Trusting God Through Trouble
Last week I began a series of messages on trust. I talked about how do you trust God through the changes of life. There are all kinds of ways we can think about trusting God. Trusting Him when we’re taking steps of faith, taking risks, trying something new.
But what I want to talk about today is how do you trust God in trouble, when you’re going through trouble and hardship, how do you keep your trust in God?
I’d like to begin by looking at some definitions of trust. In your handout this morning I’ve listed several definitions there. I hope you will take that out and follow along as we move through this message. There are places for you to fill in the blanks and maybe even take some notes. I am willing to bet that something we talk about here this morning might just prove to be useful to you in your everyday life.
Now when we think about definitions, I think there are some words we use so often we actually forget what they mean and they just become common place. And it’s good to go back and say, what does the word really mean? Trust is one of those words. And so that when we talk about trusting God we know what we’re talking about, and we have a more complete understanding of that word, I’ve given you some definitions.
Here’s the first one: To trust is to allow someone to do something without fearing the outcome.
I have to confess to you, I sometimes have a hard time doing that. I just have to admit it, sometimes it’s hard for me to delegate things to people. I always think, I’d rather just do it myself. Because what if they mess up or what if they don’t do it the way I would do it. Don’t look at me like you’ve never felt that way before! Or what if they fail?
It’s the same way with God. So in a sense when you’re trusting God you have to delegate, I have to let go and allow Him to do what He wants to without fearing the outcome. But that’s not always easy. I mean what if he doesn’t do it the way I want Him to? What if He messes up my plan?
But here’s the thing. He’s God and God cannot fail, therefore I have to let God do what God wants to do. I have to trust God enough to let Him succeed. But to let Him succeed on His own terms in His own way on His own time table, and not fear the outcome.
One of my favorite verses about trusting God actually comes from the Old Testament. From a little tiny book called Nahum. Nahum 1:3 says “The Lord has his way in the whirlwind and in the storm and the clouds are the dust of his feet.” He has His way in the whirlwind and the storm.
My tendency when I’m facing the storm, when I see trouble coming, I want to run away from the storm. I want to try to find a way around the storm. But somebody once said the quickest way around is through. The Bible tells us, “The Lord has his way in the whirlwind and the storm. And the clouds are the dust of his feet.” So if there are clouds on the horizon, that just might be the dust of his feet. I’ve got to follow him.
There are things we learn about ourselves, about God, about life that we can only learn when God takes us through a storm. We have to be willing to let God do what He wants to do and not fear the outcome.
The Bible says this in Psalms 56:11, “In God I trust, I will not be afraid.”
Here’s another meaning of trust. It’s actually a word picture. Trust means to run into a shelter or a hiding place; to take refuge in something.
So when you read in the Psalms where David is saying “The Lord is my fortress, my hiding place,” he’s talking about trusting God. It’s not a passive attitude. It’s an active, deliberate state of mind and heart. To say, “I’m going to hide myself, I’m going to run into God and take refuge in him.”
How do you actually do something like that? It’s a beautiful phrase, but how do you hide in God?
There are a couple of things you can do to do that. Because remember he’s talking about your state of mind and the state of your heart.
So one of the things I will do to hide myself in God is I will hide myself in the Word. I will get into the Scriptures. Sometimes it’s just a verse or a phrase or a promise. I’ll find something from the Word of God and I’ll think about it. I’ll think deeply about it. I’ll mull it over and repeat it to myself over and over and over again. Because as I fill my mind with God’s word I begin to fill my heart with God’s peace. I find His presence becomes even closer.
That’s what it means to take refuge and to hide in the Lord.
Here’s what the Bible says will happen when you do that. Psalm 91, “He who dwells in the shelter of the most high will rest in the shadow of the almighty. I will say of the Lord, he is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.” And Psalm 57:1 says “In you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” You hide in the Lord until the disaster has passed.
Here’s another definition of trust. It means to lean the weight of your soul on the faithfulness, reliability, integrity or friendship of another person.
To lean the weight of your soul, it’s like a ladder leaning against the wall. It needs to be leaning against something that’s going to hold it up. And because you know that wall is not going to move, the ladder is safe to climb on.
So what are you leaning your life on? Are you leaning it on the trouble? Are you leaning it on something that is uncertain? Or are you leaning the weight of your soul, all of your life on God and on his Word and climbing that ladder and taking him at his word and believing that it’s not going to fall; that you will not fall?
That’s why the Bible says this in Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all of you heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” You’ve got to lean on the Lord.
Another meaning of trust is to take someone at his/her word.
Friends take friends at their word. To trust God means I’m going to step out in faith and take Him at His word. But in order to take God at His word you’ve got to know what his Word says. That’s why you’ve got to hide yourself in the Word and then live your life as though you believe it’s true.
