“I’ve said these things to you so that you will have peace in me. In the world you have distress. But be encouraged! I have conquered the world.”John 16:33 CEB
This passage from the book of John makes clear for us that while we are living in this world, we will have distress.
Distress can be caused by unexpected crisis, adversity, or the daily pressures that we encounter in life. We can’t always control the distress that comes into our lives, but we can control how we choose to respond to it.
When you face distress, do you choose to be closer to God or choose to ignore him and handle your feelings yourself? Jesus tells the disciples in this Scripture that the only way to find peace is by choosing to be close to God.
One of the most important reasons we need to choose to turn to God in the midst of distress is to protect and strengthen our faith. The presence of faith is everything when it comes to moving God’s heart:
And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.Matthew 13:58 NIV
How much faith do you have in the midst of distress and unexpected challenges? Rather than losing our faith in the midst of distress, we can strengthen our faith in the face of it by choosing to be close to God.
Choosing God begins with turning to God’s Word to develop an understanding of how God wants us to handle and respond to what each day brings us, rather than relying on humanism and instinct.
Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”Matthew 19:26 NLT
God moves powerfully in our lives when we choose to pursue him and embrace his perspective and outlook for our lives rather than embracing the world’s. To help with some of this perspective, here are five ways God moves for our good when we are going through unexpected distress:
God deepens our attachment to him through testing
Keep and live out the entire commandment that I’m commanding you today so that you’ll live and prosper and enter and own the land that GOD promised to your ancestors. Remember every road that GOD led you on for those forty years in the wilderness, pushing you to your limits, testing you so that he would know what you were made of, whether you would keep his commandments or not.
He put you through hard times. He made you go hungry. Then he fed you with manna, something neither you nor your parents knew anything about, so you would learn that men and women don’t live by bread only; we live by every word that comes from GOD’s mouth.
Your clothes didn’t wear out and your feet didn’t blister those forty years. You learned deep in your heart that GOD disciplines you in the same ways a father disciplines his child.Deuteronomy 8:1-5 MSG
Do you blame God or pursue God when the unexpected happens? Life is full of ups and downs, and yet we too often expect an easier life. God wants us to use this time to deepen our attachment to him, to examine our faith, to teach us to rely on him in ways we previously haven’t, and to deepen our convictions in the Bible.
God has used hard times in my life to help me change my view of him. I used to view God as someone who would always take care of me physically but not emotionally. My view of God was that he would always provide but not really care about how I feel. But that’s actually not true in the Bible, God does care about every detail of our lives.
We have a choice to get deeper with God when we go through trouble or to quit. How do you think God could be deepening your attachment to him through the troubles you are going through now?
God comforts us with limitless strength
GOD’s the one who rebuilds Jerusalem, who regathers Israel’s scattered exiles. He heals the heartbroken and bandages their wounds. He counts the stars and assigns each a name. Our Lord is great, with limitless strength; we’ll never comprehend what he knows and does. God puts the fallen on their feet again and pushes the wicked into the ditch.Psalm 147:2-6 MSG
While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. 16 And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God.1 Samuel 23:15-16 NIV
Adversity and the unexpected are actually opportunities to find strength from God. Like these Scriptures say, we can experience God’s unlimited strength through prayer, Scriptures, and the spiritual friendships he surrounds us with to help us continue to find greater strength from him.
However if we choose to be isolated and not connect with our friends and God, we will miss out on the the opportunity not only to get strength in our faith, but to come to understand how loving, faithful, and concerned God is with us.
- Do you isolate when the unexpected happens?
- Or do you see these times as opportunities to deepen your connection with God and friends?
God provides the way to overcome
No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.1 Corinthians 10:13 MSG
We often can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel when we go through crisis or the unexpected. However this Scripture teaches us that God always provides a way out to overcome the temptations and trials in our lives. The “way out” can be having spiritual friendships. Our circumstances may not change, but God will put people in our life to comfort us.
In order to have these relationships, we must be willing to have the humility and vulnerability to God to ask for help, to discover and embrace God’s plans and purpose.
When I go through hard times, I usually want to a solution to fix my problems quickly, but God’s way is that we grow and don’t have to go through it alone. We get to experience truth and spiritual friendship along the journey. I think comfort from God comes through connecting with spiritual friends, at times crying together, and especially finding strength through praying together.
We don’t need to go through the unexpected alone, but God will use people to encourage us if we open our hearts.
God reveals opportunities in the midst of pressures
Now, friends, I want to report on the surprising and generous ways in which God is working in the churches in Macedonia province. Fierce troubles came down on the people of those churches, pushing them to the very limit.
The trial exposed their true colors: They were incredibly happy, though desperately poor. The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts. I was there and saw it for myself. They gave offerings of whatever they could—far more than they could afford!—pleading for the privilege of helping out in the relief of poor Christians.2 Corinthians 8:1-4 MSG
2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.James 1:2-4 NLT
How do you respond to pressure? Do you resent it, avoid it, or choose to be grateful for how it is an opportunity to grow stronger in your faith? Finding purpose in our pain can actually help us to be grateful, joyful, and see how God is still moving despite our circumstances.
A lot of times when I feel pain or pressure I can compare myself to others and get envious and jealous of how their lives seem better. But this only makes me feel worse; what helps is being grateful for how much God has protected me, and focusing on what is going well.
God turns our physical limitations into spiritual launching points
Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty!
At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness.
Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.2 Corinthians 12:7-10 MSG
Every person has a form of physical limitation, whether it be in talent, ability, or circumstance. These limits are what also makes us unique from everyone else, and are the pathway to discovering a strength far beyond our human abilities.
These limits are necessary to show us where our human strength ends, and where God’s strength and power in our lives are essential and real. Too often I view prayer as a “last resort” rather than my primary source of strength.
Prayer is how God gives us the courage to take risks, turns our weakness to strength, helps us to love the unlovable and forgive the unforgettable.
- What personal limits do you resist asking God and others to help you overcome?
- Do you desire comfort more than change? How does this affect your attitude about growing spiritually and pursuing God?
- Do you believe more in your physical limits and weaknesses than in God’s power to help you overcome and change?
The only thing we have control over in life is our decision to choose God. It’s the choice to build our faith rather than abandon it when we run up against our own limits and weakness, and it’s the choice to be influenced by spiritual friendships rather than go it alone.
Each time we choose God, we will become internally, spiritually and emotionally stronger by deepening our reliance on God and embracing his perspective rather than our own.