It doesn’t take very long to figure out there is a lot of evil in the world. Times are hard! Look at the news, and you’ll see that 90% of the information is negative. Not just in America, but all over the world! We know that Scripture tells Christians that Jesus has overcome the world, but as individuals, we also know that we have so much pain in our lives. Sure, there is good out there, but there are also a lot of hard things to deal with.
It seems almost disrespectful to say, “love God in those hard times!” Up until recently, my life has been, comparatively speaking, rainbows and butterflies. Sure, there have been incredibly hard times in my life. Almost unbearable times. But until recently all I had wrong was a hole in my tire. How can a hole in my tire compare with those who lost parents, had bad parents, lost children, have broken relationships, are impoverished, witness their children struggling, are going through depression, fight numbness or temptation, have illnesses, or feel stuck? What kind of audacity would it take to tell such a person to “love God in the hard times”? Unless I am you, I cannot fully know your circumstances. But, I know someone who understands the heart of all people, and He says “love God in the hard times” so I must preach the same. I do not expect to fix your hard times, but I only wish to give you some hopeful reminders of who you belong to!
James 1:2-4 says to “count it all joy when you go through a variety of hard times and know that the testing of your trust produces endurance. Let endurance completely work in you so that you lack nothing.” Wait, what? Act as if I’m happy when I’m going through my own personal hell? This word joy doesn’t necessarily mean to laugh and be in a good mood. It means hopeful contentment regardless of circumstances. Happiness in our understanding depends on circumstances. But true joy is hopeful contentment no matter the circumstances because you have enough trust in God to know that He keeps His promises. When you go through hard times, you are in the perfect environment to grow your trust. God is near to the broken-hearted. That endurance causes you to mature your faith. Billy Graham said, “Mountaintops are for views and inspiration, but fruit is grown in the valleys.” Amen to that!
1 John tells us that Jesus has overcome the world and that we enter into that victory by faith. We know the end of the story. We aren’t hopeless. We may have real emotions and questions to work through. But we aren’t hopeless. Imagine your favorite movie or sports game that ended the way you wanted it to. If you have watched it before you won’t be worried if bad things happen when you watch it again because you already know how it ends. You might get emotional about it, but you don’t lose hope because you are confident in the conclusion. We, as Christians, know the end of the story, and it works in our favor, no matter the circumstances we find ourselves in concerning this life.
I love what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: “We don’t lose heart, even though our physical selves are decaying, our inner selves are being renewed every day. Temporary persecution is producing in us an eternal weight of glory that is beyond comprehension. We don’t look at things that are seen, but of things that aren’t seen. Things we see are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” This world will end. Placing our hope in physical relationships, jobs, entertainment, and lifestyles is placing our hope in things that will eventually decay. We, as believers, are spiritual beings, and this manifests itself more and more the closer we get to the coming of our Lord. He is transforming us into His eternal, spiritual image.
Everything in this life (the good, the bad, and the ugly) is being worked together for good. I don’t know all the answers as to why God allows certain people to suffer in certain ways. But I do know, as Joseph said, “what you meant for evil God meant for good.” The devil, sin, and the world cause so much pain, but God even uses that pain to work all things together for good for those who love Him according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). But what is God’s ultimate purpose? Verse 29 answers that for us! Paul says that God’s plan from the beginning was for those who love Him to be transformed into the image of Christ. 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 echoes this as well. We were made in God’s image (image= character or likeness), we leave said image (make a character for ourselves outside of God), and God is making every way possible for us to return to that image through Jesus, so we can be part of His family for eternity. He doesn’t like the hard times we go through as a result of sin, but His ultimate purpose is our spiritual destiny, not our physical and emotional comfort.
This doesn’t mean He lacks love for us by any means! Later on, in Romans 8 (35 and following) Paul speaks of how we have overcome the world and are more than conquerors through Christ. Then He goes on to say that nothing at all, nothing physical or spiritual, can separate us from His deep and everlasting love for us! God loves you, especially in the hard times! And, as 1 John 4:19 says, we love Him because He first loved us. He took the initiative. Everything He did is for us and because of us!
We serve a God who lives forever and who will continuously fight for us. We serve a God who works in us through the church and by the power of the cross. We serve a God who is able to do immeasurably more than anything we can ever ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20-21). That same power is in you now, even in the hard times. That same love is with you now, even in the hard times. Emotions are real, and it takes time, effort, and the Holy Spirit to work through them. But remember, just because you are possibly going through the hardest pain in your life doesn’t mean that God isn’t there and it doesn’t mean that He lacks love for you. His passion is from everlasting to everlasting. Love God, even in the hard times! – Jesse
See Also Loving God in the Happy Times