What do you do when you’re in a season of struggle or turmoil — When you’ve lost your job, your marriage is on the rocks or you’re dealing with illness? It’s during times of trouble like these that we need wisdom, discernment and guidance greater than we possess on our own. John Lennon and Paul McCartney offered one approach in the lyrics to one of their most popular songs.
“When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be”
In some ways, the idea of simply letting it be gets it right. That’s where we start. However, some parents with young children might identify more with the idea from a popular Disney song to let it go.
Whatever pop culture idiom you may subscribe to, the advice you’ll find there isn’t enough. There are some things in life that are out of our control. We live in a fallen world that man has corrupted with sin, but we know that God also took the form of man to redeem the world (Romans 5:12). This knowledge enables us to go beyond just letting it be (or letting it go) and rely on the creator of the universe for strength in times of trouble. But how can we find strength beyond what we can summon within ourselves? How are we able to find strength in God?
A Five-Step Approach
Theologian John Piper offers this five-step approach, which he identifies with the acronym APTAT.
First, we must admit that we can do nothing apart from Christ, which he makes clear to us in John 15:5. This initial step allows us to let go of our control of the situation, release it from our grasp and put it in the hands of God.
During the second step, we pray to ask for God’s support and help in the situation or crisis that we’re going through. It’s stated plainly in James 5:13a, “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray.” It’s a simple, but critical step.
Trusting that God Will Supply Us With What We Need
Perhaps most importantly, the next step is to trust that God will answer our prayer according to his plan. If we ask God for something but don’t believe, then we are just like a “wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6 NIV). But if we trust in God, choose not to lean on what we know and submit to him, then God will make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV).
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” (1 John 5:14-15 NIV)
The concept of praying according to God’s will is important to keep in mind. The way God answers and when he chooses to answer our prayers may not always line up with what we originally have in mind. This idea is explained further here. A key point is that “we should give allowance in our prayers that God may have purposes he is seeking to accomplish” by allowing a situation to persist. However, we know “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV). God is for us, not against us.
John Piper makes the step of trusting in God’s promises clear in his article …
“When Peter says, ‘Whoever serves, [let him serve] as one who serves by the strength that God supplies’ (1 Peter 4:11), we do this not only by praying for that supply, but by trusting in the promise of the supply in specific situations. Paul says that God supplies the Spirit to you ‘by hearing with faith’ (Galatians 3:5). That is, we hear a promise and we believe it for a particular need, and the Holy Spirit comes to help us through that believed promise.”
Next, we can act in faith on the promises of God, as we “walk by faith” (2 Corinthians 5:7) and “live by faith” (Galatians 2:20). Finally, we can thank God for how he helps us and supplies us with the strength we need through his promises. We praise God because he is our strength and shield (Psalm 28:7).
At the end of the day, God’s promises like this one in Hebrews 13:5b-6 carry us through.
“… God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’
If you’re going through a difficult situation, take this approach to engaging with God and finding the strength in his promises.