Hebrews 10. Chapter 20.
You don’t think you can continue. Life is just too hard. Your loss is too great. You can’t persevere another minute, another hour, another day.
You don’t know where to turn. You didn’t think it would be this hard when you received the diagnosis, the bad news, the pink slip, the divorce papers.
How can you hold on? How can you possibly trust that God is in this with you, that he’s buried in here somewhere, orchestrating this for your good?
It sure doesn’t feel like it.
What do you do?
I’ve been in this place more than once. I’ve lost the home, life-flighted a kid, followed the ambulance, wailed in a hospital waiting room, sat in a courtroom, cried over a grave, wept over a prodigal, received the diagnosis.
I’ve lost hope. I’ve quit talking to God.
I’ve gone through the motions, keeping up an outward appearance and a pleasant exterior. But inside my heart has been hard as stone.
In 1995, during a season of great personal calamity, I called my friend whose baby had cancer, knowing she had faced a far more difficult situation than I. My friend told me to turn around and face God. I hadn’t prayed in months, but, because of her loving heart, I finally looked up at Jesus.
That same week our new next door neighbor, unknown to that friend, a woman who barely even knew me, invited me to a Bible study by Kay Arthur entitled, “Lord, Where are You When Bad Things Happen?“
Precisely. Exactly what I wanted to know. Where was God?
These things weren’t supposed to happen to God’s people. Or so, I thought. I had been told that God didn’t allow bad things to happen to people who kept all the rules and did all the right religious stuff. Therefore, I must have done something really wrong. What it was, I didn’t know.
The Bible study began. I thought I knew God. Turns out I didn’t.
I didn’t know this omniscient and omnipotent God who allowed bad things to happen and yet was powerful enough to work it all together for my good.
With a hardened face and a broken heart, I worked through that Bible study and then the next, exchanging my flawed ideas of who God was for the reality of what the Scriptures said. How patient those Bible study women were with me as we studied through the entire series.
I asked hard questions. I argued with God. I stewed.
Gradually, day by day, my heart softened. This was my reformation, my lightning bolt in the thunderstorm, my come-to-Jesus moment.
Christ came into the world to offer his body as an offering to pay for my sins and yours. “For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time” (Hebrews 10:10 NLT). In God’s eyes, we are made pure by that sacrifice.
If Christ has saved us, we will be transformed. When Jesus is present, change occurs. We grow. The process of growth in holiness is often messy and hard. It was, and it still is, difficult.If Christ has saved us, we will be transformed. When Jesus is present, change occurs. We grow. The process of growth in holiness is often messy and hard. It was, and it still is, difficult. Click To Tweet
Though I suffer a differ type of trial than the Christians who were the recipients of the letter to the Hebrews, and so do you, still we suffer. Still we lose homes and children and health. Still our hearts break and our pain increases. Still we must trust God in difficult times. In all of that, we grow.
No matter the source of our suffering, God is integral in all of it. He uses it for our good, even though we may not understand how for quite some time. It is important to remind ourselves of this truth.No matter the source of our suffering, God is integral in all of it. He uses it for our good, even though we may not understand how for quite some time. It is important to remind ourselves of this truth. Click To Tweet
Once, I was a legalist rule keeper. I was judgmental. I had a mean streak. Because of my self reliance, God allowed and brought whatever was necessary to change me into a person who saw others with the kindness of our merciful God. I’m glad he did. I needed to grow. I needed to change.
“Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. . . Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised” (Hebrews 10:32, 35-36 NIV).
We can be confident in Christ. Not only does he help us, but he affirms and richly rewards us. There is recompense for the faith we learn in suffering. Those years of trial brought me into a richer faith. I need Jesus desperately.
Hardships are a fact of life for all of us. Our dilemma is always this:
Will we believe that God is good and that we can trust him? Will we wring our hands, or will we pray? Will we believe that God will work good in our lives and in the lives of those we love, no matter how he goes about it? Will we trust that he can care for those we love wherever they are in the world?
When we are sick and suffering physically, will we remember the Savior who suffered agony for us? Will we call out to him for comfort? Will we fix our eyes and our hearts on him? Will we cry out to him?
When we’ve lost hope, will we remember that not only does God see us, but his indwelling Spirit suffers alongside us? He helps us, interceding for us with groanings too deep for words, as he brings us comfort.When we’ve lost hope, will we remember that not only does God see us, but his indwelling Spirit suffers alongside us? He helps us, interceding for us with groanings too deep for words as he brings us comfort. Click To Tweet
Remember the One who is with us. Jesus is with us when we’re prodigals, when we’re hiding in the desert, and when we’re sick. He’s with us in loss. He’s with us in death. We cannot run from God, for he is everywhere.Jesus is with us when we're prodigals, when we're hiding in the desert, and when we're sick. He's with us in loss. He's with us in death. We cannot run from God, for he is everywhere. Click To Tweet
This is what the Lord says:
“Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still ‘today,’ so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ” (Hebrews 3:12-14 NLT).
“You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, ‘In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay’ . . . ‘My righteous one will live by faith. . . I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.’ But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved” (Hebrews 10:36-39 NIV).
In 1995, I shrank back from him during trial and turned my back on him when life got hard. But God drew me back to himself. I faced him again.
I want to be facing him when he appears in the clouds coming with power and great glory. I want to be facing him when I meet him at life’s end.
We are not one of those turn who away, never to return. No, we are people of faith. We don’t belong to those who shrink back, remaining hardened, rather than allowing his Spirit to soften our hearts. His love tugs us toward him. We return to him over and over again.
By the gospel, we are saved, if we hold firmly to it. Our conviction is that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, that he lived, died, rose from the dead, and will return again. When those are our beliefs, we must live them.By the gospel, we are saved, if we hold firmly to it. Our conviction is that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, that he lived, died, rose from the dead, and will return again. When those are our beliefs, we must live them. Click To Tweet
And so, dear suffering friend, take these words to heart. They were written that we might know the truth. Act upon them by faith. Remember him. Do not lose heart. His promises are true. His faithfulness is guaranteed.
“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings. . . .
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. . . .
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:22-25 NIV).
God is with us. He will never leave us, never forsake us. No matter what. We need him. We need one another. Together, we press on.God is with us. He will never leave us, never forsake us. No matter what. We need him. We need one another. Together, we press on. Click To Tweet