There is one thing we all have in common in this life – hard times.

Jesus was very clear about this:

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NLT

Jesus is a realist. He doesn’t teach us, in the name of faith, to deny that we are going to have “many trials and sorrows”. But He does tell us to “take heart”. One translation actually says that we are to “be of good cheer”! How is that possible when you are suffering?

Recently some people have asked me about the “bandwidth” I seem to have while supporting my wife as she battles cancer for the third time, raising six kids, as well as pastoring a church. It made me ask myself that question because the reality is, I clearly have more strength, joy, and peace than I should. Here are the three reasons why:

  1. Choosing God’s Presence:

Just like King David who, “Strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” (1 Samuel 30:6), I choose to live on God’s Presence. I pray and listen to worship music while working out, driving, cooking… He is my strength and I can feel His power working in me.

Paul, the Apostle, said while he was in jail:

“I can do all things through Christ Who is strengthening me.” Philippians 4:13

You can too. It’s a choice.

  1. Choosing to Receive Help from Family and Friends.

The prayers, groceries, money, meals, cards, and well-wishes are a wave of God’s love washing over our family.

I learned long ago that the primary way God answers our prayers is through people. Therefore,

When you say “no thank you” to people helping you, you may be saying, “no thank you” to God.

So many people have a hard time receiving help from others. Maybe that is you. Have you ever asked yourself why? Is it pride, not wanting to inconvenience others, feeling vulnerable…? Whatever it is, get over it. It will open floodgates of God’s provision towards you. It will also deepen your relationships and it will let other people be used by God too! (How come you get the be the only one who gives?)

Also, when you don’t receive help from others, you are blocking them from fulfilling their Christian calling:

“Bear on another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

Receive God’s help through others. You can do it. It’s a choice.

And finally, …

  1. Choosing to let the trial make you better, not bitter.

The key to doing this is to recognize that trials can make you stronger – if you let them.

James puts it this way:

“Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing.” James 1:1-4 Amp

Consider trials a joy? Yes! But how? By realizing that the more you go through – WITH GOD – the stronger you’ll become, and the stronger you become, the more you appreciate the benefits of that strength. You will actually come to the place where you have joy in trials because you begin to see them as opportunities, not obstacles. Opportunities for God to come through, and for you to grow. (Click Here to listen to, click HERE to watch the message “Obstacles or Opportunities?”)

The Bible has a lot to say about the relationship between joy and strength.

This amazing passage of Scripture says it plainly:

“What pleasure fills those who live every day in your temple, enjoying you as they worship in your presence! Pause in his presence. How enriched are they who find their strength in the Lord, within their hearts, are the highways of holiness! Even when their paths wind through the dark valley of tears, they dig deep to find a pleasant pool where others find only pain. He gives to them a brook of blessing filled from the rain of an outpouring. They grow stronger and stronger with every step forward, and the God of all gods will appear before them in Zion.” Psalm 84 TPT

Did you catch that last sentence? When you “find your strength in the Lord” you will “grow stronger and stronger”.

The way to not lose your strength is to not lose your joy – and that’s choice!

One of our youth pastors, Rachel, shared this verse with the leadership team last week as we were discussing how to maintain joy in trials. What a Scripture!

 “Everything seems to go wrong when you feel weak and depressed. But when you choose to be cheerful, every day will bring you more and more joy and fullness.” Proverbs 15:15 TPT

Though I contribute much of what I am able to carry – with joy – to the prayers, love, and practical support from our amazing church, family, and friends, I can’t help but recognize that it is also because of the strength God has built into me through past trials. One of the reasons I can say this with confidence is because we’ve gone through this before, and I didn’t feel like I do now. And we had the same amount of wonderful support last time as we do this time. But there is a difference. I am stronger.

You can be too!

Grow stronger through trials. It’s a choice.

John

For those of you who would like to keep updated on how Hope is doing, you can visit her blog at https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/hopeettore

For those of you who would like to know how to help Hope, or anyone going through a difficult trial, you can go to https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/hopeettore and check out her October 3rd post “How Can I Help?”