- How do you trust God through difficult times?
- 1. Deborah: Trusting God through the demands of life
- 2. Zechariah & Elizabeth: Trusting God when a longing is unfulfilled
- 3. Isaiah: trusting God through bad news
- 4. Woman healed by Jesus: trusting God is taking risks despite the pain
- 5. Moses: trusting God when there is no way out
- 6. David: trusting God when life is not how you pictured it
- 7. Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego: trusting God no matter the outcome
- 8. Naomi and Ruth: Trusting God when you feel alone
- 9. Jacob: Trusting God when you’ve messed up
- 10. Esther: Trusting God to act even when you’re afraid
Brethren, for this reason, in [spite of all] our stress and crushing difficulties we have been filled with comfort and cheer about you [because of] your faith (the leaning of your whole personality on God in complete trust and confidence).1 Thessalonians 3:7 AMPC
Faith in God brings comfort and cheer, even in the midst of stress and crushing difficulties. Faith is what helps us trust God in difficult times.
To see difficulty the way God does, we need Bible verses for hard times that we can hold on to.
None of us are exempt from facing difficulties in life. Ecclesiastes 9:11 teaches us that “time and chance” happen to us all—in other words, everyone will, at some point or another, experience some adversity. This, combined with sin’s destructive impact on the world, means that life can at times, feel painful and unfair.
Fortunately, we have God on our side.
Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.  For we live by faith, not by sight.2 Corinthians 5:6-7 NIV
When we go through difficulties and hardships, we must examine and strengthen our faith, because it gives us the strength we need to persevere. Living “by faith, not by sight” means we can look past the challenges before us, knowing that God loves us, and is actively working to “orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful” (Romans 8:28 Voice).
How do you trust God through difficult times?
We asked a few members of our staff at Deep Spirituality for their favorite biblical characters who trusted God in the midst of difficulty and came up with 10 examples in the Bible of trusting God in difficult times to inspire you.
1. Deborah: Trusting God through the demands of life
Difficulty comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes difficulty isn’t a drastic tragedy, but the busy chaos of managing life.
With all that we want to accomplish on a weekly and daily basis we can end up worn out, disappointed, and never feeling like we’ve finished anything. My to-do list feels like it goes on forever.
Deborah was one of those amazingly talented people who seemed to be able to do it all. She was a leader, a judge, a prophetess, a wife, and a mother. And along with that, she courageously led her people into battle. Though phenomenally inspirational, her life can leave me feeling like I can’t relate. How did she do it all?
Every day we work demanding jobs and do what we can to help care for our families. We might not have the title Deborah did, but life demands a lot from us each day: settling disputes, helping people with marriages, finances, kids, and health.
Deborah’s family (the people of Israel) had its dysfunctions just like many of ours do. Hers was just bigger. We can look to her as an example for how to handle the chaos of our daily lives.
Then Deborah said to Barak, “Go! This is the day the LORD has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the LORD gone ahead of you?” So Barak went down Mount Tabor, with ten thousand men following him.  At Barak’s advance, the LORD routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera got down from his chariot and fled on foot.Judges 4:14-15 NIV
Deborah believed and trusted God in a way that can be hard for us to do. God was real and present in her life. She believed that victory was already hers through God.
If I had this strong of a belief that God’s hand was in every effort of my day, I would be a lot more content with each days’ accomplishments. I wouldn’t be so overwhelmed with the busy schedule of my life, but would believe that I can handle it because God is on my side.
There were no warriors in Israel until I, Deborah, arose, until I arose to be a mother to Israel.Judges 5:7 NCV
Deborah described herself as a “mother” to Israel. We can learn from this: Deborah cared about the people she led like a mother cares for her children. She was motivated to serve no matter what the demands were because she cared about the people. Not about the title, or accomplishments, but about caring for others.
When I get overwhelmed or worn out I want to quit, thinking about others I care about – my friends, my family, my neighborhood, helps me to keep going.
Deborah was a great example of this. She had become their mother and that relationship helped her to keep going.
Pause and reflect
- What are the areas of your life that overwhelm you the most?
- What is one thing that you could do to make God more a part of your daily life?
- Who is someone that you could reach out and help this week?
