What happens when life doesn’t go the way I think it should? How do I deal with life’s big challenges?
How do we respond when we encounter an apparent ‘reverse’ in life?
When we hit difficulties, experience setbacks, crises, hardship, disappointment or even failure, what happens to our faith?
Does it stand strong during those trying seasons we all go through when it seems our prayers just aren’t being answered?
At times we can be faced with:
- Sickness or disease
- The death of a loved one
- Unfulfilled dreams or expectations
- Business setbacks
- Ministry obstacles
Heb 11 and 12 are a kind of a Q & A about faith. First we have a ‘Who’s who’ of faith in chapter 11:
Hebrews 11:32–40 (NLT) It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35 Women received their loved ones back again from death.
But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.
39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised.
We see two different categories of people described here – all had great faith, yet some had great success and prospered while others suffered. No doubt we would all prefer to be in the first category!
The dilemma of faith is: what happens when we find ourselves in more of a ‘Category Two’ kind of experience? How do we reconcile our faith when life doesn’t go the way we envisioned it would, or even when the dreams we thought God had for us seem just to have bypassed us? Even the disciples’ faith floundered at times. When Jesus was crucified, some of them plunged into a crisis of faith.
Some possible responses to these kinds of episodes could be:
Throwing in the towel – give up on God and Christianity
Becoming disillusioned with God
Lowering our expectations so that we’ll have less chance of being disappointed in the future
Avoiding taking the risk of ‘believing big’ again
But Hebrews 12 shows us the Biblical response: Keep running the race with persistent confidence. Stay on course. Don’t quit.
Hebrews 12:1–2 (NKJV) Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…
Paul reminds us that Jesus is author and finisher of our faith. The pen of life is in God’s hands, not ours; He’s the scriptwriter.
It is in tough times that we need to make tough choices: to keep trusting in God, despite circumstances.