I was feeling bad as I walked in to the worship service. It had been a hard few weeks: worry about a family member’s illness and uncertainty over the diagnosis, a lot of stress as trying to juggle too many different tasks at work had become overwhelming, and on top of this I had been battling a viral infection- not bad enough to stop me from doing what I needed to do, but bad enough that I was physically run-down and feeling pretty awful.
As I sat down, I was determined to make the decision to rise above my circumstances and feelings and focus on God. I wanted to praise him, regardless of what was happening.
As the music began I rose to my feet and started to sing, but, two lines in, I began coughing uncontrollably and had to stop. Eventually the coughing subsided so I tried to sing again. This time I only got out a few words and I knew it was no use. The coughing began again, my chest hurt and my throat hurt. I sat down and began to cry- frustrated that I couldn’t even worship God, annoyed that I was trying so hard, in such difficult circumstances, that I was really attempting to rise above it all, but that I couldn’t do it.
I felt useless and that I had nothing to bring to God. I felt like giving up.
But as I sat there, God drew close- reassuring me that I didn’t have to bring anything but myself. It was okay to come in weakness, in sickness, in stress and worry and just to sit in his presence. He knew my heart and that I desired to worship him. He knew all the difficulties I was facing. He understood.
As I left that day, nothing had changed about my circumstances or my illness but the sense that God saw me and that he cared gave me just enough resolve to keep on going.
That was several years ago, but there have been other times since then when I have felt like giving up: when the darkness has seemed so deep and so black that it has felt like I’ll never see the light again, when my hope has almost gone and the extent of my vision has been to make it to the end of the day, when although I know that God is with me and that he has a plan for good, circumstances are overwhelming and none of it feels true and it’s easy to give in to doubt and despair.
I think we all have times like these, and, when we do, I have learned that it is important to hold on to the truth:
- God understands. We can go to him and be honest about how we feel. In fact it really helps to be honest with him. We don’t have to keep smiling and pretend everything’s okay. He knows and he understands.
- God is still with us. Even when we can’t sense his presence and it seems like he’s a million miles away, he’s right there- walking through it with us, carrying us if necessary. The pain can blind us to that at times- it can be hard to look beyond it to see anything else- but it doesn’t change the truth.
- God can change things. Sometimes our situations seems hopeless and overwhelming and finding a way forward can look impossible, but nothing is impossible with God. The Israelites felt this way as they stood at the edge of the Red Sea. They could see no way to cross the water in front of them, and the Egyptian army were close behind. There seemed to be no way out and they were all set to give up, thinking they were better in slavery, but then God displayed his power and the sea opened up to allow them to cross over. “Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters— a pathway no one knew was there!” (Psalm 77:19)
Even when we can’t see a way forward, God has a plan. It doesn’t always happen quickly- sometimes it involves a lot of waiting- but, in his time, he can transform things in ways we would never have imagined.
- God can use these times for good. It’s hard to see when you’re in the midst of them. It’s usually only looking back that we can see, but, looking at my own life I can clearly see that my faith is stronger, and I am stronger, because of times like these. Growth is not always easy, and sometimes it is incredibly painful, but it is good.
So if you feel like giving up today, I pray that you know God with you- loving you and accepting you just as you are and however you are feeling- and that, as the song below says, if you feel like you’re crawling along today rather walking, you will know God crawling along with you and carrying you through.