2. Zechariah & Elizabeth: Trusting God when a longing is unfulfilled
A longing unfulfilled can be disheartening. Imagine having been married for a long time, unable to have kids and living in a culture that measured God’s love for you by the number of children you have. This is the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, a couple described as “very old,” and “childless.”
They are an example of people who understood longing unfulfilled – the heartache of being denied something you long for and not knowing why.
Have you been denied something you’ve longed for a long time? Maybe it’s a lingering health situation that won’t go away, a child who rejects your influence, a character weakness you cannot overcome, or a sin that plagues you and your relationships. Zechariah and Elizabeth understand. They also understand how to remain faithful while waiting on God.
In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron.  Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly.  But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.  He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth,  He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.  And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke 1:5-7,13-14,16-17 NIV
What inspires me about Zechariah and Elizabeth is their ability to trust God in the midst of a longing unfulfilled. We know they trusted God because they continued to serve God, and God described them as righteous.
The angel showed up to Zechariah with good news while Zechariah was serving God has a priest. He could have given up on God altogether, but decided to keep serving God despite his unfulfilled longing.
How do you handle adversity? If you are like me, and you endure adversity for any length of time, it can be easy to lose faith and quickly turn to self-pity and unbelief. This leads us to quit praying and expecting God to move. The story of Zechariah and Elizabeth is about the faithfulness of God, and what it means to live by faith.
The story of Zechariah and Elizabeth is about the faithfulness of God, and what it means to live by faith.
God showed his faithfulness with Zechariah and Elizabeth by working to bless their lives even after they waited a long time.
Secondly, Zechariah and Elizabeth lived by faith with the conviction that God loved them and wanted to bless them. They had the desire to stay righteous while they waited for their longings to be fulfilled.
When we experience periods of waiting, we can have hope by remembering God’s faithfulness and choosing to live by faith ourselves.
Pause and reflect
- What are you longing for?
- Are you honest with yourself, others, and God about your longings?
- Have you quit believing God hears you and wants to bless you?
3. Isaiah: trusting God through bad news
Isaiah was chosen by God to deliver an important message to the Israelites. God set up His people for an incredible future of redemption and hope.
But before all that can happen, God gave Isaiah an intense vision that overwhelmed him. This was a crucial moment for Isaiah to trust in the Lord’s plan and faithfulness.
My stomach sinks. My gut churns with pain. As a woman in labor wrenches and writhes, I can hardly bear the news. I cannot hear because I’m bent over with agony. I cannot see because I’m deep in the fog of depression.Isaiah 21:3 Voice
One of my biggest fears is the fear of bad news. For me, bad news is usually followed by worst-case scenario thinking and suddenly being overtaken by torrents of anxiety and feelings of helplessness.
During these times, prayer can be especially difficult. My flesh finds relief in making a plan or figuring out a solution, but something I learned about going through difficulty is that it’s an opportunity to transform my prayer life.
Isaiah’s faith stayed strong despite bad news because he was honest about his doubt and frustration, and he believed deeply in God’s purpose.
Oftentimes I harden to my pain by minimizing and hiding it. I get annoyed and even offended when friends try to help me. My resistance to vulnerability makes me unsympathetic and fake. Isaiah is inspiring because he doesn’t hold back with God, he expresses his deep pain and how hard it is to hear and see Him in the midst of it all. His connection to God deepens during difficulties.
 He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, and you will bring me glory.”  I replied, “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose. Yet I leave it all in the LORD’s hand; I will trust God for my reward.” Isaiah 49:3-4 NLT
I think part of the reason Isaiah’s faith stayed strong despite bad news was because he was honest about his doubt and frustration and he believed deeply in God’s purpose. Believing that God chose me to help others know Him both challenges and inspires me. Our vulnerable prayers unlock a deeper level of intimacy with God.
Pause and reflect
- Are you honest with God about the depths of your pain? Hopelessness, confusion, anger, depression?
- Have you found yourself slipping into the dark shadows? Isolating, negative thinking, unbelief, loss of passion toward God.
- How does bad news affect your relationship with God? Do you cry out more or avoid Him?
