Your words have supported those who stumbled; you have strengthened faltering knees. But now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged; it strikes you, and you are dismayed. Job 4:4-5
When difficulties come, on what do you focus? Some look back. They are the ones who try to drive looking in the rear view mirror. Their thoughts are consumed with two questions which, like a broken record, play over and over again: “What if?” or “If only?” “What if I had not made that investment? What if I had listened to my mom or dad? What if I had just prayed about this and taken my time?” Can we not learn from our mistakes? Yes. Is there not profit in analyzing what went wrong? Again, affirmative; but looking back becomes a habit, a kind of life excuse that puts a wall of failure between you and the future.
An anonymous person wrote, “I look not back. God knows the fruitless efforts, the wasted hours, the sinning and regret; I leave them all with Him who blots the record, And graciously forgives, and then forgets.”
Some focus entirely on the future when difficulties arise. And what’s wrong with that? Isn’t goal setting important? Yes. Certainly, if you have no thought of where you want to go, you’ll never get there, for sure. But focusing entirely on tomorrow is daydreaming, or living in a fantasy world divorced from reality. Tomorrow is uncertain, and when it arrives, God is going to be there; so I have to leave many things in His hands, confident that when tomorrow gets here, God will show me what to do.
Some focus on their circumstances, looking around them. They are the ones who, when trouble comes, are looking for an excuse, a scapegoat, someone whom they can blame for their failures. I’m thinking of a woman who once worked with us. When her computer wouldn’t work she would assail, “Someone did something with my computer,” when, in fact, no one had touched her computer. I heard complaints about her mother, her husband, certainly her church, and the set of circumstances that had dealt her a bad deal in life. “I accept responsibility for this,” or “This is my fault” were phrases that never came from her lips. When trouble comes, don’t look around you, striving to pin the blame on others or on circumstances. Some things just happen, and the key is not fixing blame but on how you respond and how you get on with your life.
Some look inward when problems come. This is not altogether bad. At times we need to examine our motives and take a look within. But living in a world of introspection, always examining our thoughts and feelings, often leaves us wounded and hurting. Paul took a look within and didn’t much like what he saw. Read Romans 7 and see if you can relate to his comments that seemingly what he wanted to do, he didn’t do, and what he didn’t want to do ended up being exactly what he did. If you take a look within, do it and then move on.
All right, you may be saying, if I shouldn’t look back, or I shouldn’t look to the future, nor look around me or within, what should be my focus? Ah, I’m glad you asked. Here it is: When difficulty knocks at your door, look up into the face of Jesus, realizing that God can be your source of strength, your help, your defender, and your deliverer. He will never disappoint you or leave you in the lurch. Looking to Him you will never be disappointed.
Take time to read through the book of Psalms and notice how David and the men who penned these marvelous expressions of faith responded to trouble. They knew that the Lord is a rock, a fortress, a hiding place, a deliverer, a shield, a stronghold, a friend, a companion, and a helper in the time of need.
Mark or underline those words and make perhaps the greatest discovery of your life. God is still the same and He will meet you when trouble comes.
Your focus in the time of difficulty will determine both how you weather the storm and where you go after the storm is over. How much better to learn that God will walk with you through the valley than to wonder if He is strong enough, sufficient enough, caring enough to meet you at the time of your need. Yes, how much better indeed!
Resource reading: Psalm 19