Recently, like many of us, I have been struggling with various things and at times like this it is easy to focus on what is going wrong and trying to work out why God would allow it to happen. If we do this there is rarely an answer - in my experience at least. Finding no answer to our whys, it is easy to lose faith and doubt God at these times. I know I have doubted much in the past - I wrote my look He Never Let Go about a major crisis of faith*. I completely stopped believing in God, whilst working as a parish evangelist at a lively, evangelical church - not the most helpful thing that has ever happened. So, I understand how tough it is to work through these issues.
However, over the last few days, I have been thinking again about how to deal with hardships. I knew I had to look at God not at my problems. One thing that was especially helpful was to look at the character of God. I don't understand what he is doing so often, but his nature, his character never changes. I can trust Him, despite what is going on around me because of who he is.
The main attribute for me is God is love. John told us in his Gospel (John 3:16 NIV) "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." The fact that Jesus died for us is the biggest proof of God's love for us. And this led me to this verse (Romans 8:32), "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" The cross on which Christ died is proof of Father God's love for us. This is a truth we can cling to in hard times. We may not feel like trusting in his love. We may feel despair and fear but as an act of our will we can focus on the fact that God loves us. What does God's love look like? Well in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a Paul describes what love is. Perhaps it would be helpful to look at it.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
Now lets read that again but put the word God in place of the word love. If God is love, then this passage describing love, also describes God.
God is patient, God is kind. He does not envy, he does not boast, he is not proud. He does not dishonour others, he is not self-seeking, he is not easily angered, he keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. God never fails.
Sometimes I confuse what I am feeling with what I believe. Because I feel sad, overwhelmed and anxious I think I don't have faith in God. But this is not necessarily true. I can be anxious and choose to trust God despite the anxiety. Faith is not a feeling. It is choosing to believe God despite what is going on around us. Another attribute of God I have found especially helpful to focus on recently is God's patience. Despite my failings, my sin and lack of faith his is patient and forgives me and helps me get back up. Part of me expects him to get angry but yet again I discover the truth of Psalm 145:8. The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. I would like to encourage you to focus on God's character over the next few weeks and months. Allow who he is to inform how you react not what you feel. It is not easy but it sure is worthwhile.