Where Do You Get Strength to Endure?
Saturday, June 1, 2013
Tapping into the Strength of God in Difficult Circumstances
(Note: I write this specifically of divorce, but many of the things I describe apply to life situations such as a loss of job, death of a loved one or facing any of a multitude of life’s extreme difficulties, so feel free to apply the principles to whatever challenges YOU face.)
I had someone ask a question recently that, as time as passed, I realize is actually a pretty good question. To get to the point of the article (and the title), you are going to have to bear with a bit of explanation first. The individual was discussing my book, Finding God in the Seasons of Divorce, and asked me why I decided to write it as a devotional book. In case you haven’t seen it yet, Finding God is laid out as a daily devotional, with scripture readings and special readings for holidays, and the devotionals are divided into four “seasons” related to the divorce experience. The first volume has Autumn and Winter, when things are falling apart and look very bleak in the process of divorce, and the second volume (at the publishers now) is Spring and Summer, when hope starts to come back and you start to discover how to live your life in this new reality. The devotional has scriptures from almost every book in the Bible, the topics cover everything from dealing with attorneys to depression to finances to children’s schedules….all the stuff that goes with divorce. So the individual actually had looked over a copy of the book, and yet asked why I wrote in devotional format. I realize there is actually an important answer or two to that, and those answers could also be helpful for lots of other areas of our lives, so I will share the answers as my stepping stone into today’s topic.
My first answer was that it was, in part, because I like devotional books myself, and am kind of a devotional junkie. Then I added something about how so much of the supporting help out there is in the form of a once a week setting, and you are left on your own the rest of the week. And I think I mentioned that Christians often face not only the feelings of stress and failure in the divorce, but also can find ostracism from other Christians and maybe even wonder if God still cares. As a result, many divorcing Christians end up leaving their church, and some even abandon God. And so the purpose of the book is to provide something that can walk with the person day by day as they go through the struggle, and help them discover the scriptures that assure them of God’s role in their lives, hopefully helping them keep on track. But the core answer to the question is actually none of those things, and yet all of those things. The core answer is this: Finding God in the Seasons of Divorce is written in devotional book format because divorce is a tough and confusing experience, sometimes even devastating, and is thus the perfect time to learn how to experience God’s help and guidance and an important time to lean on God. In fact, I believe it is critical that we build that connection, because the temptations and the choices are many, while the process is emotionally and physically draining, that it can really lead a person to do very foolish or destructive things. It is a critical time to make the wisest choices possible, realizing, of course that we all make mistakes as we struggle.
So my belief and purpose in this regard is to provide some reflections that can help readers tap into the resource that God is in our lives. Many places in the Bible God invites us to come before Him to find strength and help, to look to Him for guidance and correction, to know that God is with us in all the trials of life and desires we look to Him for the meeting of ours life’s needs, to let Him be a refuge and protector for us, to confess our shortcomings and sins that we may know His forgiveness and mercy…and every one of those concerns are often desperately needed by individuals wrestling with divorce…especially those whose divorce is a result of an abandoning spouse. In some cases, the situation can become so overwhelming as to create despair and the episodes of suicide and rage we so often tragically see in the news. God can help us navigate the treacherous waters that dash against our lives, and keep us from crashing against the rocks. But we must trust. And we must be open to God’s voice. And we must be diligent to seek Him.
Too many times I have known of individuals who end up divorced (whether their choice or not) and lose their faith in God. They may even turn away from the church, (and quite possibly turned away from the church) and some who even abandon the ministry to which they were called. I have personally known and seen good church and Christian leaders end up knocked so off balance that they fall away or fall apart in bitterness, disappointment or depression. Many question the place of God in the midst of their turmoil. And though many find their way back into church…often a different church…many do not.
I believe the best prevention, the best restoration, the best source of strength and wisdom in the midst of this upheaval is tapping into the help of God. To do so requires our attention to what God has taught, it requires time before Him, and it helps to hear the encouragements of others who have faced similar struggles. Many of the scriptures in my devotionals are scriptures God used to give me strength when I was the one who so desperately needed it. I include passages that have offered me hope when I felt no hope, or called me to see beyond the circumstances to the God who dwells above the circumstances and can carry us through them. The writings I have included are not so much to tell the reader how to think or explain everything I have learned about God, as they are to help the readers who are searching for their own answers and want some outside perspective to help guide their search. I believe God’s heart is broken each time a marriage falls apart, but then breaks even further when the divorcing person allows the experience to turn him/her AWAY from God instead of TOWARD Him. God has much to offer those who struggle, as scriptures describe God as being near the brokenhearted, the outcast, the weak, the fearful. I want to encourage each reader to let God speak to you in the hard times of your life. And my hope is that my book or my writings can help you experience His touch in some particular way that may be the very way God seeks to touch your life just now. Your own strength can only carry you so far. God’s strength in us will carry us through to victory!
TL:dr: Let the strength of God be your source for the endurance of your difficulties.