To trust God is to say, “Lord, you said you’ll never leave me, so I’m taking you at your word….
Lord, you said you’ll meet every need I have, so I’m taking you at your word…
Lord, you said I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength, so I’m going to take you at your word. I’m going to lean the weight of my life into you and take you at your word and believe you.”
So when God asks you the question, “Do you trust me?” You’ve got a decision to make. You’ve got to decide am I going to set my heart and my mind to follow God and to find him, to take refuge in his Word, to take him at his word? Am I going to lean all of my life on who God is and believe in him?
But here’s the thing; a healthy dose of reality. When you make the decision to trust God, to fully trust him with all of your life, it will not make your troubles go away. So if somebody tells you when you give your life to Jesus all your problems disappear, that’s just not true. Your problems will not go away. What will happen is your perspective will change on your troubles in life. It will change the way you see things.
The apostle Paul knew this just about better than anybody else. Because the apostle Paul went through troubles like nobody else had gone through before. Paul was beaten, he was imprisoned, he was shipwrecked, he was put in chains, he was thrown into prison, was sentenced to death. That’s what I call trouble. But he had a perspective, a faith-filled perspective that we need to look at.
Here’s what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4. “We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
How do you fix your eyes on unseen things? Obviously he’s talking about the eyes of your heart. A.W.Tozer calls it the gaze of your soul. Later on, in Ephesians 1, Paul is writing again about the eyes of your heart, about seeing the unseen things. He says this “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you.” When the eyes of your heart are enlightened it fills you with hope. When the eyes of your heart become enlightened, when you begin to see things the way that God sees them, when you begin to think about things the way He thinks about them, it gives you hope. It gives you a new vision, a new perspective on the things you’re going through.
Let me see if I can give you an illustration of this. I am holding in my hand a seed, a daffodil bulb. When you look at it it’s sort of nondescript. They’re hard. They really do look lifeless. They’re not all that attractive. They’re sort of plain. From the outside looking at that seed you would never know that all of that beauty is wrapped up inside of that seed. But for that beauty to be released it has to go through a process that you might call the transformation of trouble. It goes through the transformation of trouble, a dark season of growth.
We I look at this my eyes see a lifeless ball that really is worthless and of no value. When a master gardener looks at it they see something I can’t. As the gardener plants that seed in the ground they are fixing their eyes on what is unseen. A gardener understands the potential that is inside of that seed. They know the beauty that is hiding there. So they understand the process. It has to be buried. It has to get down in the dirt. They understand the pressure, the darkness, the right combination of heat and water. The gardener understands the transformation of trouble. Because they can see the glory that is coming and they know the trouble that seed is going through is only for a season. There’s something coming when that season of growth is over.
With that in mind let’s look again at what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4, “We do not lose heart. [You can’t just give up and say, “Oh gee! Nothing’s going to happen!” when you put the seed in the ground. We do not lose heart.] Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
What are these light and momentary troubles he’s talking about? Back up in the text to verses 8 and 9 he says this “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, by not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
I want you to look at those phrases just a moment. There’s something wonderful in each of them. It’s something very small but very significant. It’s the commas. Look at the commas and listen as I say this again: “We are hard pressed on every side [comma] but not crushed; perplexed [comma] but not in despair; persecuted [comma] but not abandoned; struck down [comma] but not destroyed.”
Here’s my question for you: Which side of the comma are you living on? What side of the comma do you live on? Do you live on the trouble side of the comma? Or do you live on the trusting side of the comma? It’s a choice that we each can make. Which side of the comma do you live on?
If you’re on the trouble side of the comma, you may be saying, “I am hard pressed right now. I am under pressure. I feel like I’m being buried alive.” But the trusting side, the faith-filled side of the comma says: “But I will not be crushed.”
The trouble side of the comma says, “I’m perplexed today. I don’t understand what’s going on. None of this is making sense and I don’t know how much longer I can go through this. I am stretched to my limit.” That’s the troubled side. But if you’re living on the trusting side, on the faith side of the comma you know that you do not need to despair. You will not lose heart.
If you’re living on the troubled side of the comma then you may feel like you’re being persecuted – misunderstood, or mistreated. But if you’re living on the trusting side of the comma, the faith-filled side of the comma, then you know that you are not abandoned, that God is not turning his back on you.
The troubled side of the comma says, “I’ve have been struck down.” - you’ve been stabbed in the back, kicked to the curb. All your dreams are turning into nightmares. But if you live on the trusting side of the comma you know that it is not the end, that you will not be destroyed. You know that these light and momentary troubles are achieving something. A glory that far outweighs the suffering that you go through.
If you’re trusting God and living on the trusting, faith-filled side of the comma you may be broke but you’re not poor. Because your Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills and he’s promised that he will meet your needs. You may be unemployed, but you are not worthless. You may be knocked down, but you are not knocked out.
