Crying Out to God
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
God repeatedly uses difficult circumstances in the lives of His people to help them grow. Think of how Jacob’s son, Joseph, grew through his suffering. How about Moses, Job, and Paul? And don't forget the Israelites as they journeyed to the Promised Land. Of course, the Bible is filled with difficult circumstances, as is the world around us. However, God can use our difficult circumstances to help us grow.
2005 was a difficult year for me. My mother had severe health problems, and we were afraid she would die. My daughter had major surgery to her ear. I was unemployed much of the year. I spent a lot of the year scared, but I also spent it crying out to God.
What were the results of this for me? My faith grew in new ways, and I became a better and more humble man. God taught me that my life isn’t about my comfort, or about how I think things should work out. I prayed for my mother. I prayed for my daughter. I prayed about my job situation. But through the praying I also submitted my own will to God’s plan and told Him that my only desire was to bring glory to His name through my life. If we allow them to, difficult circumstances can refine us into a deeper relationship with God and help us to become more and more Christ-like.
So what are we to do during good times? How do we avoid becoming complacent? For me, this is where the discipline of fasting comes in. Every year I fast for lent. Why? Because it is an opportunity to deny myself, to create a difficult circumstance that disciplines me and helps me be more dedicated to God.
Consider Jesus’ fast in Matthew 4. He had just been baptized, and the Spirit led him into the wilderness for a forty-day fast. Apparently, even Jesus needed the discipline of fasting. In this case, he was taken down to his core and then tempted. The devil wanted Jesus to use His status as God’s son for His own human glory. After Jesus endured the fast and withstood the temptation, He was ready to move into his public ministry.
We often run from difficult circumstances as quickly as we can when we should be facing them. Sometimes even embracing them. Consider the disciples in Acts 5. They were flogged for proclaiming Jesus, and after they were released, verse 41 says, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”
When we face difficult circumstances—whether the struggles of our personal life, righteous suffering for our faith in God, or the discipline of fasting—God is with us. We can learn to depend on Him even in the midst of our struggles. Perhaps especially then.