4. Woman healed by Jesus: trusting God is taking risks despite the pain
In Mark 5, we find a scene that is prevalent throughout the gospels: a large crowd has gathered around Jesus. People from all over the region rushed to him and pressed against him. In the crowd was a woman who had been suffering from chronic bleeding for 12 years.
She had visited many doctors and had spent all she had on treatments. But instead of getting better, her condition worsened. Because of the nature of her illness, she was considered unclean according to the laws and traditions of the time. She was sick, broke, and an outcast.
Yet because of her confident faith in Jesus, she was able to ignore the pain for a moment and ultimately take the risk that changed everything.
 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak,  because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”  Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.  At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”  “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”  But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it.  Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth.  He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Mark 5:27-34 NIV
Trying something new may be the last thing on your mind, especially when you have a chronic health challenge or are in the midst of long-standing troubles. For the past few years my spouse and I have been trying to start a family. It’s been a grueling series of doctor appointments and tests that have left us feeling frustrated and forgotten.
Although the woman in this passage was unnamed, her story of faith is unforgettable and inspires me to never give up.
Although the woman in this passage was unnamed, her story of faith is unforgettable and inspires me to never give up. She took a bold risk to believe in Jesus and his power. She stepped out of the shadows, made her way through the crowd and told the whole truth so she could get closer to Jesus.
When it feels like things will never change, I’m realizing there is more to explore in my relationship with God. I get stuck wanting my own way that I miss what God is doing and the doors He is opening. Lately I’ve been seeing God create opportunities to build closeness in my marriage, make new friends and to comfort those around me. Seeing God move through my struggles has helped my faith grow.
Pause and reflect
- Does the condition of your health (physical or mental/emotional) affect your faith? How do you respond when things don’t go well?
- How has your faith been affected by a long-standing difficult situation? Be honest with yourself, God, and friends.
- What by faith can you do that might feel risky?
5. Moses: trusting God when there is no way out
Difficult times can lead us to a point where we feel like our backs are against the wall and there are very little options before us to find a way out or a solution to overcome. We are left wondering to ourselves, “How did I get myself here?” I felt that when I was hospitalized for a back injury. “I can’t move, I am in pain constantly. How did I get myself here?”
I discovered I needed to shift my thinking, and see this setback as a set-up for God to move. Moses experienced that same feeling when, after leading Israel out of Egypt, they were stuck between the Red Sea and an angry Egyptian army. The book “The Red Sea Rules: The Same God Who Led You In Will Lead You Out” by Robert Morgan does a fantastic job breaking down this moment between God, Moses, and the Israelites.
For Pharaoh will say of the Israelites, ‘They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’  I will harden (make stubborn, defiant) Pharaoh’s heart, so that he will pursue them; and I will be glorified and honored through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians shall know [without any doubt] and acknowledge that I am the LORD.” And they did so. The Egyptians chased them with all the horses and war-chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen and his army, and they overtook them as they camped by the sea, beside Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.  Then Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid! Take your stand [be firm and confident and undismayed] and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today; for those Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see again.  The LORD will fight for you while you [only need to] keep silent and remain calm.”  The LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to move forward [toward the sea].  As for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, so that the sons of Israel may go through the middle of the sea on dry land.  As for Me, hear this: I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they will go in [the sea] after them; and I will be glorified and honored through Pharaoh and all his army, and his war-chariots and his horsemen.  And the Egyptians shall know [without any doubt] and acknowledge that I am the LORD, when I am glorified and honored through Pharaoh, through his war-chariots and his charioteers.” Exodus 14:3-4,9,13-18 AMP
God guided the Israelites to the exact place he wanted them to be, right on the edge of the Red Sea. With the water at their backs, and Pharaoh and the Egyptians bearing down on them, it was only God who could provide a way it.
This experience can occur in our lives from time to time. We feel as if we are in an impossible situation, just for God to show us how powerful he is.
God is an “outside-the-box” thinker.
God is an “outside-the-box” thinker. Everyone felt backed up against a wall with no way out, but that’s because no one would have predicted that He would part the Red Sea for the Israelites to walk through on solid ground.
Difficult times will happen to us all. Though it is easy to get afraid of having nowhere to turn, these are the moments we can see God work at his best.
Pause and reflect
- Do you believe your difficult situation can be an opportunity for God to come through?
