Facing a difficult situation?
Updated: Oct 22, 2021
Description: Endless advice tells us how to face difficult situations, but God is rarely mentioned. In tough times, it’s helpful to know how Jesus coped.
Be comforted. Facing difficulties is something we all share. The biggest difference is how we do the facing.
There’s endless advice in just about every media telling us how to face difficult situations. Some of this advice is doubtlessly top-notch. It affirms our value as individuals, tells us how to be assertive, gives handy tips, and so on. Too often though, there’s one glaring omission. God isn’t mentioned.
Jesus had to face life and death difficulties
Jesus himself was no stranger to difficult situations. One of the most difficult came in Gethsemane shortly before Judas arrived to betray him. He said, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death’ (Matthew 26.38). Luke 22.44 adds, ‘his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.’ He knew he was facing a truly terrifying situation. Yet he didn’t run away or give in to fear. He prayed.
Crucially, Jesus wasn’t praying just because he was facing an extreme situation. We need only check the number of times the Bible tells us that he went off by himself to pray. Prayer was his powerhouse. It nourished his relationship with his Father and attested to his Father’s will. A sure example and definite clue for us.
The disciples act differently
The disciples' behaviour in Gethsemane contrasts sharply. For some time, Jesus had been preparing them for events that were about to unfold. The Gospels say that he’d told them several times that he was going to suffer and be killed. On this night – when darkness was about to reign – the disciples were ‘exhausted from sorrow’ (Luke 22.45). They fell asleep despite Jesus alerting them to the need to pray for the courage to withstand temptation.
The consequences became clear. When the hour came for Jesus to face his ultimate trial, intense prayer had given him comfort and the fortitude needed to complete his vital mission. The disciples hadn’t stayed awake. They hadn’t prayed. When their trial came, they fled in fear.
What about us?
Few of us will ever be called upon to face anything like the situation Jesus faced, however traumatic our current difficulties may seem. But it’s no use pretending: terrible things continue to happen, day in, day out. When Moses was speaking to his people as they were about to enter the Promised Land, he said of the Lord, ‘He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword’ (Deuteronomy 33.29). This may have a hollow ring given the ordeals that life throws at us, so it might be helpful to explore Moses’ words a little deeper.
Jesus himself wasn’t shielded from crucifixion in the sense that the cross and all his troubles vanished. But he was shielded nonetheless. Prayer provided that shield. Through prayer, he was able to share his deep anguish. Through prayer, he could feel the reassurance of God’s presence. He knew without an atom of doubt that God was with him. His unshakeable relationship with his Father gave him the support, encouragement and comfort he needed.
It can be the same for us. We can be shielded from feeling alone, unguided, vulnerable, worried, and be filled with confidence that – no matter the situation – God is in control; that his will, will be done. Importantly, Jesus nourished his relationship with his Father all the time. He didn’t neglect prayer until faced with a crisis – and neither should we. However, this is definitely not to say that God wouldn’t welcome cries for help from people who have rarely, if ever, prayed. We have only to think of Jesus’ parables about wandering sheep and the temporarily lost second son. The key point is that, by praying, we’ll increasingly understand that God wants to be our shield; that he will help; that he will slice through our difficulties.
But what if we still feel helpless; feel that nothing’s happening? What if we fear that God isn’t listening? Perhaps we should remember that even in utter distress, Jesus saw the bigger picture and was obedient. He trusted that his Father’s actions would be for the best. If we have doubts, maybe we should look back and remind ourselves of the countless ways in which God has been gracious to us in the past.
One last thought
Our power is limited, God’s isn’t. He can do anything. What we can’t see, he can. His sights are always set on our best interests – not necessarily on what we want or expect. This means that he can make a way where there is no way. Sometimes all it takes is the humility to ask for help and the faith to trust in God.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.