Trusting God When Things Are Falling Apart
Written by Miriam, India
There was a particularly challenging season of my life when I felt like everything was not going well. I was led on by someone who I thought was a potential life partner, and the cultural and parental pressures to get married made me very anxious. On top of that, my PhD proposals had been rejected multiple times in the last four years.
So when I had to speak at a Sunday service of our sister church, I was feeling very underqualified. I felt like I was failing at life. How was I going to encourage people in my condition?
However, I had to keep my word and prepare for it. So one night after work, I sat down, prayed, and went through my Bible book by book. I found myself pausing when I came across Jeremiah 17:5-8. I felt a strong nudging in me, so I decided to focus on the passage for my message. And as I meditated on the passage, it spoke to the depths of my soul.
In the book of Jeremiah, we see how God had called the prophet rebuke and preach against the sinful selfishness of Israel. We read about the consequences of Israel’s sins, God’s repeated warnings to repent, Israel’s upcoming exile by a foreign nation, and the future restoration of the remnant.
Jeremiah 17 explains how Judah sinned by not trusting in her God. “Thus says the Lord: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.’” (v.5, ESV)
What it means to trustThe Hebrew word for trust, “yib-tah” means to get advice and strength, or to put confidence in or seek refuge from.
The phrases “makes flesh his strength” and “whose heart turns away” (v. 5) tell us that those who “trust in man” are ones who depend on their own understanding and strength, instead of seeking them from God.
So, the warrior who gets his advice and strength from a weaker man or from his own understanding is cursed, which means removed from God’s protection. It isn’t that God puts a curse on that person, but that the person chooses to be outside of (without) God’s protection by not getting his advice and strength from God.
As I reflected on this passage, I couldn’t help but see how this spoke to my condition. While it is not wrong to desire a partner or a career promotion, I realised that I had begun to think that my rejections were all because I was unlovable, which quickly spiraled into me thinking that I was rejected by everyone.
These thoughts made me afraid, angry, depressed, and unable to experience the blessedness of depending on God’s care and protection; my heart had become set on gaining people’s approval, by my own strength.
But even as I was struggling with these emotions, I continued to desperately meet professors left and right to make my PhD admission happen. I was still determined that my time and ways were right.
Verse 6 goes on to describe the state of someone who decides to trust on his own strength instead of God’s. “He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.”
In contrast, verses 7-8 describe how the warrior-man who trusts in the Lord is blessed, “like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes. . . and is not anxious in the year of drought”. Such a person is nourished and not drained when times are hard.
In my case, I was just like the shrub in a parched wilderness. I was feeling emotionally and spiritually withered because I was not receiving strength from God, to wait and heal, to grow in discernment and give myself time to become better equipped for PhD, or whatever His plan for me may be.
Making my way back to God
The night after I did this study, I confessed to God my sins—of wanting to take revenge on the guy, of beating myself down for not being guarded, and for depending completely on other people to win a PhD seat. I also realised that the Holy Spirit had been prompting me earlier about these issues, but it took the painful situations to call my attention and get convicted.
As God began to speak to and heal my heart, He graciously reminded me that in the absence of marriage and career promotion, with all my pain and failings, I was still precious and loved by Him, and that was sufficient.
That night, I prayed and asked God to help me repent. I decided that I would stop trying to prove my worth and just surrender my desires to Him every time they surfaced on my mind. Although it took another few weeks of crying over the betrayal, I eventually told God that I was done facing relationship issues and that I wanted to ‘awaken love’ only when it is His time.
It so happened I also had typhoid during this time that crippled me for two months, followed by an accident where I cracked my foot and became handicapped for more than a month. During this time, my pastor and the family gladly offered to host me in their home. Their prayers and company helped me see how God still loves me in the midst of suffering.
A month later, my healthy and happy father went to be with the Lord due to an undiagnosed heart attack. Heartbroken, I sought help from my Bible Study Fellowship teaching leader. Having experienced the pain of losing her father, she listened to me, and pointed me to the hope that God is still good despite all that I was going through.
Thankfully, by then I was finally over the guy and had miraculously gotten accepted into a university. I sensed that God wanted to teach me that His timing and ways were higher than mine. That time, I could not even prepare well for the exams, but the Giver of knowledge just opened the door for me.
Right now, I’m still experiencing pain due to the aftereffects of the typhoid and the accident. Juggling my job and studies is also difficult. I am also still single.
Yet amid my longing for marriage and my grieving over my father, I am sustained by people God has placed in my life, who remind me to keep pouring all my tears and prayers to Him. God is also leading me Himself, to His Word, to go to Him frequently in prayer and Bible reading, and to continue to confess all my struggles, ask Him for strength and advice, and wait for His time.
Thank you for the raw and sincere sharing, I am very touched by the author’s faith journey. I am also reminded of Habakkuk 3:17-18
Through the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit on the vines;
Through the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Through the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls –
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
Trust & Obey with a Joyful heart 🙂
Yes, Habakkuk 3:17-18 have been a reminder all these years..
Thank you for such an honest and vulnerable sharing. God is so gracious to address our sins through His word. You’ve encouraged and reminded me to simply let the word of God speak to me and respond to Him in faith and repentance, trust and obedience.