Because situations and persons come unscripted, fluid, and unpredictable, Jesus engages each person and situation in a personalized way. It is no truism to say that Jesus really does meet you where you are. Always. -David Powlison How Does Sanctification Work?
This Summer, we’ve been exploring how we can engage God in the midst of the struggles and sufferings of life. In June, Wes asked the question “ what are you facing today?” Last month, I asked “how are you responding?” What do you do when things don’t go according to plan?
Who is the Lord for you, related to this particular struggle?
We don’t often like how we respond. We find ourselves anxious, irritable, frustrated. We find ways to relieve stress and escape. Or we go into task mode, living as though it is all up to us to figure out how to get out of our current mess. The effects of sin twist and pervert our responses against God and his glory, often hurting ourselves and others in the process. We can identify with Paul in Romans 7:24 when he says “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
Blessedly, this isn’t the end of the story. Paul responds to his own question in Romans 7:25: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” God intervenes. God saves us both from the penalty and the power of sin. This is a great hope. He actually enters in to help us in the precise moments of precise need(s). How does he do this? That leads us to the next of our five questions: Who is the Lord?
Who does God say that he is?
Who is God – relevant to this struggle? What does He say? What does He promise? What does He do? His person, words, and actions intend to enter, address, and change how you see your situation, how you react, and the reasons for your reactions. (From David Powlison’s Dynamics of Biblical Change Course)
God reveals who he is throughout the pages of Scripture. From the Garden of Eden, to the Wilderness journey, the Psalms, and New Testament, God makes himself known and draws near to his people. Here are a few relevant promises for us to consider as we encounter the hardships of life:
God is sovereign (even when he doesn’t seem to be in control): Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground a
part from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows (Matthew 10:29–31).
God is good (even when it doesn’t feel good): You are good and do good; teach me your statutes (Psa. 119:68)
God is faithful (even when we have intense questions about what we are going through): God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:9)
God is the Creator and Sustainer of all things (even when our world feels out of control): For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16–17).
God is with you (even when you feel alone): God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1)
God is personal not just in his saving work, but God personally intervenes in the sin, suffering, and sorrow of our specific situation. The truths about God are intended for our good and God’s glory. The good and sovereign God cares about the fears and frustrations that we face and promises that all things will work for our good. The Christian faith is lived as we encounter the challenges of daily life in a fallen world and engage with God based on who he is and who we are.
Our response to “who is the Lord?” does not just re-orient our thinking (although it does do that). Even more, the personal God of all creation gives us access to him in the midst of our trials and tribulation. God invites us to pour our hearts out to him (Psalm 56:8). He allows us to cast our cares upon him because he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). He gives us examples of confession and repentance so that we can run to him in our sin (Psalm 32).
This is a distinctive element of the counsel that we offer at Hope Counseling Services. We want to lead you to encounter the living God, the Redeemer who cares for his sheep and helps us, in the precise moments of need. We want to help answer the question: what tailored mercies has he given you, in Christ, that are intended to help you right here and now? God invites us to pour our hearts out to him, cast our cares upon him, cry out in our distress, and wrestle with the hardships of this world in real, deep communion with our heavenly Father. And he promises to meet us in those places, giving us everything we need to persevere in faith (1 Corinthians 1:4–9).
In our next post, we will explore what it looks like to put our first three questions into practice through honest prayer.