Sometimes we have those days, or weeks or years. Life can be challenging. That is the point of it. God put us on earth so we could learn by experience, and that means experiencing hard things.
But God loves us and wants us to succeed. In fact, he knows that we can. He has not left us without the resources for success. Through prayer, grace and service, he has given us tools to triumph over challenging times.
Here are three things God wants us to know when we are in the midst of dark times:
How to pray in a way he can answer
Much of what we ask God for is circumstantial, not eternal. We ask to be able to sleep well, to get a part in a play or a promotion at work. These are things that, while important, are based on the circumstances of life. Truthfully, God does want these things for us. However, his priority is things that are eternal, such as our growth and progression, our obedience to commandments and our development of the attributes of Jesus.
Therefore, when you pray, of course you can ask for things that aren't eternal because God does want to give them to you. However, if those things prevent you from achieving something eternal, you probably won't get them.
For example, if you ask to be freed of your cancer but going through that experience would teach you humility and develop your relationship with God, he probably won't give you that gift. However, if you pray and ask for your desire as well as something eternal - such as the strength to have patience and hope through the course of your cancer - you can have the assurance God will answer that prayer.
Try asking God for these bigger picture things as well as relief from whatever is creating havoc in your life. Specifically, you could say in prayer, "Please let me make friends and be included, but if not, please let me still be kind and loving to those I interact with." Or maybe you could ask, "Please let me get over my depression, but if not, please let me be patient and trust you while I deal with it."
God wants to answer our prayers so he wants us to learn to ask in a way that he can answer. Remember, prayer isn't a tool to change God's will. As C.S. Lewis said, "[Prayer] doesn't change God, it changes me."
Being broken is a gift
When life is hard, it's easy to feel broken - that you are mentally, physically and spiritually in pieces.
While your pain hurts God (he is your Father after all), he does allow pain and suffering to occur in our lives. Oftentimes, this is because when we are broken, we turn to God. We feel so broken that we know we can't put ourselves back together on our own.
But Jesus promised, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness," which means that if we ask him for his grace, our weaknesses can actually become strengths. What a beautiful promise that our self-consciousness can become confidence, our short-temper can become patience and our anxiety can become faith.
Invite Jesus to help. He is always with you, hoping you will see your brokenness as an opportunity to turn to him.
The power of forgetting yourself
It's natural to turn inward when life gets hard. However, this is the most destructive thing you can do; it will only lead to more heartache.
Jesus was the example in focusing on others when life got hard. When his cousin, John the Baptist, was killed, Jesus went to be alone with his grief, but instead he had compassion on a multitude and healed them. After experiencing excruciating pain in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus healed the ear of a man who was persecuting him. As he suffered on the cross, Jesus was concerned that his mother would be taken care of and asked John the Beloved to care for her. Likewise, when we are in the midst of personal pain, we should follow the example of Jesus and focus on other people.
Not only will this benefit the person you serve, but serving our fellow man is a healing balm for your own pain. When you are in the midst of personal tragedy, find someone who is also experiencing tragedy and see what you can do to ease their grief. (Hint: most everyone is going through some kind of pain.)
This service can be as grand as doing their laundry, organizing a penny drive on their behalf or taking care of their children for a day. On the other hand, the service can be as simple as an encouraging note, lending a listening ear or donating to those less fortunate.
There are so many people who don't have access to things that you take for granted. For example, 1 billion people worldwide don't have access to light once the sun goes down, hindering their ability to access water, care for family members and become educated. You can follow Jesus's example and experience the healing power of helping someone else in need by partnering with Zero Impact Living to provide solar-powered flashlights to villages in Somalia and Uganda. Click here to donate today.