Have you ever found yourself straying away from God because of life’s challenges? Or better yet, have you ever caught yourself talking to God in anger due to the troubles of life? Best believe I have! One thing we all face in life is challenges. Life is not perfect and life can’t be perfect. I can marginally describe life with fancy adjectives but at the end of the day, it is what it really is: life. I can get creative and transform the word “life” into an acronym just to project my thoughts and views during different seasons of this journey: L.I.F.E – Living In Faith/Fear Every time. At the end of the day, your spectacle of life might not be vaguely different from mine: we come into this world as innocent babies, we grow, we learn, we go through challenges, we go through difficulties, we overcome, and then we die. Some do not even get to overcome the challenges and difficulties of life, they simply die. No man can boast of living without facing the afflictions of life. It is just life.
While I was thinking of our world yesterday, my faith was challenged and I began to doubt. I started asking myself these questions: “God, are you real?”, “If you are real and all love then why can’t you show love to kids suffering from slavery?”, “Why do you allow hundreds of people to die in the name of a virus?”, “If you are all powerful, why can’t you turn our afflictions around?”, “If you are indeed a just God, then why don’t you end the injustice of this world?”. To be honest, I went on a rant with these questions and I felt my spirit drown in sadness. Growing up in the Christian community, asking these questions and doubting God is frowned upon, but if we will throw away the politics of religion and allow ourselves to be human as Jesus was when he shed tears or better yet, when He said, “…Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done…”, then we will all admit to sometimes wanting to give up; we will all admit to the tendency of sometimes questioning the existence of God. We will all admit to what we truly and really are: humans.
Let’s face it, it is tough to love God in difficult times. Yes, I can easily preach to you and encourage you that “everything is going to be alright”. I can quote scriptures and do a Joel Osteen impersonation and motivate you every single day of your life. I can passionately motivate you like a football coach would motivate his players to overcome every single obstacle just to win the Championship game – all these are good and needed, but I will not be doing you any favor if I do not, first and foremost, humbly accept what is true and what is real: it is tough to love God in difficult times. I will also not be helping you if I do not lead you to Christ. My stories may motivate you, but trust me, you are unique you also have testimonies on your lips to be shared with the rest of the world. These stories are testimonies resulting from my level of faith and grace pertaining to my relationship with God, the cornerstone of my faith. Before I go any further, allow me to share with you what God spoke to my heart.
I was a little heartbroken when I left the office yesterday, mainly because I was so focused on the injustice of this world. The system is created for a few to benefit and a lot to fail. The system supports racism and other facets of injustice. The system neglects the poor and needy, shuns people with morals while praising those who will be willing make a fool of themselves on TV for better rating, which turns into advertising and which ultimately leads to more revenue for the “select” few. To be honest, I was more frustrated, hurt and broken. As I was driving to Chick-fil-A, I started to talk to God: “Are you even there?”, “Are you enjoying this?”, “Are you not just?”, “Are you going to ignore me just like you have ignored the cries of people suffering?”. At this point, I stopped under a red light, and proceeded to mull over my decision to accept an invite to preach to a congregation around Christmas. I had lost hope. Yes, I knew God existed and knew that the existence of evil does not negate the existence of God, but as human as I am, the struggle and injustice of this world overshadowed my faith – which can be a tricky and a dangerous situation for a Christian to be in – I needed God more than ever! As I grabbed my phone to decline the invite to preach, I decided to ask God a final question: “why do you make it so difficult to love you…especially in times like this?”. Immediately after I said this, I felt a response in my heart: “No one said it was going to be easy. My son suffered and died for you when it was not popular to do so. He made a decision to love you and as a sign of his love, He suffered and ultimately sacrificed Himself on the cross. Do not forget that it was not easy for Him, because He asked that if I were willing, then I should take the cup of suffering from Him, but He ultimately left it to my will. The true act of love is not always evident when things are rosey, but when things hit rock bottom, when we feel defeated, when we are weak, when we feel disappointed and when we are down and out. My son showed love on the cross to you when it was tough to do so, but it is your choice to love Him in difficult times, especially when you are down and out and nothing compels you to do so. I never stopped loving you and won’t just like I won’t stop loving the same world my son came to die for”. This statement in my heart left me speechless for a moment and I quickly accepted the invite to preach irrespective of everything going on around me.
Our faith is often nurtured when we love “in spite of” instead of always looking to love “because of”. Let me elaborate: we tend to love others based on what they do for us and especially when things are perfect, but our love is tested when things are not going as planned. Does this automatically negate the fact that it is tough to love God in difficult times? Definitely not, but as people of faith, we should always choose to love God during the darkest times of our lives. We should not be fair weather lovers of God, but ALL weather lovers. It was not easy for Abraham to obey God out of love in an attempt to sacrifice his son, neither was it easy for Job to restrain his lips from cursing God when he lost all he had. It times of trouble, let us continue to exemplify our love with actions and as usual, we will always overcome.
The interesting thing is that, God knows. He knows what you are going through. Is it His will that we suffer? Definitely not, but is it His will that we endure through Faith, Grace and Love. God’s purpose of free will is to make unique humans who will choose to love Him unconditionally, but we sometimes forget that free will also comes with the opportunity to make mistakes and bad decisions. These decisions/mistakes have consequences and through the Mercies of God, we are forgiven while His Grace gives us the strength to get through any repercussions which will result from our horrible decisions. Some people are going to be wicked instead loving, some are going to be unjust instead of just, and some will ultimately choose to destroy instead of build – this is life and it is their choice.
In 2013, I got in a terrible car accident. A certain individual chose to drink and drive and his decision ultimately led to his death and my car being totaled. Did God kill him? I doubt it – he exercised his free will by choosing to drink and drive. Did his choice affect another individual? You bet – his choice forced me to miss some time from work, affected me emotionally and physically but through the Grace of God, I am alive and well. This testimony is to show that, you and I are going to be affected by the horrible decisions we make and the horrible decisions make, but we should understand that God can turn situations around through His love and He can grant us the Grace to get through it.
Should I think God does not exist because I got in a car accident? Should I think His love is not real because of the countless of challenges I have faced over the past few years? No, but rather, I should continue to love Him in spite of the horrible world we live in and also avail myself to be an extension of this love towards the world we live in. Yes, it will be difficult, but we Grace and Faith in Christ.
You will go through many trials and tribulations, but do not forget to look at the cross. The cross should remind you of a certain man who in the midst of difficult times, chose to love. That love saved us all and when we exemplify that kind of love in the midst of our difficulties, we shall be saved. It won’t be easy, but is it worth it? You bet!
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