I have a good friend who has a saying, “Everybody has STUFF!” That’s her way of saying each of us has our own set of challenges. It’s usually her response when we learn of a friend or an acquaintance who’s going through a challenging season in life. Let’s face it, many people we interact with daily are dealing with “STUFF” that we have no clue about. If you think you’re the only one navigating through life’s difficulties, just take your focus off yourself for a moment. When you look around, you’ll see a whole world filled with people trying to manage the vicissitudes of life the best way they know how. We’d be wise to extend them grace. The same grace we so desperately need.
Job 14:1 says, “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.” While Job and my friend have different ways of saying it, I think they’re saying the same thing. If I could add my two cents, I’d say, “Everybody doesn’t face challenges the same way. Some of us become better, while others become bitter.”
I will admit I don’t always begin a difficult season with the determination to come out better. Sometimes I need a moment to experience the initial shock, have my own personal pity party and gather myself. Eventually, I do get there. Why? Mainly because I know that God does not practice social promotion. He often causes us to repeat lessons until they are learned. I’ve learned the hard way that there are some seasons in life that I do NOT want to repeat!
When considering how to manage a challenging season, who better to study than the man who seemed to face one of the most challenging seasons of all times – Job. Here’s a guy who went through more than I could ever imagine!! He lost his children, his health and his wealth, and he still managed to keep his faith and maintain his integrity. Listen, I don’t compare myself to Job by any stretch of the imagination. But I do know what it feels like to face challenges in multiple areas of life in rapid-fire succession. Even though the initial impact of the life challenge may come upon us suddenly, the recovery can often take a season to deal with our hurts and to come out healed and whole. Job survived his struggle and, guess what? We can too!
The first thing I notice when I look at the life of Job is that:
nothing reaches me without God’s permission.
In Job Chapter 1, we see that God initiated the dialogue with Satan, He recommended Job, He gave permission for the test, and He set the parameters! Nothing that happened in this book was a surprise to God. Even though Satan was attacking, God was presiding. Often when we hit rough patches in life we feel like God has forgotten about us. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just as with Job, Satan can only test us with God’s permission! God has set parameters and knows exactly how yours and my story ends. There is an expiration date to what you’re going through!
I will admit it’s tough to find comfort in this notion when you’re in the trenches. That’s why we have to ask God to allow us to view what we’re going through from His perspective. Ask Him – where is He in THIS? What am I to learn FROM this? How can I bring glory to your name by going through THIS? Asking these questions shifts our focus from our pain to God’s purpose. Once your focus is shifted, be intentional about reminding yourself these truths daily…God is good…God does good…God works everything out for my good!
Next, make sure you:
surround yourself with the right people.
Nothing can make you feel more alone than going through a trial. You may feel embarrassed or even ashamed of the difficulties you’re experiencing. What you need in those moments is empathy, not someone who will make you feel worse about your situation. Sometimes it’s not even about people having the right words to say. It’s just about them being there. Job’s friends had it right when they first showed up. In chapter 2 beginning at verse 11, we see them showing up for Job, showing sympathy and sitting in silence for they could see that his pain was great. It was after that first seven days when they started talking that things began to take a turn for the worse. Their assumptions about the reasons for Job’s sufferings were just as hurtful as the pain he was enduring. In fact, in chapter 6, he let them know that they were no help at all.
When we’re suffering, it’s important that we use wisdom by deciding who we allow to come alongside us. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” When life gets tough, you need someone who can genuinely help when you’re hurting. You need a comforter. Someone with whom you can be vulnerable and share your true feelings without fear of judgment. They withhold their opinions and thoughtfully share only what God is saying. They come to you in your struggle and allow the Holy Spirit to use them as a source of strength. This person has seen you at your best and can handle seeing you at your worst. They see your trial as an opportunity to pray for you not prey on you. When you have this type of friend, they become more than that, they become family. Use discernment with who you allow close during your weak moments. Don’t allow pain to cause you to mismanage your circle.
Lastly, remember that through praise and prayer, you are able to:
worship God in every season.
Even though I’m covering this point last, it doesn’t mean it should be our last response. In fact, worship should be our first response. In chapter 1 verse 20 after Job receives the news of his children’s deaths, he “arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped.” He ends verse 21 by saying, “Blessed be the name of the Lord!” Job allowed himself to express the symbols of grief. But he also worshipped God in expression. He blessed the name of Jehovah, proving the enemy wrong. Job didn’t just worship God because of what he had. He worshiped because of who God was!
When we’re going through the worst, we must remember that God knows best! I consider myself to have a pretty good relationship with the Lord. But there is something about pain that draws me closer to Him. It reminds me of my need for Him and creates a hunger in me for more of Him. I feed that hunger through reading His word, prayer, and praise.
Recently, a friend who knew very intimately of a personal trial I was enduring asked me how was I making it? My response, “I’m eating God’s word!” My pain was so great that I was ravenous for God. I wasn’t just reading the scriptures in search of a solution. I was reading because I needed to hear His voice! I needed to hear from my daddy, Abba Father!
When I wasn’t reading the word, I was praising His name. I kept worship music playing in my car and in my earbuds at my desk. I played and sang as loud as I could, not only to lift my spirits but to drown out doubt. I’ve found that it’s important to have an anthem for the season you’re going through. I can look back on various seasons of life and there are scriptures and songs that have carried me through. In some seasons it’s been “Tis’ So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” and in others, it’s been “He’s Able!” In this season of life, “All Things” and “Be Still” by David and Nicole Binion have been on repeat. Not only do both songs remind me of God’s promises, but they also usher me into His presence.
When I get into His presence, I pray for my friends. I’ve found that I spend enough time thinking about my own situation. My best course of action is to present my need to God and leave it with him. That frees me up to use my prayer time interceding for my friends. The Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, in chapter 42:10. When I pray for my friends, during my season of struggle, my burdens feel lighter and I feel restored. God gives me what I need as I pray for the needs of others.
Friends, as you endure challenging seasons, trust that God is present and presiding. Surround yourself with the right friends and resolve to worship God no matter what. Remember, there is an expiration date to what you’re enduring. If you properly manage your season, like Job, you’ll be restored and will be better than you were before.
Mary A. Diggs is an active member of the New Fellowship Church of Fort Worth Texas, where her husband, Patrick J. Diggs, is the Senior Pastor. She is a talented praise and worship leader, an anointed speaker of God’s word and she is the Director of Women’s Ministries.
Her life’s passion is to equip women to become effective disciples. She genuinely desires to see women walk in wholeness and freedom. Her goal is to encourage women to fully utilize their God-given gifts and talents to build God’s Kingdom. She uses a practical, transparent and often comedic style to teach Kingdom principles. She’s a wife, mother, daughter and aunt, but at her core, she considers herself a woman of God, seeking each day to hear His voice more clearly and to communicate His message more effectively. Visit her website at MaryDiggs.com.