Faith General

What To Do When Life Stinks

Whoever told you life was carefree and painless was lying. The truth is life is ravaged with hurt and destruction. Wars and rumors of wars, economic collapses that impact millions if not billions. Weather disasters like floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis. Diseases and plagues. Terrorism. Building collapses. Shall I continue?

But that Stuff is 7,000 Miles Away!

It’s easy to ignore the troubles on the other side of the planet. Then, there’s the stuff that hits closer to home. You might avoid the above disasters, but life has this way of needling us with our personal share of angst. Some happen to us without our say. Others we do to ourselves. 

Pain Closer to Home

A friend recently found out he has cancer. Just over three years ago I unexpectedly had open heart surgery. A young man I once knew didn’t see the train coming, killing instantly six of the eight passengers in the station wagon. They never made it to the local swimming pool that hot August afternoon. It’s when your girlfriend dumps you for no good reason. Or you get laid off because your company lost a big contract. There are also things like having one too many drinks, resulting in a DUI and court. Or letting curiosity get the best of you, turning sexual desire into insatiable porn addiction. Ultimately, we live in a sinful world that causes brokenness. Whether directly or indirectly, we each live with the residual impact of sin. 

Christ-Followers Don’t Get an Exemption from Pain

Everything I described—every illness, accident, disaster, choice made out of selfishness, every failure, every loss—has been experienced by Christ-followers. It sends an ache, a “groaning,” into our hearts. Like the very words of Jesus as he endured the false accusations and hung on the cross, we cry out. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Psalm 22:1 ESV

Listen to the psalmist David as he groans to God, who seems so far off. 

Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? 2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.

Forsaken by God. Our minds quickly associate bad things with God being far off. As if God is either punishing us or we have lost his favor because life is in the pits.

And yet, Jesus, who was sinless suffered far more than you and I ever will. It was in the moment He bore the full weight of our sin that he felt the broken fellowship with His heavenly Father. Not his own sin, but ours he willingly bore.

When I hit a rough spot, I have to ask myself.  Is this a personal sin I need to repent of or is this because I live in a sinful world and bad things affect us all?

If it’s because I chose to do something stupid, the path forward is for me to take responsibility and repent. If it’s the news of a disease or something I have no control over, the path forward is humility. It is the humble guy who yields his situation to God that sees his plight with hope.

Antitdote to Groaning

David cried out to God—groaning—and yet in verse 3, he hits the nail on the head, as the best response to pain.

Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.

 The antidote to groaning in difficult times is praising God for His character.

   God, I just got some awful news about my health, and yet I praise you for who you are. For your unchanging love for me.

Lord, my girlfriend dumped me. I am broken inside. Confused. I repent of me and I praise you for your hand will lead me through this dark valley.

Jesus, my parents are divorcing. It’s like a knife to my soul. I never saw it coming. Yet, I bring them to you and I praise you, for you are my rock and my hope in confusing times.

God, I chose stupid again. What I thought would be a simple curiosity has ravaged my soul. I am in a difficult spot because I gave away a part of me and cannot get it back. I have lost my innocence. And I have wounded other’s souls. Who will help me?  Yet, despite my struggle, I will praise you. I lift high your holy name. Your righteous hand is not far from me. 

God calls His redeemed to say so. To proclaim amidst life’s struggles, the goodness of God. His unfailing love. His great patience and sovereign plan. Nothing will stop Him from pursuing me.

Three Things to Do When Life Stinks

1. Ask yourself about the cause: Is my pain due to my suffering or because I live in a broken world? Take responsibility for your part.

2. Admit your pain to God. Regardless of why you are in pain, give it to the Lord. He takes us at our emotions. He hears and He understands.

3. In the midst of your pain, praise God for who He is. This is not a denial of the pain you face, but a surrendering of your pain to His loving hand. 

Even if life seems carefree right now for you, your day will come when life stinks. Personally, I have turned to the passage below in 1 Peter 5 countless times. Meditate on what God is saying to your heart right now. 

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen

Warrior On!

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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