Bring God Into The Equation

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

  • Paula Saylor

    Years ago a friend suggested that I think of it this way—"Let God have the last word". That helps to remind me that I can talk about what I SEE going on in my situation, but I need to end what I say with what I DON'T see yet, but what is written in Scripture. That can help not only me, but also others, grow in faith in God's promises. Thanks for another wonderful post, Mark! :-)

    • Mark Altrogge

      That is excellent Paula– let God have the last word! Great comments – thank you for adding them!

  • Ron Reffett

    Hey Mark, great bit of encouragement…as always! It is so easy to drift into complain mode, especially when you're going through the "stuff". My wife and I were just discussing this morning how easy it is to focus on the trial or difficulty and forget that God is faithful and that nothing that we are going through has slipped through His sovereign hands. I definitely need to bring God into the equation more because I always tend to be the least common denominator! He is faithful and I know that He is indeed working all things together for my good! Thanks for the very timely reminder!
    Ron Reffett

    • Mark Altrogge

      Thanks for adding these comments, Ron. I think we all go through the same temptation to focus on the trials and forget God's faithfulness at times. In fact in some ways that's the whole good fight of faith – what will we believe, God's word or our own interpretation of the circumstances. Have a great week, Ron!

  • JackW

    I really like the graphic. 42 is as good an answer as any without Him.

    • Mark Altrogge

      Good point!

  • Jamie

    Ah… I needed this. You brought some light on something I've had knotted up in my head for awhile now, and needed some help thinking through. Muchas!