From The Pastor's Heart

God draws near to help us through—but not necessarily out of—difficult situations.
By Charles F. Stanley

Have you ever gone through a very difficult time—one in which you cried out to the Lord for comfort yet sensed no response from Him? Trials are painful enough, but for a Christian, God’s apparent silence in the face of suffering can be even worse. Where is He? Why doesn’t He help? How can we reconcile our continued distress with the fact that He is “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction” (2 Cor. 1:3-4)?

May I suggest that the problem isn’t that the Lord is not responding to our cries but that we don’t always understand all the ways He offers us comfort? We usually want Him to console us by delivering us from the trying situation or the pain. However, that’s not always His way. God has given us the Holy Spirit as our Helper to come alongside and encourage us as we endure and learn from our suffering (John 14:16).

God draws near to help us through—but not necessarily out of—difficult situations. I haven’t always agreed with the Lord regarding the heartaches and pain He’s allowed into my life. They were not experiences I wanted at the time, but now I know they were essential. Without them, I would have missed valuable lessons and would be inadequate to comfort others in their suffering. When I’ve thought I couldn’t take another step, the Holy Spirit has quieted my fears, eased my pain, and invigorated me with His power.

However, there have also been times when I couldn’t feel God’s presence and had to rely upon what I knew to be true about Him. Emotions fluctuate, but truth never changes. These facts anchor my soul:

• The Lord is always with me.
• Nothing happens to me unless He allows it.
• He has a purpose for the suffering and trials He permits.

Now, I may not comprehend what He’s doing in the moment. In fact, I may never understand, but I know He loves me and promises to work every situation together for my good (Rom. 8:28).

When we need a reminder of these truths, we need look no further than the Word of God. Now, oftentimes, that is the last thing we feel like doing. We’d rather seek out friends or wallow in our misery for a while. But the Scriptures are our divine source of encouragement and refreshment. Psalm 119:50 says, “This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your word has revived me.” The Bible gives us a new outlook and a sense of confidence in the Lord. Within its pages we find the hope and guidance we need for every situation in life.

The way we respond to suffering determines whether or not it will be beneficial.

People often tell me, “I’m not a pastor like you. I don’t know where to look in the Bible when I need help.” I understand. There have been times in my life when I’ve simply cried out to God, not knowing where to turn in His Word. I don’t recommend this as a regular pattern for Bible reading, but occasionally I have simply opened the Scriptures to read whatever passage I find in front of me. One time when I was struggling with a difficult issue, I opened to Psalm 62:1: “My soul waits in silence for God only; from Him is my salvation.” That was precisely what I needed to hear.

The Holy Spirit can guide you to the exact passage to encourage you (John 14:26). That’s why it’s also important to read God’s Word every day. Psalm 119:24 says, “Your testimonies also are my delight; they are my counselors.” Sometimes the reason people don’t sense the Lord’s comfort is because they’re not listening to the counsel He offers in the Scriptures. If we neglect the Word of God, every trial will feel crushing. But when we read the Bible regularly, the weight of our burdens is lifted, and we receive His encouragement and strength to endure.

Although your circumstances may not change, comfort comes in trusting God. He’s doing something special in your life—shaping you into Christ’s image, building your faith, and preparing you for service in His kingdom. His desire is for you to come through the fire of affliction polished and reflecting Jesus in your character, words, and behavior (1 Pet. 1:6-7). If you’re going through tough times right now, remember that Jesus walks through the fire with you.

The way we respond to suffering determines whether or not it will be beneficial. We may have no control over the challenges we face, but we can choose how we will respond. Complaining, getting angry, blaming others, feeling sorry for ourselves, or sinking into a pit of despair will only make us miserable. Instead, we should cry out to the Lord for help, asking Him to give us understanding of His Word and His purposes (Ps. 119:143-149).

My prayer is that you will experience God’s comfort and strength in the midst of your pain and trouble. You are not alone in your suffering. The Scriptures are filled with stories of people who have patiently endured the hardships of life through faith in the Lord. You, too, can live victoriously through your trials if you’ll trust Him and focus on His Word.

Prayerfully yours,

Charles F. Stanley

P.S. Because of partners like you, we can offer comforting, Scripture-filled resources to people around the world who are going through trying times. When you are feeling burdened with the difficulties and heartaches of life, do you have a few Bible verses to anchor you in the storm? I’d like to encourage you to carry God’s Word in your heart so it’s readily available when you need it.

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