I write this with a heavy heart for our many friends who, as I write, are boarding flights to evacuate Tanzania. I write for the missionaries in Europe and around the world whose ministries and lives have been put on lockdown, for the students whose graduations are canceled, for those whose jobs and income have become impossible because of lockdown, and for the many other thousands of lives that have been shaken.
When troubles come, it is okay to mourn the loss of hopes and dreams. As parents, it is also okay to let our kids be sad over how their lives are changing. Our hearts need to go through the grieving process. The psalmist regularly laments and cries out to God in grief. “Give ear to my prayer, O God, and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy! Attend to me, and answer me; I am restless in my complaint and I moan” (Ps. 55:1-2). God doesn’t silence our cries or ignore our tears; he bottles them: “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (Ps. 56:8). There is a healthy time for lamenting and grief; it is the first step in confronting loss so that we can reach out to God: “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Ps. 30:5). We must let our mourning turn us toward God, not away from him.
Like Job, many may be wondering in their heart, “Why Lord?” For Job, God didn’t reveal the reason; he revealed himself. For those who are struggling with loss, grief, and disappointment, while trying to make sense of their world, God may not reveal the answer. But he does promise to reveal himself. “If you seek him, he will be found by you” (1 Chron. 28:9).
Here are four ways that God has revealed himself in his word that have encouraged me through disappointment and loss. I pray that they will encourage and strengthen your heart as well.
1. God is near.
When I think of those that faced some of the greatest challenges in history, God reminds me that he was with them.
In Joseph’s case: “And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him.” (Acts 7:9) Even when Joseph’s world was collapsing around him, God was with him. Even when Joshua faced unbeatable odds, God was with him.
With Joshua, we read: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9) God has given us the same promise that he gave to Joshua. “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).
When the storms of life surround us, let us remember that God is near. David reminds us that “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted” (Ps. 34:18). When missionary John G. Patton was being hunted on an island by natives who were seeking to kill him, he hid in a tree and rested in the nearness of God:
“I climbed into the tree and was left there alone in the bush. The hours I spent there live all before me as if it were but of yesterday. I heard the frequent discharging of muskets, and the yells of the Savages. Yet I sat there among the branches, as safe as in the arms of Jesus. Never, in all my sorrows, did my Lord draw nearer to me, and speak more soothingly in my soul, than when the moonlight flickered among those chestnut leaves, and the night air played on my throbbing brow, as I told all my heart to Jesus. Alone, yet not alone! If it be to glorify my God, I will not grudge to spend many nights alone in such a tree, to feel again my Savior’s spiritual presence, to enjoy His consoling fellowship. If thus thrown back upon your own soul, alone, all alone, in the midnight, in the bush, in the very embrace of death itself, have you a Friend that will not fail you then?” (John Piper, “Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ”)
Nothing comes between us and God. God is near. He is with you.
2. God is sovereign.
When God revealed himself to Job, this is what he said: “Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine” (Job 41:11). God reminded Job that he is sovereign.
We can find incredible comfort as we rest in God’s complete sovereignty over all things.
God wants us to know that there is no corner of creation that his sovereignty doesn’t touch. He also wants us to know that there are no events in our life that he is not reigning over.
- “Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” (Ps. 135:6)
- “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” (Ps. 16:33)
- “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Gen. 50:2)
- “I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose…I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.” (Is. 46:9-11)
As our life unfolds, we can find incredible peace in this truth: Nothing gets to us that doesn’t pass through the hands of God. God is sovereign.
3. God is good.
If God were sovereign but not good, his sovereignty wouldn’t be comforting—it would be frightening. But because his sovereignty is balanced by his goodness, it brings great comfort. For those who have trusted in Jesus Christ to save them, all of God’s acts are for our good.
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31)
Many problems we face in life are overwhelming. How can those trials be for our good? They are for our eternal good. God is doing what is best for our eternity. He has more in view than our temporal comfort. He loves us so much that he allows us to face hard times because he knows that in the end we will be thankful.
When we remember that God works for our eternal good, we can trust that our father has a reason, and that it is best. We learn to trust his goodness. Is it hard? Yes. But as I look back on all the hard things that God has brought our family through—even though I never would have chosen them—I never would have traded them for the easy road.
Never chosen, but never traded. Nothing passes through God’s hands that is not for his glory and our eternal good. God is good.
4. God gives daily strength.
Whenever we face trials that overwhelm our life, everything comes to a standstill. It is like standing on the path of life with a huge boulder in front of you. The boulder is so large that you can see no way around it. Sometimes, we face problems like those boulders.
If you are like me, when you face trials you are quick to look at the whole problem. We never merely look at today’s problem; we look at tomorrow’s, and then the next day’s, etc. As we look at the endless problems that could come our way, we think, “I can’t continue.” We don’t feel that we have the strength to pass through our problem.
A few years ago, the Lord allowed me to go through one of these trials. In the midst of it, God used the words of Jeremiah to instruct my heart and bring great comfort.
Jeremiah lived a hard life, filled with trials. He was utterly dismayed and didn’t know how he could continue (see Lamentations 3:1-20). But even during these trials, he found hope. This same hope is available to us today.
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:21-23)
God encouraged me through these verses: Today’s strength is sufficient for today’s problems. Tomorrow God will give new strength for tomorrow’s problems.
God doesn’t want us to look at the big problem (tomorrow’s problems, next week’s, next year’s, etc.). God wants us to trust him for today.
God will give us the grace and strength to use for today. And when tomorrow’s problems come, he will give us new grace and strength for then. And the next day, he will do it again.
He doesn’t want us to worry about tomorrow. He wants us to trust him for today.
No matter how huge the obstacle is, we walk through it one day at a time. God will give us the strength to get through today. And as faithful as the rising of the sun, tomorrow God will give us new strength to endure tomorrow’s trials.
Nothing gets to us that God will not give us the strength for.
How great is our Lord who strengthens us each day!