- What type of prayer do you need to have to change your mindset on difficulty, to see it as God having your right where he wants you?
- Imagine being one of the Israelites who walked through the Red Sea and saw Pharaoh’s army destroyed. What would that have done to your faith in God. How would that change your view of God?
6. David: trusting God when life is not how you pictured it
“This is not how I pictured it.”
Have you ever said this about your life? We all have a picture of how we want our life to play out. Everyone experiences periods in life that look nothing like they had imagined.
David was anointed King of Israel, was hailed a hero for conquering Goliath, led numerous successful military campaigns, became head of military operations for Israel, married the king’s daughter – he had it all going for him.
Watch: 3 Examples of Trusting God When Times Are Hard
Then suddenly, because of a jealous king, David spent the next ten or more years running from Saul, held up in a cave with a motley crew of misfits. It would be safe to say this is not how David pictured his journey toward becoming the king of Israel.
In difficult times, we may be tempted to believe that God has abandoned us or has lost vision for us. When our oldest child decided to leave God, we were devastated and disheartened.
This was not at all how we pictured our life. The temptation to believe that our dreams were shattered, our hopes destroyed and God no longer had a plan for our lives was strong.
There is no greater joy than seeing God’s destiny rise above our circumstances.
But with the encouragement of friends and prayer we had to decide whether our faith was going to be in our circumstances or in God.
Putting our faith in God meant we were not going to quit, but rather continue to learn and grow and change what we needed to change. It took ten years, but our oldest finally returned to God.
As the story of David and our experience with our oldest illustrate, God’s destiny for our lives does not change because of our circumstances. David’s destiny was fulfilled and he became king of Israel.
In fact, his difficult circumstances made him a more compassionate and humble king. There is no greater joy than seeing God’s destiny rise above our circumstances.
 So David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. Soon his brothers and all his other relatives joined him there.  Then others began coming-men who were in trouble or in debt or who were just discontented-until David was the captain of about 400 men. 1 Samuel 22:1-2 NLT
We all can find inspiration in David’s journey to fulfill his destiny. His road was not always smooth. There were many moments in David’s life that were not how he would have pictured it. But we can learn from David that our destiny was not determined by difficult moments. Our destiny is determined by God.
Though our circumstances change our destiny does not (Ephesians 1:11). Sometimes during difficult times we simply need to remember God. David embraced difficult times because he believed his future was in the hands of a God that loved him. We too need to believe that our future is in the hands of a God that loves us.
Pause and reflect
- What in your life is not how you pictured it?
- How has this influenced your belief in God’s love and faithfulness?
- Are you still praying about where you want God to take you?
7. Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego: trusting God no matter the outcome
 But there are some Jews-Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego-whom you have put in charge of the province of Babylon. They pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They refuse to serve your gods and do not worship the gold statue you have set up.”  Then Nebuchadnezzar flew into a rage and ordered that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought before him. When they were brought in,  Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you refuse to serve my gods or to worship the gold statue I have set up?  I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?”  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you.  If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. Daniel 3:12-17 NLT
At this time in history, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was influenced by those around him to set up an image of gold and require everyone in the land to bow down and worship it.
Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego respectfully declined. When the whole kingdom was following along, they stood their ground, with faith that God would take care of them no matter the result.
 But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”  Nebuchadnezzar was so furious with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face became distorted with rage. He commanded that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual.  Then he ordered some of the strongest men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace.  So they tied them up and threw them into the furnace, fully dressed in their pants, turbans, robes, and other garments.  And because the king, in his anger, had demanded such a hot fire in the furnace, the flames killed the soldiers as they threw the three men in.  But suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?” “Yes, Your Majesty, we certainly did,” they replied.  “Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!” Daniel 3:18-22,24-25 NLT
Even in their position, Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego did not feel the need to defend their decision to not comply with the king’s edict. They remained calm and confident in the face of the Kings life-threatening anger at them. They had faith that God would save them because they trusted God would take care of them.
Their faith allowed for contentment with whatever the outcome. They trusted God completely.
But the part that is most astonishing is their focus on God even if He didn’t save them from the flames. Their faith allowed for contentment with whatever the outcome. They trusted God completely.
