4 Things You Can Do During Challenging Seasons blog image from jonhorton.com

4 Things You Can Do During Challenging Seasons

Too often we believe the lie that we're not making a difference. We question our purpose. We wonder if where we’re at is where we're supposed to be. We have doubts when things get difficult. Sometimes in the middle of difficult circumstances, things don’t make any sense. What are you supposed to do during those seasons—when you’re worn out, tired and it feels like the challenges will never end?

1. Thank Jesus for an opportunity to grow

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” —James 1:2–4

Here’s a secret—I suck at this.

When I’m in the middle of something difficult you may see a smile on my face, but most of the time in my heart I’m frustrated or pissed off. My first reaction definitely isn’t to thank Jesus.

But if I take the time to look back at past challenging seasons of my life, I can see so clearly how Jesus was taking me through difficult seasons to prepare me for what was next. If I hadn’t of gone through it, I wouldn’t have been ready.

It’s in the process and sometimes the pain that Jesus crafts you into someone more like Him.

I recently read some notes I wrote down from 3 years ago. The first sentence instantly hit home: 

“You’re gonna need this one day.”

Then it continued: 

“To get to another mountaintop, you have to go through the valley.”

"The things that happen to us are not accidents. Things may not make sense now, but Jesus has gone before us and prepared the way."

What is it the Lord is trying to teach you? Chances are high that he’s preparing you for what’s He wants to do next in your life.

2. Boldly ask for help

James continues:
“If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought.”

Too often I forget to ask for help. I think I can manage it all on my own, but the truth is I need help—we all need help.

What I'm learning is that if I can put aside my pride and ask for help, I'm able to make more progress together with a friend than if I just tried to struggle through something on my own.

But it doesn't stop there. How often do we go through difficult times and forget to ask Jesus to help us? We get so busy, so focused on everything around us that we forget to ask the one person that matters most.

It's often when you stop, and decide to pray that the Lord begins to work in your heart. He begins to change your perspective so you can see that He is not only bigger than what you're going through, but that he has a greater purpose—to grow you and shape you into someone more like him.

3. Wait for the Lord

“But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
they walk and don’t lag behind.”

Isaiah 40:31

Several years ago, I went through one of the most difficult times of entire life as I pursued, prayed, and ultimately waited for my wife to come back home after abruptly leaving. I'd like to say that I was able to patiently wait for the Lord to come through for those 15 long, excruciating months. There were moments I handled it well and moments where I would yell at God, wondering where he had gone.

We’re impatient.

We want our way.

We have our expectation of how things should turn out.

We want things to be easy and fast.

Waiting on the Lord doesn’t mean that things will be easy—often they're not. Waiting is one of the most difficult things to do. But in the seasons of waiting, Jesus is teaching us to trust him fully.

A friend of mine once said, "You won't make it long term if you don't trust God. You learn to trust God by trusting God. You never trust God until you have to. God makes sure that you have to."

Now on the other side of that situation, having gone through a divorce, a season of singleness, and eventually getting remarried, I can see so clearly why it was all worth it. That difficult season, with all of it's waiting helped me in so many ways.

It helped me love Jesus more.

It made me aware of my own selfishness.

It prepared me to love my new wife Kristelle in ways I didn't realize.

It helped me get a glimpse of how Jesus sees us.

It strengthened my belief that the plans Jesus has for my life really do surpass my own.

These things aren't just true for me—they can be true for you too. But don't take my word for it. Here's what James has to say about challenging seasons:

“Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.” —James 1:12

4. Come back to your purpose

Why are you here? 
What is it that burdens you deep in your soul?
What is it that keeps you awake at night?

Sometimes we get so caught up in our situation that we lose sight of the very thing God has called us to do. Maybe you're not sure what your purpose is and that's ok. As Jesus was nearing his final time on earth, he left us with words that give each of us a purpose.

“God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18–20

Whether we're in ministry or simply as followers of Jesus, this is our ultimate purpose—to help people meet Jesus.

I recently read a quote from author Greg McKeown:
“The most powerful form of self-belief comes from believing in something greater than you. Because when you’ve got purpose, everything becomes possible.”

"So when you are exhausted or getting pulled in a million directions come back to your purpose.”

Ministry is difficult. Ministry is tiring. Ministry is weighty.

But I can promise you there's nothing you will pour out that Jesus won't give you back.
You just have to walk in faith and don't give up.

February 18, 2016