What To Do When Life is Tough
What To Do When Life is Tough
Job loss. Family conflict. Ongoing illness. We all deal with tough times in life. And when they come, it’s tempting to be frustrated at God for not giving us the things we think we deserve in life (like continual fulfillment, peace, and health). But what did Jesus do when life was agonizingly painful?
The night before his crucifixion, Jesus was with his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. It says:
Jesus said to them, “I am deeply grieved to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake.” He went a little farther, fell to the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father! All things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:34-36)
When life is tough, here’s what you do:
1. Confess your pain.
There’s nowhere else in the Bible where you’ll see someone who’s in so much pain and agony as Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Not Abraham getting ready to sacrifice his only son Isaac. Not David being hunted down by King Saul. Not Jeremiah, weeping over the destruction of Jerusalem. This is intense pain, and it’s astounding how honest Jesus is about it: “I am deeply grieved to the point of death! So please Father, take this cup away.”
When times are tough, that’s what you do. Tell God exactly how you feel, and exactly what you want. “I can’t handle this sickness, Lord. It’s too much! You need to take it away!” … “I really need this new job, Father. I’ll be out of money in a month without it!” … “Lord, please heal my brother of this cancer. I don’t want to be without him.”
Don’t be a stoic. Don’t be a martyr. Don’t swallow your pain. Confess your pain, and ask God to deal with your pain.
2. Believe God’s love.
The relational dynamics in the Garden are heartbreaking. For all eternity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have had perfect community. Three different persons, with three different personalities, all living together in perfect unity and love as one God. And in the garden, that’s being ripped apart. The Father is about to unleash his wrath on his own Son. Jesus is already starting to taste it.
He’s going to the father for love and comfort and encouragement, and instead, he’s looking into a boiling volcano of wrath and justice. He’s about to take this wrath for every sin you and I have ever committed. But still he says, “Abba. Father. Daddy.” He can’t feel the love of God right now, but he believes the love of God.
When times are tough, it seems like God’s love is gone. It seems like God’s turned his back on you. For Jesus, that was literally true, but we can have confidence that Jesus received the wrath we deserved, so that we could receive the love that he deserved. And that love will never end. As Paul said, “I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). Believe it, even if you don’t feel it.
3. Trust God’s plan.
Jesus says, “Abba, Father! All things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will.” Incredible. Imagine you’re the one sitting down with your dad. There’s a cup sitting in front of you. It’s filled to the rim with poison. Your dad pushes it toward you. “You need to drink, son.” You say, “I know. I know we said we were going to do this. I know the salvation of the whole world depends on this. But isn’t there any other way than this? Isn’t there, dad?”
That’s what we would all be saying. But Jesus isn’t finished. He says, “Nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will.” In other words, “This plan doesn’t feel good, but I’m trusting you that it is good, because I know that you are good.”
That’s what we need to do when life gets tough. When we feel like being frustrated with God. Maybe even running away from God and rebelling against God. When we’re tempted to do things our own way and get things our own way, we need to trust that God’s will is good, even if it doesn’t feel good.
Because that’s exactly what Jesus did for us. The cup that Jesus drank? We’re the ones who filled it up. Every time we turn away from Jesus, every time we pursue something rather than Jesus, we’re putting another drop of poison in that cup. Another drop of the wrath of God that all adds up to his death on the cross.
Jesus died for all the times we lashed out in pain, and doubted God’s love, and went against God’s plan. And now he empowers us through his Holy Spirit to trust him and follow him no matter how tough life gets.