Emotions

How to Trust God in Painful Circumstances

Patreeya Prasertvit

If God loves me, why would He let this happen?

If you have asked this question recently, you’re not alone.

You can know lots of Bible verses. You can be heavily involved in Christian community. You can be confident that you know Jesus personally.

None of these things will guarantee you never feel trapped in feelings of helplessness, loss or suffering.

You might even feel betrayed by God. After all, you’ve been taught that He’s able to change your circumstances — and yet your circumstances make you wonder if He’s indifferent to them.

So during tough times, how do you move toward a God you feel uncertain about?

Is there a way for painful experiences to help you trust God?

Pain exposes our deeper concerns

C.S. Lewis described pain as, “God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Suffering turns our worldview upside down.

As we try to make sense of our emotions and circumstances, questions naturally arise.

  • Why does God even allow suffering?
  • Why does God allow my suffering?
  • Who’s to blame for my circumstances?
  • How am I supposed to move forward?

These are questions of meaning and purpose, and sometimes these questions have no answer that truly meets us in our pain. But there’s a deeper set of questions that can help ground us in grief.

Asking the “who” questions — Who is God? Who does He say I am? — can help provide us with a framework to experience God with us, even when we don’t understand why something is happening.

Here are some specific questions you might ask:

  • What is still true of God in my pain?
  • Who am I when the things I loved or defined me are taken away?
  • What kind of person will I become because of this pain?
  • Who would I become if I never experienced suffering?

You can take a step toward trusting God by being honest and wrestling with these questions, trusting that He is with you in the process.

Painful circumstances deepen relationships

Sometimes we demand answers for why things happen, when what we actually need is to know we’re not alone.

We need to know there’s hope for the future.

The Bible tells us that God is close to the brokenhearted and that Jesus endured suffering so we could know we aren’t alone in it. We can take our pain to Jesus because He understands it more deeply than anyone else.

But God also encourages us to share our suffering with other people.

Community provides the opportunity to experience God through the tangible support and care of those around us.

Bringing others into how you’re feeling can create connection and depth that is hard to experience when everything is going well.

When we know we are not alone, we have more energy and courage to face the reality of our situation. And it’s only when we accept the reality of our situation that we can truly experience God.

We can only find real comfort when we bring our real selves to God and to others.

Even sending out a message to a few friends and asking for help or support can make a difference in how connected you feel.

Pain reminds us of God’s character and faithfulness

When we’re asked to trust someone, we evaluate what we know about that person’s character.

What kind of person is he or she at the core? Are we basing this on intuition or past experience?

The root of our ability to trust God lies in what we believe about His character. Our circumstances may change, but God’s character does not.

When we evaluate who God is according to our changing circumstances, we create an unreliable picture, dictated by what we see in that moment.

But life is not comprised of one moment. We live in the middle of a story as characters unable to see the ending or make complete sense of the plot.

So in our limited understanding we must remember the trustworthiness of the Author.

Look at your circumstances through the lens of God’s character, rather than evaluating God’s character through the circumstances of your life.

And remember that, however painful the chapter you currently find yourself in, the story is far from over.


Where do you go from here?


About the Author: Patreeya considers herself a "Cajun Asian," having grown up in Bangkok and Baton Rouge. Although raised in a predominantly Buddhist home, Patreeya now works with Cru, discipling women to live out the gospel in Berkeley, CA.

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