There’s no doubt about it—we are living in unprecedented times. It almost seems like the world is out of control. There is so much fear, grief, anger, and trouble going on right now that it’s hard not to lose hope. From the pandemic, to economic hardships, to racial tensions, to violence in streets, to a pending national election, there is much to disturb our hearts and minds. We are experiencing isolation and loneliness because of social distancing and very limited physical contact. So little of life feels “normal” these days.
These problems have led us to question a lot of our long-held beliefs. Many of us believe that eventually all will be made right, that truth will prevail, that justice will be served, that peace will be restored. It’s like we’re waiting for God to show His strong hand and save the day. We just didn’t think we’d have to wait so long.
It is true, as we know from the last book of the Bible, that one day all will be made right and God will save the day. One day, some day, God will give us a new heaven and a new earth, and He will dwell with us and we will be His people. Revelation 21:4 says, “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Until that day, how should we think and function? What should we putting our hope in? How do we encourage others who are going through trials they never dreamed they’d have to endure? How do we encourage ourselves? These times that we all find ourselves in are hard, but we must be aware that things could get harder.
Like the children of Israel who wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, we too are experiencing a wilderness of our own. God led the Israelites into the desert to humble them and to test them in order to know what was in their hearts, whether or not they would keep His commands (Deut. 8:2). We may be surprised by what our current circumstances have revealed about our hearts. God orchestrates our circumstances to reveal our character. It’s easy to trust God when the skies are blue, the birds are singing, and everything seems right with our little world. How are we doing with trusting God in these days?
During these storms of life, we need an anchor for our souls. That anchor has to be the truth of what God has revealed to us about Himself, about His character. Too often we want to determine what God is like through our circumstances. Our circumstances were never intended to be used to evaluate God’s character.
If we want to see the character of God, what He is really like, we should look at the life of Jesus as revealed in the Scriptures. God reveals Himself to us in the life of His Son. Jesus told His disciple Philip that anyone who has seen Jesus has seen the Father (John 14:9). Here are some passages that give us glimpses of God’s character:
- Jesus shows us God’s love as He died on the cross to redeem us (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8).
- Jesus shows us God’s compassion as He healed the sick, fed the hungry, and allowed sinners to get close to Him (Matt. 8:14-17; Mark 8:1-10; Matt. 9:9-13).
- Jesus shows us God’s grace as He forgave those who denied and deserted Him (John 21:15-17).
- Jesus shows us God’s faithfulness and goodness as He tells us what to expect in this world and how He will provide for us (John 16:33; John 14:16-18).
- Jesus shows us God’s mercy when He shows kindness to the outcast (John 8:3-11; John 4:7-26).
- Jesus shows us God’s sovereign rule over all creation and everything that happens in the world (Luke 8:24; John 9:3; John 19:11a). God controls the storms and the hardships we encounter in this life.
By focusing on the true character of God, we can find hope in God’s promises to help us persevere.
- God promises that He is doing a good work in our lives right this minute (Phil. 1:6).
- God promises that He will use our difficult circumstances to conform us to the likeness of His Son (Rom. 8:28-29).
- God promises to be ever present with us in our trouble and to never leave us or forsake us (Psalm 46:1; Heb. 13:5). It may seem that God has forgotten or doesn’t see, but He is always with us.
- God promises to be near the brokenhearted as we cry out to the Lord in our pain and confusion (Ps. 34:18). God has given us Psalms of lament to help us put words to our hurts and fears and He invites us to come to Him.
- God promises to comfort us in the midst of our troubles (2 Cor. 1:4).
- God promises to use circumstances to refine our faith and prove it genuine so that it will result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:6-7).
- God promises to discipline those He loves (Heb. 12:10-11). Discipline is not pleasant, but as our hearts are exposed to the temporal things we cling to, we will learn to truly value those things that possess eternal value (2 Cor. 4:17-18).
There are so many things that could tempt us to despair, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by what’s going on now and what might happen in the future. It’s vital to remember that we are not alone in our situations. We have to be faithful to keep our hearts and minds focused on the Lord.
God’s character hasn’t changed. God is still on His throne, He is still in sovereign control, and He is still and always will be good. God’s purpose for His children never waivers, no matter the current circumstances. By focusing on the true character of God, and by His grace and through His promises, we will persevere through these hard days.
God will use these trying times to reveal what is going on in our hearts and where we have placed our hope. We need to be faithful to grow in our knowledge of the Scriptures so that we will persevere and be prepared for what is ahead as we rejoice in the hope and the glory of God.