I will not give you a trite answer. There are plenty of those, you know, and I’m sure you’ve heard them. “Suck it up.” “It could be worse.” “Look on the bright side.” “One day at a time.” “You’re an inspiration.” “Be thankful for what you’ve got.” “Pray about it and ask God to help.” To be completely honest, there’s nothing wrong with any of those answers. They’re all true enough. And yet, in the middle of your hardest battle, they seem cliché.
So, here is my attempt to give you an actionable plan for moving forward when everything is pushing you back. There are three things you must have, and three steps you can take.
To begin, here are the three things you must have:
- You must have Purpose
- You must have Hope
- You must have Relationships
Now, let’s take a closer look at each of them. What are these things, really, and how do we get them? At the end of each of the three items, you’ll find an action step.
Jesus showed us the way.
1. You must have Purpose.
Jesus told us about his purpose.
“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
(John 10:10, ESV)
Jesus came, knowing that he was going to suffer and die for others. And yet, to paraphrase a current slogan, “He persisted.” Purpose. It was his purpose that motivated him to continue, even when he had no place to lay his head, even when entire towns rejected his message, even when betrayed by one friend and deserted by other friends. It was Jesus’ purpose that kept him going.
Your purpose must be large enough to outweigh your suffering.
ACTION STEP: Ask yourself, “Have I chosen a purpose for my life, and committed myself to it without reservation?”
2. You must have Hope.
Jesus saw beyond today’s troubles.
“Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
(Luke 23:43, ESV)
Hope in the future unmasks the present’s true nature: it is transient. This is not the end. Your suffering isn’t eternal.
During a message one day I asked the listeners to raise their hand if they met any of the following conditions in the last five years: divorce, bankruptcy, unemployment, serious illness, death of a loved one, and so forth. Nearly everyone in the room had experienced one or more of those tragedies.
I said, “I want you to think of your darkest day. As you went through that trial, remember the darkest day. Now, raise your hand if life has gotten better.”
Almost everyone raised a hand.
Friend, do you see? Satan wants you to believe that life will never get better. Today’s crisis is tomorrow’s crisis. And it will be that way the next day, and the next, and the next… But the reality is that our hope in a better future is justified.
Admittedly, you may be facing a long, long trial. There may be no cure for the illness. You may be caring for someone with autism. Maybe you lost a limb in a war. This is for life. There is no five year mark on the calendar, where you can say, “This is the day my trouble ends.”
That’s why we need to understand God’s timeline. Even when the trial is certain to last until death, we can still have hope. I will say it again: hope in the future unmasks the present’s true nature: it is transient. This is not the end. Your suffering isn’t eternal.
ACTION STEP: Look beyond the trial, no matter how long it may be scheduled to last, and see your brighter, and certain, future.
3. You must have Relationships
When I was a little boy, still in elementary school, I asked my dad (who was a minister), “Dad, why did God make us? I mean, I know God created us, but – why?”
Dad replied, “For fellowship. God created us for fellowship with him.”
This answer made no sense to me. Remember, I was still a schoolboy. But I never forgot Dad’s answer, and years later, I finally understood it.
Here are some of the things Jesus said to his disciples on the night of his betrayal:
“Rise, let us go.” (John 14:31)
“No longer do I call you servants, but I have called you friends.” (John 15:15)
“Could you not watch with me one hour?” (Matthew 26:40)
What made this night bearable for Jesus? Was it entirely the strength he received from God? There is that, and I won’t minimize it. In the end, of course, God the Father was the only one who remained. And that, too, is a testament to relationship. But I also won’t minimize the importance of Jesus’ relationship with his disciples. He needed them that night. In the end, they disappointed him – but Jesus demonstrated the value of relationships in the midst of suffering.
We can endure much, much more when we go through life’s trials together. It is beyond the power of mathematics to explain this spiritual truth:
A load shared by two weighs one quarter of a load carried by one.
ACTION STEP: In your struggle, may I give you some advice? Don’t neglect relationships, and don’t use your suffering as an excuse for bad behavior.
Purpose. Hope. Relationships. With these three things, you will survive, and thrive.
If you found this helpful, may I suggest buying one of my books?
Books by Bob Young