How to Love God in the Midst of Our Challenges
In this guest post, Agshin shares an important and timely message that I am sure you’ll find helpful.
Loving God During Our Challenges
Think about the following scenario…
Say you are driving to work. On the way you hit a traffic jam, and spend twenty minutes without any clue about when you will move. At first you think “no big deal, the boss will understand.” As time progresses, you are bored. Your thoughts drift into frustrations at your workplace. Boredom, frustration, and not knowing when you will get out of traffic jam finally boils over. You cuss. Or maybe you just hit the steering wheel and say, like me, “Come on God! Must this jam happen right now?”
If you recognize yourself in that description, you, like me, may suffer from a kind of chronic weakness in your love for God. Why? Because we let troubles make us upset with God, instead of turning those issues into a spiritual opportunity to become closer to our Creator. For that to happen, we have to strengthen our love for God so much that it is not overshadowed by the nuisances of daily life.
Jesus Teaches Us About Loving God
Jesus teaches that love for God is the most important commandment (Matt 22:36-40). The love for God becomes all the more valuable when we realize that God is love (1 John 4:8) and the Creator loved us first (1 John 4:19).
But in the hustle and bustle of life, it is not easy to love God, or to be mindful of our Savior unconditionally and compassionately, at all times. The reason for that? We tend to live self-centered lives where we treat God as a service-provider who owes us what we pay him for in the currency of prayers. Moreover, loving our Lord becomes especially difficult when challenges strike. Troubles strengthen our focus on ourselves.
But there are many ways to love God while wrestling with challenges. I will share three of them that I find especially helpful in my own spiritual growth.
Loving God as You Wrestle with Challenges
1) Read the scripture regularly and focus on God’s promises.
Scripture teaches that merciful God promises us salvation in Jesus (Titus 1:2), gifts of the Spirit, protection, and many other things. By reading and focusing on God’s promises, we can strengthen our faith in, and love for, God. In addition, the scripture gives plenty of examples: events that seem troubling from a human perspective which turn out to be good in the larger context of God’s actions. In Esther’s story, we see how God upends an evil plan and makes the outcome good for the exiled people. Reading the scripture regularly and paying attention to these stories can change our perspective of our challenges. That helps us to be patient, and seek God’s good will even in the midst of troubles.
2) Volunteer selflessly for the sake of God.
Volunteering, when it is done for God’s sake and without expectation of any return, weakens our habitual self-centeredness. Think of it as a way of practicing something that affects your relationship with God positively. I discovered how this can strengthen our love for God after volunteering at a local animal shelter. As I take care of cats, play with them, and treat them as God’s creatures that deserve love, my understanding of God’s love for creatures and my love for our Creator changes. Sacrificing my time for animals and caring for them helps me to see how nuanced love can be, and how difficult it is to sacrifice time, energy, and money without any return at all.
3) Go out of your way to befriend those who society marginalizes.
Christ went out of his way to befriend sinners and people who society sidelined for whatever reason — prostitutes, the ill, and underdogs. Befriending the marginalized lets us put our troubles into perspective through the lens of others’ real lives. It also lets us understand Christ better, because he did not live a life within the kinds of bubbles that we isolated modern people tend to live within. Befriending others helps them to carry their burden, which is what Christ did. By doing the same, we can appreciate God’s love for humans who struggle with difficulties, and that, in turn, can strengthen our love for God. Unless we understand the broken people who God loves — including you and me — we may have a hard time loving God.
If you can apply any of these three practices during the difficult times, you will gain insights that will lighten your burden and help you appreciate life.
About Agshin Jafarov
Agshin Jafarov is a minister who blogs about the Bible at biblicaltransformations.com. Called by friends “Action” due to similarities of pronunciation between that word and his name, he tries to live up to that call: he reads widely, preaches, reaches out to refugees, hikes, and sheds light onto Christian faith through several cultures he knows.
When he has time, he hunts inspiration by reading quotes, and stares at the screen to come up with next topic for his posts. He has a Mdiv and a ThM from Western Theological Seminary in Holland MI and loves to explore the nooks and crannies of the scripture.
About Chad Gramling
Chad Gramling makes his home in Indiana with his wife and three daughters. He's the founder and primary blogger at 1Glories, a vision cast onto his heart and detailed in Listen Up Kids: Foolish Dreams, Syncing with God & Running to Win.