"Friends, when life gets really difficult, don't jump to the conclusion that God isn't on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner." - 1 Peter 4: 12-13.
I think one of the most troubling aspects of life in our consumer-oriented secular world, where we face seemingly insurmountable odds on a nearly daily basis, is the notion that we should just let God be God and trust that God knows what God is doing. We have a natural instinct of survival and think that we can solve our problems alone. It would be nice if we realized that we are not alone, that we aren't the only ones plunged into hard times, that there are struggles going on in the lives of almost everyone around us. But, what would be even better would be if we realized that there is a way of out, a source of comfort and relief, a way to free ourselves from the burdens weighing down on our lives. There is, my friends. It is a reliance on the power of God to shoulder our deepest and most difficult situations and bring us peace.
The author of the Peter scripture offered here suggests that, like gold thrown into a fire to be further refined, we are refined through our suffering and the challenges of life. He suggests that believers cast all their anxiety upon God. He implies rather clearly, I think, that we have control of our emotions. Did you recently lose your job? Are you having difficulties making ends meet? Did you or a loved one get a medical diagnosis that frightens you? Is worry plaguing you day to day so much so that you have difficulty functioning sometimes? Are weighed down by life in general? Why should we carry around that weight of worry daily? There is a way out. Let it go to God. I know that sounds and seems so simple, but the truth of the matter is that can be that simple! God clearly asks us to cast all our cares on him; to release our need to control the situation, to just let go and let God work out his plan for our lives. We can show the ultimate in humility when we allow God to be God and surrender our worries and anxiety.
Reading scripture, meditation sessions daily, quiet times alone to think and pray, a walk in the woods or along the shores of the lake, helping others get through their trials, all these things are ways for us to let God in on our own struggles. These are choices we can make. We could wallow in self-pity or let God take control in the quiet moments. Think about your options and then make a choice that reflects your humble reliance on God. The author of the Peter scripture does not promise that you won't still face hardships, but he does make the promise that God will restore you and make you strong so that you can then continue on the journey through this life.
The Rev. Jerry Oliver is the pastor of the Mayfield United Methodist Church and the Northampton United Methodist Church.