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Faith

Wrestling with God: 3 ways to trust God when life is hard.

“I can breathe,” my son said, “It just kind of feels like a piece of food is stuck in my throat.” 

A chill of dread washed over me as I heard my 10-year-old son’s response to the nurse’s question over the phone.   

Earlier that day my son had been stung by a bee. And now I was rushing him to the ER because hives had broken out over his whole body.

At the ER the Benadryl I had given him earlier began to kick in but when we saw the doctor, she still prescribed my son an Epi-pen. Because, as she warned us, the next time his allergic reaction would most likely be worse.  

That night I thought about how many times he had been alone riding his bike around town. At home, with just his older siblings while his parents went out for a much-needed date. Or at the local park a couple of miles down the road with friends. 

And I wondered, “What if he had been stung at any of those times? Would his siblings or friends have known what to do? Would we have been able to get him the help he needed in time?” 

The worries and fears over this new diagnosis overwhelmed me. I had lived with my son for over 10 years. And never knew he had this allergy.  

But God did. 

And I felt like He whispered into my anxious thoughts, “I was with him the entire time.” 

It was a beautiful thought.  

Which comforted me for about two seconds.  

Because the difficult truth is, sometimes God allows bad things to happen . . . like children who end up dying from allergy-related complications.  

But at that moment, God knew exactly what I was thinking.  

He knew the thoughts that popped into my head. The ones I hesitate to speak out loud in front of anyone else. The ones that sometimes scare me.  

And in the midst of my struggle, He invited me to wrestle with Him over them.

Wrestling with God 

Wrestling can be a very intimate activity. In order to wrestle with someone, you must be very close to them. Inches away from their face. All up in their personal space.

This is why God invites us to wrestle with Him.  

Because it draws us closer to Him. It forces us to come face to face with our questions and doubts. To be brutally honest with Him about our fears and worries. To pour out all our strength until we have nothing left but Him.  

In one of the most stunning stories in the Bible, God himself wrestles with Jacob (Genesis, 32:22-32). And the most interesting thing I find in this encounter is that God lets Jacob win.  

“When the man (many scholars think this was the incarnate Jesus) saw that he could not overpower him . . .”

-Genesis 32:25 NIV

And yet He still shows Jacob that He is completely in control by merely touching Jacob’s hip and injuring him.  

“. . .  he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as  he wrestled with the man.”

-Genesis 32:25 NIV

This story shows me that God isn’t afraid of our raw emotions. In fact, He invites us to wrestle through all our doubts and questions with Him. To struggle through our raging fears and worries with Him.

But then He reminds us that He is still God.  

And we need to trust Him. 

However, let’s first be honest and ask the hard question: 

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Why is it so hard to trust God? 

I think the reason it is so hard to trust God sometimes is because we don’t know how to reconcile the fact that a good God sometimes allows bad things to happen. 

But as I wrestled with this fact, God showed me there are some things deep in my heart that I need to let go of.

Like:

My insatiable desire to be in control.  

You see, I want my life to be organized, neat, and orderly. I don’t want to wait. And I want everything to go perfectly according to my plans.   

This is why I don’t like it when God doesn’t do what I think He should. When He allows things to happen that don’t make any sense to me. 

I get angry when God doesn’t fit into the box, I’ve made for Him.  

When He doesn’t act the way, I think He should act.  

But if God did everything, I wanted Him to, He wouldn’t be God . . . I would be. 

And that is a very scary thought. 

After all, a God that my finite brain can understand is really not that big of a God at all.  

I am realizing that God is larger than my human understanding. Grander than my simple comprehension. Greater than my limited perspective. 

He is bigger than me. 

And that is a good thing.  

Even if I can’t understand what He is doing, I can CHOOSE to trust that He sees things I cannot see.

And so I can let go of:

My desire for life to be easy and pain-free. 

Another reason it is hard to trust God is simply because when bad things happen it hurts. It doesn’t feel good.  And I don’t like that.  

While I am familiar with this verse:

“In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

-John 16:33 NIV

I don’t often stop to really think about what it means.

God is telling me in this verse that trouble is a guarantee in this world. It shouldn’t shock me that bad things happen. I shouldn’t be surprised when things fall apart. The consequence of living in a broken world is . . . sometimes its brokenness will fall on me.

But I can take heart even in those moments because Jesus has overcome the world. I already know the end of the story. And God wins!

And I think the fact that we long for a world that is easy and pain-free shows us that deep in our hearts, we know we were not made for this world.  

We know we were made for something better. For perfection. For unsurpassed beauty and pleasure.  

This is why the imperfections in this world, the heartache, the difficulties, and the pain seems so foreign to us.  Because they are.  

This is why when we face hard times, it helps to remember a couple of things.  

