Some days feel heavy and overwhelming; constant bad news stresses us out. Yet we can take those moments to remind ourselves that God gives us hope amid hard times. I remember a day when I was feeling stressed out and overwhelmed when a kind reminder was given to me by a grade school principal. Her loving redirection: “The sun is shining and God is still on his throne.” In the midst of the chaos swirling around me, I had lost sight of some basic truths. God’s grace never ends, and his faithfulness is forever, and I still had a sunny day around me. God was still in control even amidst my chaos! It was a loving reminder to focus on scripture's big picture instead of dwelling on the details of the struggle. Over the years I have found it helpful to turn to God's word and let it anchor my anxious thoughts.
Our God, who spoke the universe into being, is still in control and looking after his creation. God’s faithful hand is seen in every aspect of creation. Matthew 10:26-30 reminds us that we do not need to be afraid because God watches over us. God numbers the hairs on our head and he cares about us even more than the sparrows and the grass of the field that he faithfully tends. Nothing escapes his attention. Psalm 94:14-15 says, “For the Lord will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage; for justice will return to the righteous, and all the upright in heart will follow it.” We can take comfort that the God who set this universe in motion will not leave us to fend for ourselves. He loves his creation.
God loved us from the beginning of time and knit us together in the womb of our mothers (Psalm 139). Christ loves so much he died to draw you close to your Heavenly Father and bless us with eternal life (John 3:16). God’s very nature is love, and we are his beloved creation, made in his image; we are loved with an everlasting love. Difficult times can make us feel punished and wonder if God is angry with us. But we have the assurance that God does not treat us as our sins deserve, but he loves us with boundless grace (Psalm 103:10-13). In fact, nothing in heaven and earth can ever separate us from God's love (Romans 8). God’s love is more than just words, his actions demonstrate his compassion.
God numbers the hairs on our head (Matthew 10:30) and he cares about each tear that falls (Psalm 56:8). Jesus reminds us in Luke 12 that God knows our needs and cares for all that he has created but especially his children made in his image.
“But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:28-32).
We do not have a distant God who does not know our struggles. Jesus took on our human flesh and lived on this earth facing our earthly challenges. Jesus is our Immanuel, our God with us, who took on human flesh to show his care for us. In his suffering and death for us he showed the depths of his compassion. He continues to show his care for us by carrying our burdens for us day by day. 1 Peter 5:6-7 reminds us to "cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." We can let go of our fears knowing that God has a plan that is greater than our own.
Even when life feels chaotic, God is at work and his plans will be brought to completion (Phil 1:6). As much as we might desire for God to work out his plans in our way and our time line, life does not happen according to our desires. “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” (Proverbs 19:21). We make plans for graduations, birthday celebrations, and weddings, only to have those plans upended, leaving us frustrated. We have to trust that God is working out a bigger plan that is beyond our immediate vision. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." We can trust that God walks with us even when things don't make sense.
In Matthew 28, Jesus assures us that he is with us to the very end of the age. Psalm 23 promises that God walks with us through every challenge, even the very shadow of death. Romans 8 reminds that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God that we have in Christ Jesus. When we become a Christian, the Holy Spirit takes us residence within us giving us God’s presence as near as our own breath. God's comforting presence is always with us.
We may feel like God is distant when life is difficult, but this is far from the truth. Sometimes we just can't see him in the darkness. Scripture assures us that God is present with us all and he comforts us in our distress.
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). If God feels distant you are looking in the wrong places. It is hard to see God when our focus is on our pain and our challenging circumstances. Turn your heart instead to see the blessings. God woke you up and blessed you with a new day. You were given a beating heart and guided to opportunities to use your gifts to bless God's kingdom. Tune-in to God through thanksgiving and worship to discover his comforting presence bringing you peace and restoring your sense of hope and joy. God comforts us turning our pain into blessing.
God’s economy does not waste anything. The struggles that we face are never without a purpose. We see in the scriptures that all struggles exist for God to accomplish his purposes (John 9:3). God takes the pain that we experience and he uses it for his glory. Things that others meant for harm, God intends for our blessing (Genesis 50:20). All of the struggles of this life serve God's greater purpose.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
Our pain gives us empathy for the suffering of others. Through our struggles we learn how to comfort those who are grieving losses. Every obstacle that we overcome provides us with a testimony of God’s faithfulness that we can share with one another. Our pain today may help us to serve others and point them to Jesus.
God will redeem all of the pain we experience. Our challenges today will seem trivial compared to the blessings that God has yet in store for us (2 Corinthians 4:17). We will be rewarded for the struggles that we have endured. Joel 2:25 says, “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.” God promises us that he turns our weeping into dancing (Psalm 30:11-12) and a day is coming when he will wipe away our tears and sorrow will be no more (Rev. 21:4).
May God's word guide you to an awareness of his his loving presence. May you choose to rest in God's care for you and trust his greater plan for your life. May God restore your joy and hope and guide you to know the peace of his faithful presence.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Dr. Robert Ritzema