God wants us to wait for his refining work and look for his perspective even while we are in the vortex of affliction. He wants us to trust the divine timing and not get discouraged while we’re in the waiting period. The best approach to stop discouragement early is to pray. But as clear and logical as that is, many believers seem to respond in exactly the opposite way. That is, the bigger the trouble, the less we seem to pray.
This perplexing dichotomy has us asking in disbelief, “I’ve committed my life to God…why is this happening to me?” Then a new rush of hopelessness engulfs us, and feeling alone we move even farther from turning the problem over to God and believing he can pull the rabbit out of the hat. Why do we settle for less than what our heart really desires? Why do we minimize God?
No matter what happens in our circumstances, God wants us to fight off our loneliness by continually stretching our perspective beyond the trials of our lives. He always gives us another angle, another way to approach our circumstances. Even if our emotions tell us this different approach is wrong, we should try making sense of other perspectives. We can tune up our faith just like a car’s engine if we look for God’s perspective. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor. 4:17).
Life is not an endurance run where we get awarded a prize for finishing first. Life is a journey of joy in the here and now. Every minute. Every day. Always. Most of us can understand that, and we even teach it to those in our charge, but sometimes we do feel like we are behind the pace. The hard part is avoiding the strong pull to be negative and defeatist when we encounter life’s trials and pain. Being negative when tribulation comes makes us feel alone and afraid.
But feeling isolated is a predictable part of God’s plan to show us in the most intimate way possible that he is there and still in control. He is not going anywhere without us. God uses that isolation to test our capacity to lead, our character, and our faith. He uses it to show us that the adversity in our life is there to teach us and strengthen us so we can emerge with our faith and our wits attached.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. . . . So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Cor. 4:8-9, 18).
Mark Affleck is a CEO, Strategist, Pastor, and Author. He is the former Executive Director of The Global PEACE Plan at Saddleback Church and currently President of YellowChair Strategy www.yellowchairstrategy.com which helps transform churches, Christian organizations, and marketplace companies. From his ministry platform at www.markaffleck.com, Mark helps Christians overcome fear, love God, and commit to life-long spiritual growth.