If you are like me, the last year and a half has been very challenging. As with everyone, my challenges may be similar to yours but are different. One of my mentors in ministry always tells me, “God hand-tailors the situations our lives.” And it’s true under God’s providence, God knows what we need, and He knows how to spur us on to grow in the grace of God so we will grow to be like Jesus.
The Past Year and a Half for Me
It started for me just before COVID-19 hit in March 2020. My almost twenty-year-old calico cat was not doing well at all, and finally, one day, my wife and I decided to take her to the vet. There we learned she had malignant cancer and had a matter of days to live. This cat was one of the first presents I bought my wife Sarah about a year into our marriage. We had the cat for 13 years, and she was about five or six when we got her. We loved Roxie very much, but we decided right then and there at the vet to put her down and did. Then in October of 2020, we had to put my dog down because he also had malignant cancer. Again, we took him to the vet to see what was going on, and the vet told us he had a few weeks to live. I raised Joseph, my yellow lab, from a puppy.
Throughout the past year and a half, there have been many, many challenges with my parents. My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, another crushing blow to my heart, even though I knew it was coming deep down. My father has had dementia since 2012, and his behavior has been getting worse. He was moved out recently out of his assisted living facility and stayed at the Army hospital in the Seattle area for three months before moving into a family home in the Seattle area where he is now. He is slowly stabilizing, but it has been a challenge.
I share all of that because each day comes with its challenges, and they hurt. When I get news about how my dad is doing, it hurts me. When I talk to my mom and see how her disease is affecting her, it hurts me. Your hurt, though, is likely different than mine, but it is no less real. We live in a Post-Fall world where the reality and consequence of sin abound because we are sinners by nature and by choice in need of Jesus and because the whole world is under the curse awaiting the return of Jesus.
The situations in your life today may be very hard. Perhaps you are having some challenges or significant issues in your marriage. Perhaps you are having challenges in a relationship with someone at church, work, or with a friend. Perhaps you’ve had a friend die of COVID, or they are in the hospital with a debilitating disease. Life has a way I’ve learned of beating us down, and it seems like there isn’t anywhere to turn. Can I say I know what that’s like? Can I say right now I’m with you in that situation?
I’ve been a Christian now going on thirty-five years. I’m an experienced Bible teacher, preacher, writer, and author with twenty-one years of ministry experience. I have over one hundred hours of Bible and theology credits at the Master’s level, two seminary degrees, and years of biblical counseling experience. I’ve written and regularly contribute to many of the most respected Christian ministries in the world. I’m supposed to know what to say and how to handle these situations, but I’m going to be honest with you, I am often at a loss for words at what to think and how to process my parents’ memory issues.
Jesus didn’t promise us a bed of roses, nor did He promise our best life today. It is tempting to think that is true, but life has a way of obliterating that comfortable idea of the Christian life. Rather than a bed of roses, Jesus promised that the life of faith would be hard and challenging that we would face opponents and enemies of the cross, along with tribulations and trials and hard times. But through it all, we would have Jesus. We would know His love, His care, and His goodness.
Do Not Lose Heart, Hope in Jesus
I know today may be a hard day. I just had a good friend and a very respected Christian leader email me this morning that one of his colleagues at his seminary died. That may be you today you had a friend die or is hurting or suffering, and you need to know where your hope is. In 2 Corinthians 4:14-18, Paul says this, “14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
You may not have a mom with Alzheimer’s or a father with dementia. But you may be hurting today and struggling and wondering where to find hope. There is hope in Jesus Christ. The hope that Jesus offers is an anchor to the soul. Jesus, see, isn’t dead and gone. He died, was buried, and rose again on the third day. Jesus is a risen Savior and Lord of His people. The life we have now we have by faith in Christ. The hope we have now is because of Christ and will be fully realized when we are in His presence.
Today life may be beating you down, and it hurts. I understand what that is like and often feel that way. Still, I must remember Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4:14-18 not to lose heart. The Savior and Lord of my heart and life aren’t dead and gone; He is risen from the grave and soon returning. Our hope in Jesus is not tied to our feelings about the latest circumstances of our lives. If we are to face life with the help of the Lord, we need to understand that He is not only there; He is always present.
The circumstances of your life are not happening willy-nilly and brought out from the genie’s bottle as if by happenstance to crush you. The circumstances of your life are hand-tailored under the providence of God to help you grow in the grace of God. Rather than being discouraged, the knowledge that God sees, knows, and walks alongside me in my hurt, pain, and suffering is a great comfort. It also helps me hope in God and not lose heart when I’m tempted to do so.
I hope today that you will not lose heart, and amid whatever pain you are experiencing, look to your Savior and Lord Jesus in the midst of your hurt and pain. Your Lord is faithful to His promises. His promises are tied to His sure and steady, and faithful character revealed in His Word. God’s goodness means that God is good in all circumstances.
Even yesterday, I had to remind myself to be thankful for a great Lord in Jesus, a great wife, and a great ministry to serve the Body of Christ. My sister-in-law’s dog died in my office one step from the chair I’m sitting in right now as I write this article this past Saturday. Then on Saturday, I dug the hole for his grave in my backyard and buried him in my backyard. You may not have buried a dog or a friend, but your hurt still stings. Amid your pain, give thanks for the gift of breath and life. Give thanks to the Lord for the blessings you have. Death is a reminder of the temporary nature of our lives. Give thanks to the Lord and sing to the Lord. He is good, and His mercy endures forever. Great is the faithfulness of the Lord. Doing so will help you not lose heart and face the hurt of life with the help of the Lord in the daily stuff of your life.