It’s hard to have faith when life’s hard

It’s when all the serious hurt-mouthing of God begins. Why me? What have I ever done to him? Where was he when I really needed him? After all I have done for him, what happened? How about a break? Isn’t this enough now? Just stop!

Life is tough. Suffering is real. Things aren’t working out like you dreamed they would—let alone like you deserve! It makes it so hard to keep on believing that God is being good to you. Where is he? Where is his love?

And on it goes.

But what are you going to do? Take the advice Job’s wife gave to her husband, to curse God and die (Job 2:9)? That hardly seems sensible, and it hardly seems a step that will alleviate your suffering—especially if being right with God holds the key to eternity!

Eternity. Now there’s a thought. A glory to come that is not even worth comparing to the sufferings of the moment (Rom 8:18). But can we even imagine that kind of glory? Perhaps the more we suffer, the greater the contrast, and the more our imagination is fired up—’cos what else is there? A whole new creation, new bodies, new reality, sin gone, death gone, pain gone, crying gone (Rev 21:1-4). When I feel the sufferings of this present age and hear the gospel promises, the disjunction couldn’t be more enormous. It is enough to make me groan. It is enough to make me cry out, not “Why me?”, but “Remember me!”. And as I cry out, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom 7:24), it is enough to make me remember the answer to that question. Jesus’ victory was mine—it was ‘for me’. And his victory makes me strain ahead to the inheritance, he has promised to share. Not even worth comparing …

When life is hard, nothing is easy—not even faith. But, then again, perhaps when life is hard, faith becomes easy—by default. For where else are you going to go? He has the words of eternal life (John 6:68). And when life seems to squeeze the vice-grip harder, it is as if he turns our painful groans into cries of expectation. And the vice once again becomes his loving embrace.

(To be continued …)

2 thoughts on “It’s hard to have faith when life’s hard

  1. I’m really glad this blog exists with comments so we can tackle some of the topics raised.

    I appreciate the general idea behind this two-part post (with another to come?) – when life’s hard sometimes it’s actually easier to have faith because, as Peter says above, “where else are you going to go?” Likewise when life is easy and we have everything we think we need,  it’s actually easy to forget your faith, and forget God and that you have any need for him.

    However, I want to suggest that this is one of those nice-sounding ideas that has little currency in reality, but has been repeated to the point people just assume it’s true. Furthermore I think it risks diminishing sin and turning sin into non-sin, which ignores the problem of evil – perhaps one of the most significant and important issues we face.

    There’s a tendency in evangelicalism I think to see some paradoxical things in the bible and then take that approach to other aspects of life, as those there is some paradoxical nature to them that somehow makes bad good and good bad, and everything make sense.

    I think this is one of those cases where we’re trying to spin bad to be good and good to be bad – why not just take them for what they are?

    I find the idea of spinning bad to be good, especially when it comes to God, pretty distasteful, as it comes awfully close to ascribing the horror of sin, suffering and evil to God.

    I’d rather see evil and suffering as a distinct phenomenon that God abhors as much as we do, hence the promise of heaven. Why turn it into God’s “loving embrace”?

    For my 2c having experienced some of the harder side of life, I can say with some authority that when it comes to the church, there ain’t no loving embrace (though I realise you were talking about God not other Christians, but it reflects on their faith). You get ignored, forgotten, and left to your own devices, feeling discarded and not worth anyone’s time or attention. When you grow up your whole life hearing about how we’re meant to help the sick and suffering, and then find quite starkly that this is really just talk and not much more, how does this make faith in God any easier?

    I think most people in our churches have life pretty easy, simple because they seem to have absolutely no idea what to do or think when someone is going through a long, tough time – they simply have no concept of it, and so it’s entirely off their radar, despite the lip service we pay to looking after the less fortunate (in health or wealth).

    Perhaps this changes when people get older and then have some personal or close experience of hardship and therefore can act more compassionately, but I can only hope.

    Anyway, when life squeezes the vice, there isn’t some magical mental gymnastics you can do to turn around and say, ‘Hey, this is actually great!’. It seems that we’re so uncomfortable with the harsh, brutal realities of life that we struggle to face up to them for what they are – harsh, brutal realities!

    Sin is sin is sin is sin, and we have to face the very unpleasant side-effects. I just don’t understand why we don’t leave it at that, and instead try and twist bad into good as though God’s really doing you a favour.

    If we can’t speak credibly about the realities of the world we inhabit, then we’re going to struggle to persuade people about the world to come.

    My 2c anyway! smile

  2. I think I may fall into the category Luke referred to as “Perhaps this changes when people get older and then have some personal or close experience of hardship”. It is certainly true that through hardship I have come to celebrate the reality of God’s paradoxes. I love the way I see demonstrated repeatedly the ‘upside -downness’ of God’s view where what seems weak and of little account to others becomes most powerful and valued in God’s kingdom.

    I would hate to think that the broken and imperfect reflection of God represented by any believer would be a basis for testing what God tells us about himself. The value in my experience of hardship is that it has taught me that God is the *only* one I can rely on. It is only when I cant fall back on comfort from others that I am spurred to find out just how reliable God really is.

    I found that true faith was comparatively unnecessary when my life was going along smoothly. things could go wrong but as long as I had [children, husband, friend] I was OK. It was only when they were taken away that I looked very closely at the promises God had made and reassessed the true character of the being in whom I professed faith. Was He big enough to fill my whole life? Was what He promised going to hold me without any supplementary guarantees?

    If I think of faith as the action of putting all my weight on something in the expectation that it will hold me,I think it was almost impossible for me to have faith when life was easy.

    This is not at all to argue with Luke when he says “I’d rather see evil and suffering as a distinct phenomenon that God abhors as much as we do”. It is precisely because God abhors the suffering that comes from sin and has acted to overcome it that we can safely run to Him and no one else when it overwhelms us.

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