By Warren Olson
Over the years, I’ve learned there are two givens in life: hardship and God’s presence through those hardships. Because we live in a fallen world and are sinful people, we’re going to experience struggles and loss in this life. Some may find life to be more difficult than others, but none of us can escape its pain.
We’ve all experienced the ache of hard times. That sinking feeling in your stomach when you get the news the cancer has spread. The throbbing in your bones when you don’t want to face the day’s uncertainties. It might be a relational struggle, financial strain, or health crisis that leaves you shaken and feeling alone.
As we age it seems our struggles begin to multiply. We want to ensure our family is taken care of and are enjoying full lives. We worry about caring for our spouse or loved ones. Medical bills and health decisions can leave us feeling debilitated. In such times it’s imperative to have a good support system around you. But even good support can’t heal the ache.
Such times of struggle remind us of the second given in life. We can’t do it alone. We’re not in control, and we need help. In fact, God uses such circumstances to remind us of our desperate need for Him. And at some point, each of us must decide whether we will follow Him and embrace the new life He offers or walk away empty-handed.
When hard times hit, ultimately God is the only one we can depend on. He is in charge… and He promises to walk alongside us through the storms of life. That’s why God gives us so many promises about His nearness.
Throughout the Old Testament, God continually promises His people—-Moses, Joshua, Elijah-—of His nearness. When God called Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt, Moses objected that he wasn’t the man for the job. But God promised to go with him as the great I AM (Exodus 3). As Joshua prepared to lead Israel into the Promise Land, three times God promised him that He would be with him and never leave nor forsake him (Deuteronomy 31, Joshua 1). And when Elijah despaired of life and told God he was all alone, God reminded the prophet that he reserved 7,000 people in Israel who were still following after the one true God (1 Kings 19).
Picking up on this theme, the writer of Hebrews says the same thing, “…because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘the Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid; what can man do to me?’” (13:5-6). In the face of uncertainty, loss, and distress, we have hope because God promises to never walk away… and this includes during the hard times!
So if you’re walking through a difficult season right now, let me encourage you. Nothing has brought me more comfort in hard times than knowing God walks through them with me. And when I feel myself becoming overwhelmed by my circumstances, I begin to meditate on the promises God gave to His people. I fill my mind with God’s Word and the many times He told those men and women, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
Prayer is another activity that quiets my anxious thoughts. I can’t fix my situation, but God can. So I take my burdens to Him and ask Him to work them out. He may not answer the way I want, but I know He’ll give me His best for my situation.
And finally I’m so grateful for my wife Virginia, family, and friends who have come alongside during difficult seasons. We need each other! One of the most powerful things you can do for a loved one is to pray for them and let them know you’re there. A verse, a hug, or a word of encouragement does wonders for reminding another person that you and God care about their hurts.
So as you walk through hard times, I hope you’ll remember the Friend who walks alongside you. He will never leave you. And He promises to walk with you through the storms!