We need to know: 

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Where is God when bad things happen? 

Look at this interesting verse:

“The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  

-Psalm 34:18 NIV

I find this fascinating because in other verses God calls us to seek Him first (Matt. 6:33). To love Him with all that we have (Matt. 22:37). To draw near to God and He will draw near to us (James 4:8). 

And yet, here the roles are reversed.  

Here it states that God draws close to us when we are broken-hearted.  

This shows me that God understands that when the pain is too much to bear in our weakest moments, we don’t have the strength to go on.  And so, He draws near to us.  

So, where is God when bad things happen?  

Right by our side.   

He never leaves us. Never forsakes us.  

Just as a mother runs to her child’s side when they fall off their bike, the Lord runs to us when we are in pain. Ready to wrap us in His arms and comfort us. To weep with us. To teach us. And to help us get back up again.  

Another thing we need to know in our hardships is: 

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How do we trust God when life is hard? 

Practically speaking, there are a few things we can do when we are in a difficult situation that tries our faith.  

These three things can help us learn how to trust God when bad things happen. We can: 

1) Rehearse who God is.  

When I remind myself of who God is, it is easier for me to trust Him.  

  1. God is wise. He knows what He is doing. (Rom. 11:33) 
  2. God is faithful. He will keep His promises. (Deut. 7:9) 
  3. God is good. There is no evil in Him. (Psalm 34:8) 
  4. God is loving. He wants what is best for us. (1 John 4:7-8) 
  5. God is infinite. He has no beginning or end. (Col. 1:17) 
  6. God is immutable. He never changes. (Mal. 3:6) 
  7. God is omnipotent. He is all powerful. (Job 11:7-11) 
  8. God is omniscient. He knows everything. (Isaiah 46:9-10) 
  9. God is omnipresent. He is everywhere. (Psalm 139:7-10) 
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2) Remember His promises.  

When I remind myself of what God has promised me, I am encouraged to cling to the hope I have in Him and to trust Him even when life is hard.

  1. He is my strength. (Phil. 4:13) 
  2. He will never leave me. (Deut. 31:6) 
  3. He hears my prayers. (John 14:13-14) 
  4. He fights for me. (Exodus 14:14) 
  5. He will give me peace. (John 14:27) 
  6. He loves me dearly. (1 John 4:9-10) And nothing can separate me from  His love. (Rom. 8:38-39). 
  7. He can redeem anything for my good and His glory. (Rom. 8:28) 

(And keep in mind this is a very small list of promises from the Bible. If you keep looking you can find many more!) 

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3) Resolve to keep seeking Him.   

The devil loves to use tragedy to get us to pull away from God. To retreat. To isolate ourselves. To lock ourselves in our room, crawl under a blanket, and just lay there.

Like a lion carefully waiting for easy prey, he patiently waits for us to allow our pain to cause us to push God and others away. And once we are all alone, he pounces.   

To protect ourselves from the devil’s onslaughts we need to keep seeking God even when we don’t feel like it. Even when it is really hard. And even if that means we need to wrestle through some things with Him first.

This is the time to: 

  1. Go to church MORE.  
  2. Read God’s Word MORE. 
  3. Listen to praise music MORE. 
  4. Pray MORE.  

We can learn how to trust God completely when we resolve to keep seeking Him even in the midst of tragedy.  

God is the shelter from the storm. The umbrella in the rain. The life vest keeping us afloat when the waves of life threaten to drown us.  

And even if it is hard we can still praise Him in the storm.

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Even If, God is Still Good 

The truth is even if my worst nightmare as a mom comes true, I will be okay.  

It will not be easy. It will hurt like hell.  

But I will be okay.  

Because God has promised He will be right by my side. He may not always rescue me from my problems, but He will help me get THROUGH my difficult times.

My hope is not in this fading and broken world full of heartache and pain.

My hope is in what Jesus did on the cross.  

How He made a way for me, my children, and everyone else on this planet to spend eternity in Heaven with Him. To live forever in a place where there will be no more tears. Where everything will be perfect. Everything will make sense. And everything will be made right.

Trusting God when things look bad isn’t easy. 

  • Yes, the things of this world cause me to worry.  
  • Yes, I don’t always understand God’s plan.  
  • Yes, I sometimes struggle with wondering how a good God could allow bad things to happen.  

But that is okay.  

Because God allows us to wrestle through our doubts and questions with Him. To bring Him all our fears and worries. To not hold back our disturbingly honest thoughts and questions.  

But in the end, He asks us to have faith. To trust that: 

  • He sees things we cannot see.
  • He has a plan.  
  • He dearly loves us.  
  • And He is working ALL things out for our good.  

Even the hard things.

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Read more:

What to Do When You Are Waiting on God

How to Praise God in the Storm

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