend to understand.  It’s okay to say that you can’t relate to their pain.  There is nothing wrong with admitting you don’t know what to say or do for that person.

When my close friend’s husband died in a tragic workplace accident, there was no way I could help her in the grieving process by pretending to understand what she was going through.  I had no words for her…and that’s exactly what I would tell her.  My presence, my listening ear, my care and concern were all she needed.  She wasn’t looking for someone to say, “I understand.”  She was looking for someone to just be there.

If we haven’t experienced what someone else has gone through, it doesn’t disqualify us from helping.  It’s always better to admit we’re at a loss as to how to help rather than pretending to understand their pain.

Mistake #2 – Comparing your pain to their pain

Sometimes we have experienced a similar type of trial, which in many ways can be very comforting to the other person.  But in the midst of their pain, don’t compare what it was like for you to what they’re experiencing.

During the more than a yearlong process of seeking custody and going through the legal system for my granddaughter, I had a friend who was constantly telling me about her own experiences with custody more than 20 years ago.   Her intentions were good, I know that.  But it eventually made me stop sharing with her.

When someone is hurting, it’s hard for them to see past it.  It’s not that we shouldn’t share our insight or experiences, but we have to be careful that the focus doesn’t become about our pain instead of their pain.

Mistake #3 – Diminishing what someone else is going through

Sometimes we unintentionally (or perhaps even intentionally) diminish the other person’s trial.  What is tragic for one person might not be to another.  But that doesn’t make it any less important.

While losing a pet might not compare to losing a spouse, it is still a loss nonetheless.  A demotion might not be as bad as getting laid off…but it’s still discouraging.  A parent who is upset about their child getting caught smoking maybe doesn’t compare to a child hooked on drugs…yet it’s still a disappointment.

Just because it doesn’t seem like a big deal to you or it’s not as big of a trial as what you have gone through, doesn’t mean the person is any less deserving of encouragement and support.  Don’t diminish what someone else is going through…they’re pain is just as real.

 

How to Deal with Trials in Life

Let’s face it…not a single one of us receives immunity from difficulties in life.  They come at us in all ways and at all times.  Some trials last a moment while others feel like a lifetime.  Some we see coming and others hit us quite unexpectedly.

 

So how does a person of faith deal with these trials?  How do we stand strong in Christ when everything is falling apart?

 

Coming out of my own particularly difficult season of life has been a huge learning experience.  I nearly lost my way in the midst of uncertainty, pain and heartache.  Yet it was in this place that God showed Himself in ways I had never experienced.

 

I learned that when He felt the furthest, He was actually the closest.  When He seemed silent, He was speaking the loudest.  Everything I thought I knew about God would be shattered…because He is so much more than we think or imagine.

 

My hope is that through this series of posts, you will be challenged to look at your trials in another light.  To see them as an opportunity to discover things about God you couldn’t learn any other way.  For the next 7 Mondays, I will share some of my personal experiences and the lessons learned through them.

 

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you (I Peter 5:10, ESV)