Having a Tough Time?

by Eric Kreye

Most of us have had times when things happened that were very discouraging. Maybe a financial crisis. Or a health problem. Maybe someone you trusted disappointed you or even betrayed you. Perhaps a serious conflict developed in your own home. Or maybe you lost someone close to you.

Perhaps it has been one crisis after another, and finally you think, "I just can't take it any more." But then another crisis crashes down on you.

What do you do? Where do you turn?

Perhaps right now you are crying out in your heart, "God, where are You? If You still love me, why don't You help me?" You pray, but there seems to be no answer.

It's at times like this when Satan tries to tell you, "God doesn't really love you. He isn't interested in helping you. He doesn't care if you exist. Why don't you forget about God and go your own way."

It's relatively easy to trust God when things are going well and there are no serious problems. But when things get tough--when the tunnel is dark and you can't see the light at the other end, when the whys overwhelm you--then what?

A story in the Bible relates the experience of a young man by the name of Joseph.

Joseph's childhood was all that one could wish. His mother was joyful that she finally had a child, and he had a doting father who gave him special attention.

The only thing that marred his otherwise happy life was the presence of his half-brothers. Every opportunity they had, they treated him unkindly, even harshly.

Then when his brother Benjamin was born, his mother died. That was a real blow.

One day, while he was still in his teens, his father sent him to find his brothers who were tending sheep. Happily Joseph traveled some distance to the place where his brothers were camped.

But were they glad to see him? No, not at all! They grabbed him and threw him into a deep pit. Not knowing what else to do with him, they sold him to some men that were traveling to Egypt.

Poor Joseph. Being snatched away from his father, he soon found himself a slave in the house of a prominent Egyptian. To a son of Israel that was almost worse than death.

Can you imagine what it was like for him? Alone and friendless, in a strange land. He didn't know the language or the customs. The Egyptians worshiped all kinds of strange gods. Oh, how he missed his father's tender care for him. He felt totally unprepared to cope with the difficulties he faced in a strange land.

For a while Joseph was tempted to give in to bitterness and grief. But his father had given him a knowledge of the true God, and now his thoughts turned upward. Joseph determined in his heart to entrust his life to his heavenly Father, come what may.

For ten years Joseph worked faithfully for his Egyptian master. God blessed him and soon he was given the highest responsibility in his master's household.

But the devil was not finished with him yet. One day his master's wife had her eyes on him and she was doing her utmost to tempt Joseph. When not successful, she told all kinds of lies about him. As a result Joseph was thrown into prison.

And this was no plush place! Psalm 105:18 says of Joseph:

"They bruised his feet with shackles,
his neck was put in irons."

What would you do if you were unjustly accused and found yourself in prison?

Joseph must have wondered why all this was happening to him. Hadn't he been faithful to God through the years since coming to Egypt? But he determined to trust God no matter what the circumstance. He chose not to brood about the injustice that had been done to him. Instead, he tried to make life better for those around him in prison.

I don't know how long Joseph was in prison, but one day he had an opportunity to show a special kindness to the king's cupbearer who was also serving time.

The man was grateful. He promised that when he was released from prison he would speak to the king in behalf of Joseph.

Hope surged in Joseph's heart. I'm sure he thought that the cupbearer was God's way of answering his earnest prayers. But as the days came and went, no one came to set him free. He had to wait in prison for another two long years.

Do you think Joseph had moments of discouragement? He must have thought at times, "Why doesn't God help me by bringing the evidence that I am innocent? Why do I have to spend all this time in prison for something I didn't do?" It must have been a time of great heart-searching for him.

But he chose to keep his faith in God strong. He completely trusted his heavenly Father in spite of the discouraging circumstances.

What would you do if you were faced with a similar situation, unjustly accused, condemned, and imprisoned?

Eventually God rewarded Joseph not only with his freedom, but he was given the highest post in the kingdom next to the king himself.

Why do we go through trials? Can't God prevent such things from happening? God's Word suggests this answer:

"Praise be to the God and Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion
and the God of all comfort, who comforts us
in all our troubles, so that we can comfort
those in any trouble with the comfort
we ourselves have received from God."
--2 Corinthians 1:3, 4

Perhaps there is a person God wants you to touch with the courage you have received from Him.

Surely there is another reason why God allows trials:

"When all kinds of trials
and temptations crowd into your lives,
my brothers, don't resent them as intruders,
but welcome them as friends!
Realize that they come to test your faith
and to produce in you
the quality of endurance."
--James 1:2, 3

Some individuals have an up-and-down Christian experience that largely depends on how things are going from day to day. And if we allow circumstances to affect our relationship with God that way, then Satan will make sure that something will take place that leads to discouragement. We must believe that God is still in control and He knows what is happening, even when we don't understand what's going on:

"Blessed is the man
who perseveres under trial, because
when he has stood the test,
he will receive the crown of life
that God has promised to those
who love him."
--James 1:12

Joe and Sandy Barker were lost at sea. Their damaged boat pitched violently as the waves crashed against it. Of course, they could not use the sails, and their boat was driven helplessly through the rough sea. They tied themselves down with ropes to keep from being washed overboard.

