How should we talk about our trials?
First, it’s totally appropriate to acknowledge our pain and suffering.
For example, “I’m really hurting. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through.” Or, “I feel like God has abandoned me,” or “It’s hard to see any good in this.” The Psalmists expressed their pain, like David did in Psalm 22:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. (1,2)
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. (14, 15)
David felt forsaken. Like God was “far from saving” him and distant from his prayers. He wondered why God didn’t answer his prayers. He even said God was the source of his suffering – “you lay me in the dust of death.”
Yet almost without exception, after David mourns his afflictions, he goes on to express confidence in God:
Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame. (3-5)
In other words, though I’m suffering you are holy. And you’re on your throne. No one’s ever been disappointed by trusting you.
David finishes the Psalm with praise:
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen! I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: (21-22)
For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. (24)
The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD! (26)
For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations. (28)
In other words, David says, “Lord, I’m suffering here. I don’t understand why you don’t answer my prayers. Yet I know you’re trustworthy and you hear my cries and in the end I’ll praise you.”
So what can we learn from the Psalmists about how to talk about our trials?
We can express our true feelings. We can tell God and others how much it hurts. Many Christians don’t share with others for fear they’ll be told they must be in sin or lacking faith.
We should express trust. If we do nothing but continually tell of our misery with no reference to God, it can easily turn into complaining. So it’s good to express faith if we’re able.
How does this look in practice? These are all very simplistic, but we might say things like the following:
“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. Yet I know that somehow God is faithful and that he’s working it for my good.”
Or, “I feel really lonely but Jesus promised never to leave nor forsake me.”
Or, “I’ve lost everything I worked for all these years. We’re living hand to mouth. But you know, Jesus is our portion and he’s doing a lot of good things in our lives. He’s teaching me to trust him and be patient.”
In other words, bring God into the equation.
We need God’s grace to do this. Express your pain honestly. But frame your pain with the with biblical truth of God’s character. That’s how we glorify God.
photo by adam coster