In times of doubt, difficulty, and trials, our fundamental beliefs about God and our faith are revealed. So how can Christians find faith in the midst of doubt? How can they trust God’s plan when their lives seem out of His control, and prayers seem to go unanswered or, sometimes it feels, even unheard?
If you or someone you love has been there, these questions may be far more personal than theoretical. You might wonder: Is God good? Is He sovereign? Does He care?
When we’re assailed by trials, we need perspective for our minds and relief for our hearts. It’s essential we realign our worldview by God’s inspired Word: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
God’s sovereignty is the biblical teaching that all things remain under God’s rule and nothing happens without either His direction or permission. God works in all things for the good of His children (see Romans 8:28), including evil and suffering. He doesn’t commit moral evil, but He can use any evil for good purposes.
Paul wrote, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11). “Everything” is comprehensive—no exceptions. God works even in those things done against His moral will, to bring them into conformity with His purpose and plan. We can follow Scripture’s lead and embrace the belief that a sovereign God is accomplishing eternal purposes in the midst of painful and even tragic events.
Suffering and life’s difficulties either push us away from God or pull us toward Him. Auschwitz survivor Viktor Frankl wrote in The Unconscious God, “Just as the small fire is extinguished by the storm whereas a large fire is enhanced by it, likewise a weak faith is weakened by predicaments and catastrophes whereas a strong faith is strengthened by them.”
Only when you jettison ungrounded and untrue faith can you replace it with valid faith in the true sovereign God—faith that can pass, and even find strength in, life’s formidable tests.
The devastation of tragedy is certainly real for people whose faith endures suffering. But because they do not place their hope for health, abundance, and secure relationships in this life, but in an eternal life to come, their hope remains firm regardless of what happens.
Faith means believing that God is good and that even if we can’t see it today, one day we will look back and see clearly His sovereignty, goodness, and kindness.
Paul Tournier said, “Where there is no longer any opportunity for doubt, there is no longer any opportunity for faith.”
Trusting God is a matter of faith. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). We must immerse ourselves in God’s Word. As a solar panel stores sunlight’s energy, faith is established only by regular exposure to the truth and application of that truth to the events we confront in our lives. This is why it’s essential that we attend a church that teaches God’s Word and that we study it daily ourselves. When our beliefs are established on the truth, we are more likely to stand during times when doubts assail us.
We should ask God to deliver us from Satan’s attacks of unbelief and discouragement. We should learn to resist them, in the power of Christ (see James 4:7). Trusting God for the grace to endure adversity is as much an act of faith as trusting Him for deliverance from it.
God promises in Hebrews 13:5 (NIV), “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” This unusual Greek sentence contains five negatives. Kenneth Wuest translates it, “I will not, I will not cease to sustain and uphold you. I will not, I will not, I will not let you down.” When we languish in the deepest pit and wonder if God even exists, God reminds us that He remains there with us.
The Lord says to us, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…When you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (Isaiah 43:2).
God’s presence remains with His children whether we recognize it or not. In periods of darkness, God calls us to trust Him until the light returns. “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold” (Job 23:10).
In this world of suffering, I have a profound and abiding hope, and faith for the future. Not because I’ve followed a set of religious rules, but because for forty some years I’ve known a real person, and continue to know him better. Through inconceivable self-sacrifice He has touched me deeply, given me a new heart, and utterly transformed my life. To Jesus be the glory, now and forever.
If you’d like to read more related to the subject of suffering, see Randy’s book If God Is Good, as well as the devotional 90 Days of God’s Goodness and book The Goodness of God (a specially focused condensation of If God Is Good, which also includes additional material).