by Thomas Gregory Stewart
Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” No, it’s not scripture, but it does prove true throughout scripture. And since you’re still alive to read this, the “makes us stronger” part applies. I’m sure we have all heard someone say, “God must think I’m strong, with all I have been through.”
I have often thought to myself, with all the abuse, chaos and loss I myself have been through, God must think I’m even stronger than that. And, just when I thought I had reached my threshold, something else would happen. And then again.
Okay, Lord, I’m more than strong enough now, don’t you think?
At the age of 18, after enduring a decade of sexual abuse imposed by my Boy Scout leader, I thought I was strong. Strong enough to face my mother and tell her of what had happened to me. But that strength unraveled when she didn’t believe me. Weakness from defeat took precedence over any strength I thought I had and buckled my knees to the floor. Lord, how could she? How could a mother not believe her own son? Her denial hurt me more than the abuse did.
Back then, I wanted answers. I needed to gain headway on the doubt that so easily tried to gain on me. Satan loves it when that happens. We need to constantly and consciously counteract the battle with our obedience expected of us.
I was reminded of that when I was kneeling where God placed me—on the other side of that latest trial with my mom. Struggling with the letdown actually seemed somewhat tolerable, as He reminded me that it was He who sustained me through the abuse in the first place, not my mother. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
My doubt did not glorify God. My efforts to maintain the promises I made to Jesus when I committed myself to Him do. Promising Him that I would obey. Vowing to follow Him and what He expects of me, “If you love me, keep my commands.” John 14:15. This includes trusting Him through the tough times.
The Serenity Prayer and the Sinner’s Prayer are also not scripture; but convey trust as the foundation of both. The Serenity Prayer is used in Twelve-Step programs, relied upon by those who battle with the evil stranglehold of addiction.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change . . . accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will.”
The Sinner’s Prayer is a prayer of repentance, prayed by those who feel convicted of the presence of sin in their lives, and have the desire to form or renew a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
“Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name. Amen.”
Trust is mentioned 170 times in scripture. God knew we would face trials, troubles and sufferings. But, He also knew he would need to remind us that we could trust Him through the duration:
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:1-4
Our suffering has a purpose. God uses it to prepare us for that purpose. First-hand experience in suffering is essential in equipping us, gaining wisdom for what He is going to use us for. Our circumstances cultivate the compassion we need to help others.
God does promise that He will sustain you through life’s trials if you trust Him. He will meet you on the other side to reveal the wisdom you gained so that you can help the next person who will endure the same trial:
- Only an abuse victim can really understand and help another abuse victim
- Only a cancer survivor can really understand and help another suffering from cancer
- Only a recovering addict can really understand and help another addict
- Only a parent who has lost a child can understand and help another parent who has lost a child
As one who’s endured all of these things and lived to tell about them, I can tell you that I’ve learned how to understand the weary, the weak, and the faint—because I was one of them. And only because of that understanding and compassion can I now live out the purpose that God has placed on my life.
When trials come our way, we can either fall into our own doubt or trust His promises—acting on our responsibility of keeping our word. We have a choice to either complain or stay true to our word by relying on His word to stand firm, remain steadfast and unwavering:
Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever. They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Psalm 112:6-7
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1-2
Don’t allow your trials to hinder your trust and faith in what God is capable of. You are the example of His faithfulness. It is you who wears His name on your heart for all the world to see.
Thomas Gregory Stewart shares his powerful story of abuse, faith and forgiveness in his memoir The Broken Scout: A Story of Abuse and Redemption (April 2017, Redemption Press).