They prayed all through that long first night, and in the morning all they could see for miles was water everywhere. Soon the sun got hot and they wondered how long the 12 ounces of drinking water would last.

Sandy and Joe talked about the experience of Jesus' disciples when they were caught in a storm on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus calmed the winds and waves then, why couldn't He do it for them now?

So they prayed, "Please, Lord, we're trusting You to still the wind and the waves again."

Almost immediately they noticed that the six-foot swells melted into a sheet of still water and the wind stopped altogether.

Then they prayed, "Please, Lord, give us some wind that will blow us toward the shore."

A steady wind started to blow them in the right direction!

Their crippled craft moved steadily forward. As the second night began, the two collapsed in their tiny cabin and both slept the whole night through. When they awoke the sea was calm, not a breath of air was moving anything.

"Oh, dear God," they cried out, "You've brought us this far, don't leave us now!"

Joe and Sandy were both discouraged. They had been counting on God, and now they seemed stranded. No land in sight, fresh water gone, their bodies near collapse, and maybe a new storm brewing. Both were near despair.

Suddenly Sandy saw something that made her stare in amazement. On the distant horizon she saw a distinct cross. She blinked her eyes, but the cross was still there. Was she just seeing things, was she delirious?

As she intently watched, a ship slowly emerged. Joe hurriedly fastened his life jacket to a rope and ran it up the mast.

Soon a pleasure craft eased up to the crippled boat, and a vacationing doctor and his family pulled them on board.

The doctor looked astonished as he said, "I had the automatic pilot set this morning and it is now 18 miles off course. I can't explain it!"

A few hours later when a new storm crashed into the sea, they were safe in their home port. Then they knew without a doubt that God was with them all the time.

Do you really know how much God loves you? Do you believe that He is able to take care of all your needs--not wants, necessarily, but needs?

It has been said that difficulties often are disguised blessings. Life's hard knocks can serve a good purpose, when we allow God to bring something good out of the experience. The author of the book of Romans wrote:

"We know that in everything
God works for good
with those who love him,..."
--Romans 8:28

Of course, not all things are good that happen to us. But good will come from the experience when we allow God to stay in control of our lives.

The loud wailing of an air raid siren merged with the thunder of Nazi aircraft as they swept over London. With bombs falling all around, a father and his little girl ran to an underground shelter. He was anxious to protect his daughter. An earlier raid had killed the mother.

The father tenderly placed the frightened child on a make-shift bed. It was cold and he covered the girl with blankets. He knew that the panic outside might last all night. The father kissed the little girl good-night and then found a place nearby to get some sleep.

As bombs exploded outside, their small light was blown out and they were left in total darkness.

"Daddy," cried the little girl, "where are you?"

"I'm right here, dear."

She tossed and turned. A little later she called again, "Daddy, are you still there?"

"Yes, darling, I'm right here. Don't be afraid, just go to sleep."

As the noise of falling bombs continued, the little girl pleaded, "Daddy, please tell me, is your face turned this way?"

With tears choking his voice, he said, "Yes, darling, Daddy's face is turned your way."

Satisfied at last, she fell asleep--she had learned to trust her father.

Friend, a loving heavenly Father will never leave you, whatever the circumstance. The Bible shares this promise:

"For the Lord your God is
gracious and merciful, and will not
turn away his face from you..."
--2 Chronicles 30:9

Things may be tough, terrible heartaches and horrible discouragements may strike you down. But your heavenly Father is still in control and He continues to watch over you day and night. You can trust Him, even when things seem utterly hopeless.

Did you know: That an eagle knows when the storm is approaching long before it breaks?

The eagle will fly to some high spot and wait for the winds to come. When the storm hits, it sets its wings so that the wind will pick it up and lift it above the storm. While the storm rages below, the eagle is soaring above it. The eagle does not escape the storm; it simply uses the storm to lift it higher. It rises on the winds that bring the storm.

When the storms of life come upon us--and all of us will experience them--we can rise above them by setting our minds and our belief toward God.

The storms do not have to overcome us. God's power can lift us above them.

God enables us to ride the winds of the storm that bring sickness, tragedy, failure and disappointment in our lives. We can soar above the storm.

Remember, it is not the burdens of life that weigh us down, it is how we handle them.

"But they that wait upon the Lord
shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings as eagles;
they shall run, and not be weary;
and they shall walk, and not faint."
--Isaiah 40:31

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