Which side of the comma are you going to live on? Maybe your trouble, your bulb right now is financial. It might be something in your marriage, or something going on with your kids. It might be in your business or your home. Whatever kind of trouble that you’re going through, you have to decide, am I going to live on the trouble side of the comma or am I going to live on a faith-filled trusting side of the comma.
Here’s something else: That seed, that bulb can sit on a shelf for years and nothing will come of it. Nothing grows out of it. The beauty is not released until it begins the process, the transformation of trouble. It has to be buried. There’s something about the dirt that begins to release the beauty for which it was created in the first place. Weeks might go by with no sign of life.
Our troubles that we go through, some of them last weeks or months or years. Time can go by and you’re not seeing any good come out of this. But you have to trust the process. You have to trust the gardener. You have to believe and allow God to do what God wants to do and not fear the outcome. You have to enable God, release God, allow God to take you through the transformation of trouble. You have to believe that he will not abandon you. And as he says in his Word, as he promises, he is working all of these things for your good. He works all things together for the good of those who love him.
The seed of adversity when it’s planted in the soil of faith and cared for by the Master Gardener will bring forth life and beautify in its season. The Bible says that God makes all things beautiful in their time. Remember to trust God, hide in him, get into his Word and allow his Word to get into you. Taking refuge there.
So what trouble are you facing today? Whatever suffering, whatever trouble you’re going through, there’s life in that seed. God is at work in ways that you cannot see. Maybe it hasn’t sprouted up out of the ground yet. But there is an eternal glory that is coming if you will surrender to the process and trust Him and allow him to do what he wants to do and not fear the outcome.
Paul says this in 2 Corinthians 5:7 “We live by faith and not by sight.” Which side of the comma are you going to live on?
How long does this process take? Just as long as it needs to. Some plants grow overnight. Some of them take a long time before that seed bursts open and life starts to come out of it. But the process has to be followed. You cannot hurry the process. But you can hinder the process by not feeding and nurturing that seed while you’re going through this trouble.
There are some things I want you to write down as I finish the message here. There are five things you can do to cooperate with God in the process of turning your troubles into beauty.
The first thing you can do is feed on the Word of God. The Bible tells us that the Word of God is the water, the milk, the bread, and the meat of the spiritual life. You’ve got to be feeding on the Word of God. Just like you can’t go more than a couple of days without eating something, it’s the same way in your spiritual life. Get yourself into the Word.
The second thing to do is pray for the rain of the Holy Spirit. Pray for the rain of the Holy Spirit to soften the ground of your heart and quench your thirsty soul. So pray for the rain of the Holy Spirit to come and water the seed. Say, “Lord, come and soften my heart. Don’t let my heart become hardened to you. Don’t let my heart become hard toward other people.” But pray for a fresh rain of the Holy Spirit every day.
The third thing you can do is pull the weeds, because they’re going to grow. Pull the weeds. That means get rid of anything that entangles you or that chokes out the life of Christ in you. Get rid of the weeds of worry, the weeds of bitterness, the weeds of unforgiveness. Pull them out and let them go. Get rid of those things so that the life of Christ is being nurtured and not being choked by those things.
The fourth thing you can do is to guard against bugs. Guard against all the bugs that want to come in and destroy the life that is growing in you. What are those bugs? They are the things that will rob you of your energy; the things that will deplete your resources. The bugs are habits, behaviors, life styles, addictions. They’re poor choices. Bugs can be unhealthy relationships that just take all the life and the joy away from what God is working in your life. Guard your heart against the bugs.
The last thing to do is prepare for a harvest. “Weeping may endure for a night but joy will come in the morning.” God is working something new in you. He is promising life and beauty and fruitfulness. He makes all things beautiful in their time. The Bible says this in Galatians 6:9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
As I close let me invite you to close your eyes and bow your head. And while your head is bowed and your eyes are closed I want to ask you, what is it that’s troubling you today? What’s the trouble? What’s the seed? I want you to tell him about it. He already knows but tell him anyway. Go ahead and tell God what is troubling you today.
Then in the quietness of your heart say, Lord, I need your help. I want to trust you with this. I can’t handle this trouble. Lord, I believe and I’m taking you at your word when you said you work all things together for our good. That you make all things beautiful in their time. That I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. That you won’t let me go through something that you won’t give me the strength to endure. Lord, I’m taking you at your word and I trust you today. I want to live on the trusting side of the comma. I pray that your will will be done in my life. And I want to lean all the weight of my soul and my life on you. I want to hide in you, Lord, and find protection until this storm has passed. I trust you, Lord, to bring life and beauty out of my troubles. I give myself to you now. In Jesus’ name. Amen.