By: Joy Forrest
This has been one of the hardest years of my life, and that’s saying a lot, because I have suffered greatly in my time on this earth. Yet, in all my trials and tribulations, I have learned that suffering can be a beautiful opportunity to connect to things that transcend this temporary existence. My faith is deeper and, through suffering, I’ve come to realize that God’s grace and love are sufficient to get me through anything. I am so grateful to be his child. He is good, even in this broken world where life is often excruitatingly hard— perhaps even more so when life is hard.
This world is broken, because God has given mankind free will and as a race we rejected him, but he did not reject us. He took on flesh, came to earth, and entered into our suffering to win us back. Jesus told us that in this world we would have trouble, but then assured us that he has overcome the world. He promised us peace, even in the midst of suffering in pain.
Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). What a beautiful promise of peace! But— that promise is connected to a command that we don’t allow our hearts to be troubled. Really, Jesus ?! Isn’t worry and anxiety a natural reaction to pain and suffering? It certainly has been for me. I spent the first 40+ years of my life crippled by fear and worry.
It was a crisis in 2005 that finally helped me realize that, even though I claimed to be a Believer, my life was defined by fear rather than faith. Scripture says that without faith it is impossible to please God, and I knew I wanted to please the One who gave up everything for me. I made a decision that year not to allow my heart to dwell on the trials, but to instead dwell on things that were true, lovely and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). Basically, I took promises from scripture (verses that reassured me of his love and care) and chose to dwell on those truths rather than my worries. I came to realize that even if the worst of my fears came to pass, He was still faithful and true. I chose to meditate on his goodness instead of my fears, and in the process my life was completely transformed. I became an overcomer instead of a constant victim of circumstances.
Fast forward to October 2021 when one tribulation after the other began to overwhelm our family, but this time around the the trials were happening to my children and grandchildren. Worry began to creep back in. I took a sabbatical in January and He was faithful to minister to my aching soul, but a few months later a new tide of troubles rolled in— and then another… and another… and then yet another.
To be honest, I’ve floundered a lot this year. I’ve had to choose many times over to believe rather than doubt, but it’s been a constant battle, and I’ve found myself so weary. Scripture tells us our trials on earth are light and momentary (2 Cor. 4:17), but this year they have felt heavy and endless. I’m sure it’s partly because I have fixed my eyes on the troubles instead of One who transcends this world and overcame on my behalf. The things we see and experience here on earth are temporary, but the things that are unseen are eternal. I choose to meditate on the eternal— my precious Savior, his love, his goodness and his promises. I will not allow my heart to dwell on the troubles anymore. I can lament them, but I will not meditate on them. Instead I choose to see this extended season of trouble as another opportunity to grow my roots even deeper into the One who ismy peace (Eph. 2:14).
Isaiah 26:3 seems like a very appropriate place to end this. “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” This passage actually refers to our imaginations. When we worry we imagine (picture) all the bad things that might happen, but when we picture his love, care, and faithfulness, we will experience his perfect peace. Today I am choosing to picture my good Shepherd leading me beside still waters and making me rest. I will be still as he anoints my wounded head with the oil of his Spirit, and restores my weary soul as only he can.
What about you? Have troubles overwhelmed you so that you find yourself rehearsing them over and over in your mind? Will you join me in redirecting your mind and allowing him to give you rest? Will you make the choice to be still and fix your gaze on him instead of the many trials you’ve experienced? He is greater than anything you will ever face, and he loves you beyond measure. Resting in his perfect love will dispel every fear and worry. My prayer for you today is that you will join me by the still waters of His amazing love and that you will experience peace beyond human comprehension– even in the midst of trouble.