Circumstances

The Foundational Attitude You Need During Difficulty

Joni Eareckson Tada became a quadraplegic at 17 years old. Her faith resounded despite the obstacles and she leads an organization for people with disabilities. In her book, When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty, she wrote:  “Subdue your heart to match your circumstances.”

My guess: it is hard to bring our hearts under control when our circumstances seem out of control.

Circumstances arouse feelings, emotions, and words, which are the overflow of our hearts (Luke 6:45). Perhaps they lead us to not think clearly through certain situations. In fact, many circumstances can lead to confusion, anger, and resentment to the point of not seeing the reality of our circumstances because our hearts are out of control.

We might wish we weren’t in a particular circumstance, but we have to face the reality. Joni had to realize that she was going to be in a wheelchair. She talks about her earliest struggles, but at some point she chose to accept her reality and glorify God through it.

While you should have many supporters and might seek counseling and medical care during difficult circumstances, the Apostle Paul reveals two foundational ingredients to a mindset that will lead to persevering and glorifying God: prayer and the Holy Spirit.

Now that might sound so simple, but sometimes we neglect even the most simple, foundational things during difficulty. Paul wrote to the Philippians:

“… Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Philippians 1:18b–20, ESV)

He was in prison when he wrote that. His confidence through difficulty came through prayer and the help of the Holy Spirit. In other words, our attitude through difficulty must start with a humble reliance on God’s help.

Are you struggling? Start with prayer and asking the Holy Spirit to guide you through your reactions and actions.  

Circumstances Blind Us to God’s Faithfulness

You’ve probably heard the account of Jesus feeding of the 5,000–all these people getting hungry, no food, doubting disciples, and Jesus miraculously multiplying the five loaves and two fish to not just feed everyone but have much left over as well (Matthew 14:13-21).

Notice that the phrase “desolate place” occurs twice (verses 13 & 15) in this passage. That’s part of the setting. A desolate place and hungry people.

Now fast forward to Matthew 15:32-39 where the feeding of the 4,000 is recorded. This situation is similar but different from the feeding of the 5,000 (Jesus acknowledges both in Matthew 16:9-10). The similarity is that people are gathered to hear Jesus teach and they are hungry (16:32). Jesus told his disciples that he had compassion for those hungry people and desired to feed them.

But look at what the disciples ask Jesus right after he says that:  “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?”

Wait-WHAT??!!! Did they already forget what happened possibly within just a week prior?

  • The desolate place.
  • Enough food.
  • So great a crowd.

ALL of that was true for the feeding of the 5,000. Two desolate places. Enough? There was more than enough–12 leftover baskets in fact (14:20). So great a crowd? They just saw a great crowd miraculously fed.

Somehow, all of a sudden, the circumstances blinded the disciples from God’s faithfulness and the power of Christ.   

Does this happen in your life? You have seen God provide and have seen his grace over and over. But for some reason, when that difficult situation confronts you, you somehow go blind to His faithfulness.

Find great comfort in 2 Timothy 2:13: “if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.”  The context of that passage contrasts denying Christ with being faithless. The ESV Study Bible footnote says that being faithless is a temporary lapse in trusting Christ, for which there is still hope because Christ is faithful to pardon, restore, and keep those who are truly his.

Even when we find ourselves like the disciples having a temporary lapse in trusting Christ, there is still grace and forgiveness. Right after the disciples ask Jesus how they could feed so many people, Jesus doesn’t just slap them across the face and say don’t you remember last week??!!

No, our gracious Savior lovingly said, “How many loaves do you have?” Grace on display! The Lord could look into your circumstances and calmly ask you to tell him all about it, then trust Him, and rely on His grace for every situation.   

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