If you're a human being, trouble will come knocking.
At some time and in some way, suffering will enter our door as an uninvited guest. In these moments, we have a choice to make: we can question God's character and grow weak in faith, or we can embrace it as an opportunity that God is giving us to develop spiritual muscles.
I need to be honest with you today - it's natural for me to grow weak under difficulty. When life gets hard, it's easy to forsake my spiritual exercises and fall into these 4 muscle-weakening traps:
1. Giving Way To Doubt. Experiencing trouble has never been on our wish list for the good life, so we struggle to see it as a gift of grace. It doesn't seem loving for God to allow us to suffer, so we begin to question his wisdom, goodness, and love.
2. Giving Way To Anger. Why does it seem that the bad guys always win? At first, our anger seems righteous and justified, but when we examine it at the root, we're often angry with God over his sovereign choices.
3. Giving Way To Discouragement. In the midst of trouble, we often fantasize about what could have been, or what we should have done differently. This dark meditation floods our hearts with regret and dread, and we give up hope.
4. Giving Way To Envy. When we suffer, it's tempting to look over the fence and wish for the life of someone who doesn't appear to be suffering. Envy is about feeling forgotten and forsaken by God, coupled with a craving to have what your neighbor enjoys.
Giving way to doubt, anger, discouragement, and envy ultimately leads to spiritual inactivity. Here's the logic: when we believe that God isn't as good and wise as we once thought he was, and if he withholds good things from his children, and if he plays favorites, then why should we continue to pursue him? Maybe our habits of faith aren't helping us after all, we reason. Maybe we've been wasting our time.
The biblical reality is that suffering can be an expression of God's goodness. He's committed to using every tool at his disposal – including pain and trouble - to rescue us from sin and shape us into the likeness of his Son.
In these moments, make the choice to go to God's gym! Here are 7 exercises that strengthen your heart and spiritual muscles:
- Regular study of the Bible
- Consistent godly fellowship
- Looking for God's glory in creation every day
- Sitting under preaching and teaching of Scripture
- Spending quiet moments reflecting on the goodness of God
- Reading solid Christian books
- Spending ample time in prayer
Doubt, anger, discouragement, and envy will be natural for us in the midst of trouble, but God has given us the grace to respond in a healthier and stronger way!
In what way has troubled entered your door this past year?
During suffering, which of the traps did you give way to? Think specifically.
Which of the spiritual exercises do you need to spend more time on? How will you do it?