“And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44).
DEVOTION TO GOD DURING TIMES OF DIFFICULTY PRESENTS SOME SPECIAL CHALLENGES. There is, of course, a sense in which it’s easier to seek God when we’re beset with problems. (Indeed, times of crisis are the only times that some people seek Him.) But in another sense, it’s harder to love God with any warmth of affection when our circumstances are such that He seems far away. What should we do about our devotional life when we’re passing through some ordeal of suffering or emotional barrenness?
As much as possible, we should hold on to our regular daily times of devotion. Doing this is not easy, as we all know, but it’s important to try. Difficulty, especially tragedy, almost always involves a disruption of our regular daily schedule. But if, for example, we normally devote ourselves to a few moments of prayer at the beginning of each day, it’s important to try to maintain that habit even on the hard days. When crisis makes an appearance in our lives, if we can hold on to any semblance of our usual devotional discipline, it helps us to meet our challenges in a stronger way.
We should not forget to be grateful. Simply because we, at a given moment, may be experiencing something of the bitterness of life, that does not mean God is not still on His throne, ruling with benevolence and grace. Even on our darkest day, there is still much more to be thankful for than there is to regret. During painful times, it’s especially important to try to maintain our perspective and recognize that our pain is not the whole truth about life in the world (or even our own personal life). We need to give thanks to God every day, and not just on the pleasant days.
We should persevere. The fact of the matter is, God is never far away from us. Not really. It’s just that we feel like that at certain times. At those times, we must make up our minds to maintain our faith and obedience, knowing that seasons of spiritual dryness and desolation are only temporary. In time, the feelings we want to have about God will return. Meanwhile, God is still God! Even when our feelings waver, our love for Him must not.
“Love is . . . devoted and thankful to God, trusting and hoping in him even when not enjoying his sweetness; for none can live in love without suffering” (Thomas à Kempis).