They were not motivated by their own success or glory when they refused to bow down, but rather by the fact that God would be glorified through the result of either their sacrifice or their triumph.
Pause and reflect
- Is your faith based on the outcome of your difficult situation?
- How can you trust that, whatever happens, it is God who still loves and guides you?
- What is your motive in wanting your desired outcome?
8. Naomi and Ruth: Trusting God when you feel alone
When we go through hard times, it can be easy to feel alone. We may feel like no one understands or cares about what we are going through. When left unchecked, this doubt that God or people care can lead us to push away the very relationships that are meant to help us get through our hard times.
When I’m having a hard time, my first instinct is to isolate, doubt, and question God’s care for me. I shut down my emotions so I don’t have to feel or rely on anyone. Rather than let God and people give me the comfort and reassurance I need, I push them away by refusing to be honest, hardening my heart and acting cold in relationships.
Naomi was in a similar position. After losing both her husband and her sons, she felt completely empty and utterly alone. Though her two daughters-in-law tried to stick with her, Naomi refused to be comforted and pushed relationships away.
So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”  “Don’t call me Naomi, ” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.  I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”  So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.Ruth 1:19-22 NIV
Understandably, Naomi questioned God’s love for her and didn’t see how anyone could understand or help her through her pain. But because she didn’t take this doubt and pain to pour out her heart to God, she became bitter about the pain in her life, and was unable to see that she wasn’t alone – she had Ruth.
 At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.  “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”  But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.  Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”  When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her. Ruth 1:14-18 NIV
Even though Naomi tried to push both her daughters-in-law away, Ruth refused to be shut out. No matter how many tactics Naomi used to keep her at a distance, Ruth stood her ground. She loved and believed in her, so nothing Naomi could have done would push her away. Even when Naomi was bitter and mean, Ruth stuck by her side.
This is the kind of friend God is to us (Psalm 103:8 VOICE), and the kind of friend we should be for each other. If you’re going through a hard time, are you relying on God and friends, or are you pushing them away? If you see a friend going through a hard time, are you allowing them to push you away, or are you choosing to stick by them and love them no matter what?
The cool thing is, Ruth and Naomi’s relationship was not one-sided. Ruth stuck by Naomi when she felt bitter and alone, but then Naomi decided to help Ruth too:
One day Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi said to her, “My daughter, I must find a home for you, where you will be well provided for.”Ruth 3:1 NIV
If you go back and read the rest of the book of Ruth, you’ll see a very inspiring end to Ruth and Naomi’s story. God moved through their loyal friendship to help them find healing, hope, and an incredible future.
When we feel alone, what often helps us not slip into bitterness is to see the purpose we have in other people’s lives. It doesn’t take away the pain or difficulty of what we’re going through, but it can help us both see and be light in the midst of darkness.
Pause and reflect
- Do you see any ways you push away relationships in your life?
- How is God trying to be a friend to you? Who has he put in your life to comfort and stick with you?
- Whose life are you meant to impact in the midst of difficulty?
9. Jacob: Trusting God when you’ve messed up
If you ever want to feel better about your own flaws and mistakes, read the story of Jacob. He is a perfect example of someone in the Bible who kept messing up, causing conflict, and acting selfishly. But despite his many flaws, God still chose him for something special.
When he was young, Jacob had a relationship with his brother Esau that was complicated at best. He stole Esau’s birthright (Genesis 25:27-32 NLT) and deceived their father into giving him the blessing that was meant for Esau (Genesis 27:14-27,30-38,41 NLT). After being away from home for years, Jacob finally headed back in Genesis 32. Once he heard his brother Esau was coming to meet him, he got afraid. Though Jacob had grown and matured in a lot of ways over the years, he was now forced to face the consequences of his sins.
Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my grandfather Abraham, and God of my father, Isaac— O LORD, you told me, ‘Return to your own land and to your relatives.’ And you promised me, ‘I will treat you kindly.’  I am not worthy of all the unfailing love and faithfulness you have shown to me, your servant. When I left home and crossed the Jordan River, I owned nothing except a walking stick. Now my household fills two large camps!  O LORD, please rescue me from the hand of my brother, Esau. I am afraid that he is coming to attack me, along with my wives and children.  But you promised me, ‘I will surely treat you kindly, and I will multiply your descendants until they become as numerous as the sands along the seashore— too many to count.’”Genesis 32:9-12 NLT
Throughout his life, Jacob was used to dealing with his problems by running away from them. But now he had a choice to make. Would he continue running, or trust that God would pull through for him despite his many mistakes? He chose to turn to God, but this decision wasn’t an easy one. It took fighting and literally wrestling with God to submit to and trust him:
During the night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two servant wives, and his eleven sons and crossed the Jabbok River with them.  After taking them to the other side, he sent over all his possessions.  This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break.  When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket.  Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”  “What is your name?” the man asked. He replied, “Jacob.”  “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.”  “Please tell me your name,” Jacob said. “Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there.  Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.”Genesis 32:22-30 NLT
Pause and reflect
- How do you respond when faced with the consequences of your mistakes?
- Do you run, get defensive, shut down, or do you take your feelings to God?
God doesn’t want us to be held back by our past, and wants to help us be able to move forward. He’s willing to help us work through our pain and defenses to transform us into someone new.
If you keep reading his story, Jacob ends up reconciling with his brother after wrestling with God. Our relationships can completely change for the better when we are willing to trust God with our mistakes and sins.
10. Esther: Trusting God to act even when you’re afraid
Have you ever been in a position where you had the opportunity or responsibility to act, but were too afraid? Maybe it was expressing what you felt, speaking up for a friend, or even speaking up to a friend. In these moments, our fear of failure, rejection, and humiliation are very real, and so is the dilemma of choosing to either face that fear or freeze up or run away.
Someone in the Bible who understands this dilemma is Esther. As a new young queen, I’m sure Esther felt a little out of her element. During a time when her people were in exile, Esther had every reason to keep her Jewish heritage a secret and just try to get by. She wasn’t some great leader who wanted to make huge changes in the world. She was just a young girl who was trying to survive.
But then she was faced with a dilemma. Haman, Xerxes’ right-hand man, had it out for the Jews, and convinced the king to send out a verdict to kill them on a certain date (Esther 3:12-13).
Esther’s cousin and adopted father, Mordecai, asked her to stand up for her people. This was her response:
How am I supposed to see the king? It’s known throughout the land, from the greatest of the king’s officials to the common folk who live in the provinces, that any person who approaches the king in the inner chamber without being invited is sentenced to death. That’s the law! There’s only one exception, and that’s if the king were to hold out the gold scepter to that person and spare his or her life. It’s been 30 days since the king last summoned me!Esther 4:11 Voice
When given the opportunity to step up and lead, Esther said, “No way!”
How do you respond when given the chance to step up? Do you freeze up, run away, blame others? Maybe you come up with a lot of reasons or excuses for why you shouldn’t be the one to act. The excuse Esther gave was valid – she could die! But Mordecai wanted to help her see that the impact she was capable of having was greater than the risk.
“If you stay silent during this time, deliverance for the Jews will come from somewhere, but you, my child, and all of your father’s family will die. And who knows? Perhaps you have been made queen for such a time as this.”Esther 4:14 Voice
Mordecai believed in Esther even when she didn’t believe in herself. He helped her see the purpose and vision God had for her, challenging her to take that leap of faith. This motivated her to take action.
“In preparation for my audience with the king, do this: gather together all the Jews in Susa, and fast and pray for me. Intercede for me. For three days and nights, abstain from all food and drink. My maids and I will join you in this time. And after the three days, I will go in to the king and plead my people’s case, even though it means breaking the law. And if I die, then I die!”Esther 4:16 Voice
Esther didn’t stop being afraid. Instead, she chose to act despite her fear, and rallied her friends and family around her to pray for her as she spoke to the king. If you keep reading her story, you’ll see that Esther does in fact speak to the king and saves her people. Even though she kept being afraid, she pushed through anyway because her faith in the purpose for which God chose her was greater than her fear.
Pause and reflect
- What fears hold you back from taking action?
- What vision has God put on your heart?
- How can you be courageous like Esther?
- Paul – 2 Corinthians 11:21-33 NASB
- Job – Job 13:13-28 NASB
- Hannah – 1 Samuel 1:3-7 NLT, 1 Samuel 1:9-18 NLT