In 1776, Thomas Paine wrote words that resonate with us today: “These are the times that try men’s souls.” Sadly, we now experience crises that overlap each other. Many in our nation ask hard questions: “How do we move forward when an uncertain future is all we see? How do we stay stable in a crumbling world? Is there a foundation for us?” I will share answers to help you navigate the uncertainties of our day.
In the Beginning
To deal with these questions, let’s first go back to the Garden of Eden and God’s original intent for mankind. We see here that God intricately made man, formed him from the dust of the earth, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (Gen. 2:7). Man then became a living soul with the breath of God within him. Afterward, God gave Adam work to do, which was to tend the garden and name the animals (Gen. 2:20). We see God’s direct involvement in forming man and then giving His creation purpose, providing him an opportunity to use his gifts and talents.
We see this mentioned as well in the New Testament. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” The New Living Translation says, “We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” This verse tells us that those who have been created anew in Christ are a design original – God’s masterpiece. He has a good purpose for us that is not impeded by the times in which we live.
God’s Eternal Plans Outweigh Temporary Trials
Some of you may say, “Well, that’s good, but what does it have to do with the hard situations and challenges I face?” Part of the answer comes from Jeremiah 1:5. This passage reveals that before we were formed in our mother’s womb, God knew us and set us apart for His purposes. Therefore, His hand is upon our lives. Anything we go through in no way changes the fact that 1) He has set us apart for a purpose, and 2) He will work everything out for our good (Rom. 8:28). A divine force for good is in motion in our lives. If we take heart and don’t give up on God in the midst of difficulty, God will work in and through our hard times, take care of us, and comfort our souls.
Let’s look at an example from the Bible. Consider Joseph who endured hardship from childhood to adulthood. He kept the faith, and God promoted Him to greatness in spite of his trials. Through all he endured, Joseph was always in a place of favor. He was eventually summoned to interpret a dream for Pharaoh (Gen. 41:14). The depth of Joseph’s struggle prepared him to ascend to heights of leadership – second only to Pharaoh. This position was his purpose. When it seems the enemy is winning, if we turn our eyes to Christ and believe His ability to work His plans in our lives, God will move within our situation and turn it in our favor. Take heart!
God Works for Our Good Through Trials
Often I think about the hardness of the trial I endured to obtain my doctoral degree. Looking back, I know God used the experience to take me rounds higher in Him. I had to persevere but had peace that God began a good work in me and would complete it (Phil. 1:6). Through all, I had favor with teachers and fellow students.
Yes, even in these times, God works things out for our good. In the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re seeing God work for the good of our nation. We see the selfless compassion and fortitude of medical professionals, teachers, and other frontline workers. God stirs the hearts of so many to arise and fulfill their commitment to a higher call. God is at work on a grand scale even through tragedy.
Revealing the Sons of God
Allow me to remind you again about our uniqueness: Each soul is God’s custom design. As we live for Him and embrace our identity in Christ, which is who we really are, we gradually transform – we change. This transformation continues through every experience we have in life – good and bad. God uses it all.
Rest assured that in hardness, God’s plans for us do not change, but He changes us. Why is God changing us? Romans 8:18-19 says that the earth groans in expectation of the sons of man arising in their identity and power: “For I consider [from the standpoint of faith] that the sufferings of the present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us! For [even the whole] creation [all nature] waits eagerly for the children of God to be revealed.” The world awaits the manifestation of our uniqueness and calling. Yes, God’s people are changing and reflecting His glory and pre-eminence in these end days. God is forging a triumphant people who glorify and honor Him.
God’s Forged Ones Bless Others and Overcome
In the Old Testament, Deborah was a leader, a judge, a prophet, and a poet (Judges 4). Yes, a strong and favored woman! God gave her unique gifts that blessed and secured the children of Israel. Barak, Israel’s general, would not go into battle against King Jabin unless Deborah went with him. Under Deborah’s leadership, the children of Israel defeated the king’s army. God’s power arose within Deborah as a mighty, conquering force. She overcame the hard trial of battle, and afterward, Judges 5:31 says that “the land had rest for forty years.” Yes, through a woman!
In life, you can solely focus on the hardness, or you can ask God to show you His divine hand in it. He will reveal that not only does hardness accomplish an eternal work (James 1: 2-4), but through it, God releases divine power within us (Eph. 3:20) to overcome and be a blessing to others.
The Presence of Jesus
Through good times as well as hard times, Jesus’ presence is the answer. He says, “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). Look for Jesus in your trial for He knows the way through it. He says that He will show you the path of life – in His presence is fullness of joy and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11). Victory actually resides within us in the person of Jesus Christ: “It is Christ in us, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). Turmoil may abound, but Christ – the victor – has overcome and so have you! You are His creation, and you are more than a conqueror in Him. Be encouraged as you think on these things.