East and Southern Africa
A Word of Hope: Standing Strong in God Through Challenging Circumstances
Part 3 in a series - Loving God, ourselves and others
By Lisa Hall, International Prayer Coordinator
When facing a difficult situation in your life, have you ever tried to make it through in your own strength without God? Even if things worked out for you in the end, how did you feel after that challenging journey? I don’t know about you, but when I have pushed through painful circumstances on my own, I’ve usually felt emotionally discouraged, physically ill and mentally drained.
God never intended for us to walk through difficulty alone. He created us to live life with its joys and hardships in the context of loving relationships – with God and with others. In fact, Jesus described nurturing these relationships as the most important commandment for us to follow – to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love others as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). Unfortunately, it doesn’t come naturally for us to love God and others well, much less with all of our being. We try to cover our inadequacy by giving gifts to God instead – time, money and good deeds, which end up draining us. But what God truly wants is an intimate, life-giving relationship with us.
We were each created for relationship with God and made in his image. He created us with a soul, made up of our heart, mind, emotions and will. And it is through our souls that we connect with God and love him. He desires us to be fully engaged with him — listening for him, looking for him and delighting in his presence. You could express your pleasure and gratitude to God as simply as appreciating a beautiful sunset or birds happily chirping. It may be in deeply contemplating something you just read in Scripture. God longs for us to spend focused time with him. What do you need to let go of in your life in order to create more space to be with God and quiet your soul?
When we slow down, quiet ourselves and focus on abiding in God’s love, it nurtures both our soul and our relationship with God. To abide means to reside, remain, stay or dwell with. It involves oneness with God, an essential unity with him. And it brings to mind how “the Word became flesh and made his home among us” (John 1:14). How have we allowed Jesus to make his home in us? To what areas of our hearts, wills, thoughts and actions have we let him have access?
This abiding or dwelling with God also involves a vulnerability and surrendering of our lives to his Spirit. David speaks of this when he issues the invitation, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps.139:23-24). God is not just a guest; he wants to make his home in every area of our lives. As we open up to God, he promises to bring healing, hope and abundant fruitfulness to every submitted area.
As we learn to receive that love, it overflows in us and allows us to love him and others back. May I encourage you, friend, to surrender yourself fully to God and allow his love to touch every part of you? He will supply you with the strength to stand strong in him as he walks this journey alongside you.