When your spouse says, “I’m done. I want a divorce.” . . .
When your best friend says, “You suck! What did I ever see in you?” . . .
When your finances or your health are failing . . .
When your plans and dreams are crushed . . .
When you stand at the graveside of a parent, a child, or a grandchild . . .
When a pastor or leader lets you down . . .
How do you hold on?
Recently, I have been wrestling through the loss of a member of my staff. For over five years he was a gifted and trusted member of my team. I have watched him grow and develop into a gifted pastor. His work and service has been exceptional.
What’s more, I love him. His departure has been heart-wrenching for many others and me.
Though his resignation was a mutual decision, the circumstances surrounding it break my heart. He did not commit adultery or any financial impropriety, but he broke my trust through a serious failure in an area of vital importance. And without trust, it’s very difficult to serve together.
I hold no animosity in my heart toward him. I have forgiven him. We will work toward reconciliation, but I cannot just look the other way on this one under the guise of grace.
Grace includes corrective action. Grace means that sometimes God’s “unmerited favor” is seen in His uncompromising discipline. “The Lord disciplines the ones he loves…” (Hebrews 12:6).
My friend is struggling. I am struggling. The people in the area of ministry he has led for so long are struggling.
So how do we hold on?
At the risk of sounding trite or just slapping a “Jesus-sticker” on a very difficult situation, let me tell you what I’ve learned about holding on even when it’s hard.
- We choose where we focus. We can focus on the problem. We can focus on a person. We can choose to get lost in our anger and frustration, or we can choose to fix our eyes and heart on Him. We must decide that no matter what, we will “fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith (who) for the joy set before him he endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2).
- We guard our hearts. In tough situations it’s easy (way too easy) to become embittered and vile. It’s okay to be hurt. It’s even okay to be angry. But we must “not sin in our anger and not let the sun go down while we’re still angry” (Ephesians 4:26). We can become bitter or better. Again, the choice is ours.
- We find something (anything) to be thankful for in the midst of our pain. The power of thankfulness cannot be understated here. There is something amazing that happens to our souls when we decide to give thanks to God even when everything in us is screaming out in pain. The apostle Paul suffered a great deal of struggle, and yet he wrote, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances…” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
I have lost sleep over what I’m going through right now. I have wept a river of tears. I have been falsely accused and attacked with a vileness and ugliness that is both surprising and disappointing.
But this I do . . . I am clinging to the One who has never let me down, I am continually examining my own heart, and I am offering a sacrifice of praise to Jesus in the midst of my angst.
And as I do, I am finding my rest and peace in Him.
Where are you struggling? Where have you been hurt? Where has your heart been broken? May I gently encourage you to press on as you hold on? God will never let you down.