Going to God in the Hard Times
Although I’ve always been quick to say, “Of course a Christian goes through hard times—just because you’re saved does not mean you will live an easy life,” deep down I’ve always wanted to believe the opposite to be true. I wanted to believe that being a Christian somehow made me immune to the troubles of the world and that being “right” with God would get me on His good side and that He’d shield me from hurt in this life. But, as recent events in my life have proven, that is not the case.
To be clear, I wouldn’t be so self-righteous to say that I am a perfect Christian and that I never sin (that would be blasphemous), but I do consider myself to have a personal relationship with God and a deep understanding and appreciation of the gospel. Because I have this self-image, I have mistakenly believed that as long as I continue to be close to God, I would not suffer from the consequences of sin in this world and that my relationships with other believers would be fruitful and free from hurt.
Without going into detail, I was recently betrayed by a fellow believer that I trusted completely. I had never experienced such immense emotional pain and heartbreak until this incident, and it really left me questioning God and reevaluating my core identity. Since then, I have asked God repeatedly: “Why? Why did a believer do this to me? Why did this happen to me?” I felt like I had been walking faithfully with God this whole time, yet I STILL experienced devastating heartbreak and disappointment.
I know that the wise and godly person would say to not question God and that He has purpose for every suffering. But there are times when this is unbelievably hard to do. Is it wrong to question God? Some argue that it is. But I believe that to not do so would be contrary to having a personal relationship with God. For example, would two close friends refrain from telling each other when they are upset with the other? Intimacy demands honesty. And if questioning God is being honest, then by all means, do it.
I think that sometimes in Christian culture, we tend to bury our emotions underneath a thick blanket of spirituality. “Just pray until it goes away.” “You are depressed because you don’t have enough faith to defend against the lies of Satan.” But anyone who has read the Bible knows that some of the deepest human emotions are described in great depth in the scriptures. Just go to Psalms, Lamentations, or even Song of Solomon. God never rebukes His children when they question Him or express their emotions. He welcomes our honesty and is patient with our fleshly view of the world because he passionately desires intimacy with us. The scriptures show that emotions are closely entwined with spirituality. Time after time, heroes of the faith have expressed deep emotional pain to God.
Just take a look at how Job and Jonah both express deep depression to God—even asking that their lives be ended. They don’t hide or suppress their despair, but bring it directly to God. God doesn’t respond in anger, but with compassion and patience for both of them.
“Oh, that God would grant the thing I long for most—to die beneath his hand and be freed from his painful grip. This, at least, gives me comfort despite all the pain—that I have not denied the words of the holy God.” Job 6:8-9
“Now O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” Jonah 4:3
I understand how hard it is. In a book I’m reading on heartbreak, the author writes that “Surely that is one of the greatest obstacles in bringing everything to God. We are invited to bring our heartache to the One who could have prevented it.” She couldn’t have put it any better. That is exactly how I feel even now.
It can be so hard to bring our hurt and pain to God because deep down we harbor resentment or bitterness that He even allowed this to happen. I am not ashamed to admit that I have been angry with God at times. But I choose to confess my anger to other believers and to go to God with it. It takes strength, but going to God is what faith demands. When we are in Christ, we no longer live by sight but in faith. We recognize that God’s purposes are beyond our understanding. We must choose to believe that He works all things for good for those who love Him, even things that are evil and bad.
In the midst of my heartbreak, I re-read the story of Joseph. To summarize a long and dramatic story: Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery (prompted by their jealousy of him) but by God’s grace became the second-in-command to the Pharaoh in Egypt. He ended up saving an entire nation from famine by advising the Pharaoh to store up grain during years of surplus. Eventually, when his brothers came to Egypt to purchase grain, they came to but did not recognize Joseph. Joseph ultimately chose to forgive his brothers and saved his entire family from the famine. At the end of the book, he tells his brothers (who are scared that he will enact vengeance on them) in Genesis 50:20: “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people.”
Joseph’s story proves that God has a way of working evil into good in a way that does not excuse the perpetrators. God knew that his brothers would betray him and sell him into slavery, but He allowed it with the foresight that He would use Joseph to save not only his family, but an entire nation and its surrounding nations from famine. Likewise, when we go through heartbreak and betrayal, we must cling to the hope that God is working it for our good and the good of others.
So, in sum, when you are hurting and broken inside: go to God. He is waiting with open arms. Don’t be afraid to pour out your emotions to Him. He already knows. His heart breaks when yours does. Jesus has walked in our very shoes, experienced our exact pain, and is interceding for us to the Father. Even when you don’t feel it, God IS close—perhaps more than He has ever been. Psalm 34:18 promises that “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
When your heart is broken, offer it up to God. Psalm 51:17 has resonated deeply with me. It says, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”