The bills kept coming even when the money ran out. The cupboards were sparse but the hunger was ever-present. The walls were so thin frost covered them like paint. The baby was hospitalized again, this time with an undetermined illness. The deadline could not be met due to a blizzard so the homeowner refused to pay for 3 months of prior construction work. The car needed work. Again.
Unfortunately, the above happened to my husband and I not long after giving our life to Christ. The troubles just kept coming. I was confused and a little bit ashamed. After all, why did these things continue to happen to us? Didn’t God realize we were living our life for him now? Did we fail Him somehow? Were we still not good enough? Our new Christian friends said there must be sin in our life we refused to deal with. Our non-Christian friends were sure the whole living-for-Christ-thing was a joke because these things kept happening.
We read the Bible, we studied, we prayed, we spoke our beliefs. Yet problems continued to pile up on our young shoulders. Although we never missed church we did not have a godly support system or enough knowledge of the Word to help us understand what was happening. What we did have was each other, our faith in God, and our determination that things would be better with Christ than without him.
It was a hard, lonely lesson to learn, especially with three littles underfoot. Looking back, we can see how God began to mold us and change our situation but he was changing us from the inside out too. Those early days were hard but something I would never change. We learned to turn to God and not others to meet our needs.
The Church And New Christians
Over the years we have observed that far too many churches are doing a rather poor job of teaching new Christians what it means to live their life for Christ. Unfortunately, when someone gets saved, they are presented with a new way of thinking that is totally contrary to what they have spent years learning. It’s impossible to flip that mental switch overnight and on our own. However, some Christians allude to Christianity as a golden ticket to a problem-free life. That would be fantastic but so untrue.
I’m not sure why we do this to baby Christians. Just as it’s a process for our newborns to learn to understand what we are saying and what we expect of them, it is the same with baby Christians. Maybe maturing Christians don’t want to scare us off, maybe they aren’t ready to answer any of our hard questions, maybe they don’t even realize the image they are putting out there. Whatever their reason, its harmful to new Christians.
Trouble Will Come
I believe most new Christians are sincere and do their best to live their life for Christ. They want to “follow the rules”, they want to make Christ a priority, they want to do all that is asked of them. But when they are led to believe that their life will suddenly be rainbows and pots of gold they are blindsided. Because trouble WILL come just as it did before they were saved. It happened to the apostles and it happens to us.
“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed. We are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)
It rains down on the just and unjust alike (Matthew 5:45) so giving your life to Christ does not make you immune. The difference is when you give your life to Christ you are given Holy Spirit as your comforter, helper, and teacher. He is with us always. We do not fight life’s battles alone even when we are physically alone. An unsaved person does not have that comfort. But as God’s child, there is nowhere you can go, nothing you can do that God has not gone before you and prepared the way. Of course, that means God has to prepare you to take you through the storms.
When troubles come we tend to get so caught up in the rush and frenzy to get the situation back to our comfort level that we sometimes skip our time with God. If during this trial we take the time to read our Bibles it’s with one eye on the words and one eye on the clock as we speed read so we can check Bible reading off our “Good-Christian-To-Do-list”.
Slow it Down And Breathe
It is during turbulent times that I find if I force myself to slow down, spend time with God, and read God’s Word he will reveal to me his truth that inevitably soothes my tattered soul. This has the added benefits of slowing down my thoughts and clearing my mind.
Because you are a newer Christian, I want to share with you how I do this. It might seem like a waste of time when you have so many other things going on but trust me, God notices and it is NEVER a waste of time.The following is one of my personal Bible studies from when I was in the midst of turmoil that felt unending. It felt like every area of my life was in an uproar. I wanted some words to soothe and make it better. God did just that for me with this study as well as a few related studies. I pray that it will bless you as it blessed me.
So let’s look at this a few words at a time starting with James 1:2-4.
“Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.” (James 1:2-4)
“Dear brothers and sisters,”
“Dear brothers and sisters” means everybody. Nobody is excluded or exceptions made. Everybody means everybody.
“Whenever” means when it happens. It’s clearing not saying if but when.
“trouble comes your way”.
Trouble is any difficulty or problem that causes distress. What is troublesome to me might not be more than a minor inconvenience to you. When trouble hits, it usually takes us by surprise. It’s not usually something we anticipate and can plan for. I think of “whenever trouble comes your way” like the fiery darts Satan aims your way. They won’t all hit but many do.
“let it be an opportunity for joy.”
“Let it be”…so you have a choice. It doesn’t say “it could be,” it says “let it be”. An opportunity is a set of circumstances that make it possible to do something. The definition of joy is a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. So putting it together, allow the situation to produce happiness. It’s often said you are only as happy as you make up your mind to be. I think this verse agrees. Besides, joy is a fruit of the Spirit which we are to actively strive to grow.
“For when your faith is tested,”
Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Again, when, not if your faith is tested. Being tested is a sure thing according to the Bible. It’s not punishment, it’s a test. There is a big difference and it should dictate how we handle ourselves. Keep in mind, God is merciful. He will grow you with little tests so that you are ready for your bigger tests. You might not have the confidence to think you are ready but God wants you to turn and rely on him, not yourself (that’s part of the test actually).
“your endurance has a chance to grow.”
What is endurance? The same as patience. The actual definition is to tolerate a situation without giving way. Your faith has to be tested for your endurance to grow. But notice it says your endurance has a chance to grow. So depending on how you handle your test, you can stunt your own growth and set yourself up to be retested.
“So let it grow,”
Growth is a process that you are again told to “let it grow.” Another reminder that it is our choice how we handle things. God will not force it upon you but he will gently encourage you along.
“for when your endurance is fully developed,”
This is reminding you again of the natural progression…trouble comes…I choose how to deal with it…if handled biblically, God brings me through…my endurance has grown. It says “fully developed” so God isn’t going to let you do halfsies. He gives us all of himself and he wants to the same in return.
“You will be strong in character”
That’s God’s promise to you right there. Have you ever dealt with someone who lacked character? Since they can’t seem to deal with anything it’s not pleasant a pleasant experience. God doesn’t desire that for you. He wants you to be strong in godly character.
“and ready for anything.”
This is the rest of your promise. You can be ready for anything because God has prepared you, he stands by your side, and he wants the best for you. So since we will be ready for anything and trouble will come, I might as well change my attitude and get happy. There are enough sour Christians around. Why add to their numbers?
Our God is Bigger Than Our Troubles
We don’t need to dread or fear trouble. It will come and it will go. We will come out the other side with Jesus walking by our side. Never forget that you are a child of God. You are surrounded by his love. If God will split the sea so his people can walk right through he will do no less for you, his child. God is bigger than any problem thrown your way no matter what the world wants you to think. As God’s children, we’ve been liberated from the bondage of fear. God will give you a new song to sing and it won’t be “woe is me” but “Abba Father, thank you for making me an overcomer!”