How to trust God when going through difficult times

I’d like to share with you some reflections from Andrea Mayes, an amazing woman in my church who has had to deal with a great number of difficulties. Andrea wrote these words several years ago and still holds true to them today despite the continuation of difficult family circumstances.
“Recently I have had tests and challenges come at me from all sides.  They have included 2 ½ months of morning sickness; Stephen, Lucy and I being sick with various illnesses; a very busy time at work; Stephen looking for work; and mountains of dirty dishes and clothes to face each weekend.  I would normally consider all these things happening at once to be a curse, not a blessing.  But I want to show you how the bible has helped me to think differently about these tests and challenges.
When I am having a difficult time, the first question I ask is “Why me?”
In 1 Corinthians chapter 10 verse 13 it states:

“Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people.  But God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm: at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out.”

This verse tells me that other people also experience the problems that I am going through.  The answer to my question of “Why me?” is “Why not?”  There is nowhere in the bible where Jesus promises his followers that he will spare them the discomforts of this world.  In fact in his prayer in John chapter 17, verse 15 he says

“I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but I do ask you to keep them safe from the Evil One”.

1 Corinthians chapter 10 verse 13 also says two other things to me.  It says that God is in control – he will not allow me to be tested beyond my power to remain firm.  It also says that God will give me the strength to endure it.  This is good news.  I have found that the worst thing for me to think during difficult times is “I can’t cope” because I then feel helpless.  This bible verse challenges that type of thinking, and no matter how difficult things get, I can tell myself “I will cope; I can get through this time.”
If I based my whole idea of how to go through difficult times on 1 Corinthians chapter 10 verse 13, I could take an attitude of “God has given me this test, so let’s try to get through it quickly so I can get back to normal”.

However, I find that James chapter 1 verses 2 to 4 shows me a completely different attitude that I should be adopting.  I want to read you the version in the Message:
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.  You know that under pressure your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colours.  So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely.  Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”
This verse showed me that my attitude had to change.  My natural instinct is to think of difficulties as a curse to be avoided.  The phrase “Don’t try to get out of anything prematurely” has really made a big impact on how I think about the whole process of difficulties.  It has helped me understand that God wants me to use every difficulty I go through to develop my faith.
I would be the first to admit that I need to become more spiritually mature; however, I found that I didn’t really know how to develop my faith when going through difficulties.  So, I want to share some of the things I have discovered on how to develop faith and trust God in difficult times.
I have found that learning to trust God has been a three step process.  The first step was finding passages in the bible that help me trust God.  The second step was changing my thinking so that it is consistent with the passage in the bible.  The third step was changing my actions so that they are consistent with my new way of thinking.
Let me give you an example.  One of the passages in the bible that I I have used to help me trust God is Proverbs Chapter 3 verse 5, which says

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart.  Never rely on what you think you know”.

The second step was working out how my thinking needed to change to be consistent with this verse.  When I think about my difficulties, I often think they are dreadful and I don’t understand why I should be going through them.  But this verse tells me not to rely on what I think I know.  Let me tell you a story that helped me in this area:
There once was a farmer who had one son and they were working together to bring in the harvest.  One day the son fell off the tractor and broke his arm and couldn’t help any more.  The farmer thought this was very bad luck.  A week later an army recruitment officer came through and the farmers son was not taken away to fight because he had a broken arm.  The farmer thought this was very good luck.
So was it good or bad that the son’s arm was broken?  It depends partially on what happens in the future.
This simple story illustrates that often, like the farmer, we think we know whether something is good or bad, but our opinion might change with hindsight.  Only God knows what will happen in the future and he promises in Romans chapter 8 verse 28:

“We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose.”

 This is why we can trust in the Lord with all of our hearts.
After I have thought about all this, I find my thoughts about the difficult times I am facing have changed.  I think things like “God knows what he is doing and his plans for me are good”.  I also think “I don’t understand why I am facing these difficult times but that is OK because I don’t have to understand.  After all, God is my heavenly father, I need to trust him like a child trusts their father”.  I find this thought is good for encouraging humility!
The third step after changing my thoughts was changing my actions.  One action that I found I needed to change was complaining to other people about the difficult times.  Instead, when I acknowledge to other people the challenges I am facing, I need to acknowledge the goodness of God in giving the strength and resources needed to endure the difficulty and grow in my faith.  For example, many people at work asked me how I was and for two and a half months, I honestly said that “I was feeling dreadful because of morning sickness”.  However, I also usually added something like “It is nice to know that based on my previous pregnancy, the morning sickness probably won’t last longer than a couple more weeks and I will have a beautiful baby at the end of the pregnancy.”
Another action I found that I needed to change to show that I am trust God was to stop worrying about the situation.  I did this by saying to myself “God has this situation in hand” and then I think about other things.  It says in Philippians chapter 4, verse 8:
“fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise; things that are true, noble, pure, lovely and honourable.”
I think about God’s character, I think about how much he loves me, that he sent Jesus to die on the cross for my sins, so that I could be put right with God.  I think about times when God has answered prayer, particularly my prayers during other difficult times for the strength to get through each day.  As I think on these things I discover that sometimes it is in difficult times when God has been closest to me, and demonstrated his power, although I often didn’t know it at the time.
So how can we trust God when going through difficult times?  I suggest you find some bible verses that you think will help you trust God and decide to accept them and apply them to your life.  The ones on the outline could be a starting point for you.  I then suggest you take some time to work out what you are thinking, and whether it is consistent with the content of the bible verses.  If it isn’t then you may need to change your thoughts.  I then suggest you look at your actions and see whether they are consistent with your thinking and with the bible verses, if not you may need to make some adjustments.
If you are not going through a difficult time at the moment, you can use the same process to apply what you read in the bible to any area of your life.
I found that it is not easy to change how I think and act, but with the power of the Holy Spirit, I believe we can all make these types of changes and trust God when going through difficult times.

“Heavenly Father, thank you for the tests and challenges you give us.  Thank you for giving us the strength to endure them and the opportunity to grow in spiritual maturity.  Please help us learn to trust you when we go through difficult times.  We ask this in Jesus name. Amen.”