Susanna Wesley strived to spend as much time in prayer as in her many other activities. She led Sunday afternoon church during her husband’s travels, homeschooled her ten children, and kept written records of her time with God. She did this despite facing grief, poverty, health issues, and the challenge of often being apart from her spouse due to his travels. Hard-pressed to find privacy in a full house of ten children, she often prayed with an apron over her head. Her example, however, laid the foundation for the prolific ministries of her sons John and Charles.
“How can you sing joyful songs during this difficult time?” our relatives asked. It was the night before my brother’s funeral, and we were singing his favorite worship songs. My brother David had tragically and unexpectedly died a few days before. He was just eighteen years old when he drowned in the Danube River. Our family and the entire community were in shock. But there was a glimmer of hope in all of this. David was a believer in Jesus, and we knew that one day we would see him again.
The children in my church love to sing action songs. With joy and enthusiasm, they act out the lyrics. Seeing their exuberant childlike faith, I’m challenged to believe that because Jesus is with me, I can rejoice in the trials and pains of life.
As a 97-year-old friend and I discussed Horatio Spafford’s classic hymn, “It Is Well with My Soul,” she said the first line gives her reason to pause. The stanza “when peace like a river attendeth my way” doesn’t accurately depict all rivers, she explained, for “all rivers are not peaceful.”
I know you have a plan, God, but why does it hurt so much? I closed my eyes and flopped onto my bunk bed in my dorm room. It was my final semester in college, and it wasn’t going as I had hoped. I was busier than I wanted to be, and two of my closest friends were battling depression while others were also struggling.
During a lengthy battle with cancer, I’ve learned many helpful lessons, and my life has been enriched in countless ways. By God’s grace, one thing I’ve encountered is something I call “The Gratitude Cycle.” The cycle involves: Facing a challenge (like a disease); growing in faith through the experience (drawing closer to God); and possessing a heart of gratefulness to God (looking daily for things you can give thanks for). And when you face your next trial, a deepened faith and focused spirit of gratitude can provide greater hope and resiliency.
“Would you say ‘stay’ when God says ‘go’?” Eliza Davis George asked the leaders of the Texas Baptist Convention in 1913. Two years earlier this woman, a daughter of former slaves, was called by God to be a missionary to Africa. Because she was an African-American woman, however, the leaders discouraged her from going, even publicly humiliating her. Yet, buoyed by prayer, Eliza eventually sailed to Liberia. And thousands of villagers learned about Jesus during her years there. The legacy of her work continues today.
When the school year ended in 2016, I stayed in town (three hours from home) for an internship, while my college friends left for the summer. I loved the internship, but because it was part-time, I found myself spending long hours alone in my apartment. Throughout the summer, I faced intense feelings of loneliness. One day I finally dropped to the floor in tears, asking God why He was allowing me to feel so despondent.
When the radio station I worked for relocated, I was suddenly out of a job. Although qualified as a teacher, hosting radio shows had felt like a better fit and it was all I’d done since graduating. When I couldn’t find employment back on-air, however, I returned to the classroom. It was difficult. I felt out of my depth, and the experience humbled me. But although the adjustment was challenging, I’m convinced the skills I gained in the classroom prepared me for my next job—back in radio with a national broadcaster.
Dr. Jamie Aten, a cancer survivor who researches how people respond to trauma, intimated that when going through adversity, perspective is everything. After Superstorm Sandy ravaged Seaside Heights, New Jersey (USA), one of Aten’s colleagues was deployed to help with relief efforts. She met a man whose roof had been blown away by the strong winds. Instead of wallowing in pessimism, the man gave some surprisingly optimistic advice: “Sometimes, you have to lose the roof to see the stars.” This man chose to see joyful meaning even in a great hardship.
Some close friends recently went through a difficult season in which they struggled financially and emotionally. Yet when all was said and done, the trying time caused them to make positive changes to avoid catastrophe further down the line. Although it didn’t feel like it at the time, their challenge was an expression of God’s goodness.
After a traumatic situation forced my son and me to flee the neighborhood in Uganda where we’d had a home for more than six years, we found ourselves suddenly thrust into a difficult season of wandering and searching.
My wife and I have numerous friends who’ve struggled to have a baby. They’ve endured multiple trips to doctors, different kinds of infertility procedures, and the grief of losing children to miscarriages. It’s obvious how painful this has been for them—how much it’s filled them with doubts about themselves and about the God who promises to care for us.
Many years ago, my pastor was talking with a church youth group about “masks.” He asked the students to state what God would see under their masks, should they choose to remove them. What was under their façades? Most gave superficial answers, but one, a senior in high school, had a much more profound response. She had experienced a painful life that included a suicide attempt and had found trouble nearly everywhere she went. Quietly she said, “I think God would see brokenness, but he would also see beauty.”