“God I’m doing everything you’ve called me to do—why are things so hard right now?”
Ever thought that? Told God that? I have. And I know I’m not alone.
The other day I had breakfast with a friend who has an amazing calling on his life. God is using him and his wife in powerful ways. Here’s a guy who’s all in, he and his wife have given their lives to this calling, it’s a beautiful and redemptive mission, and yet they have opponents who every day are actively trying to destroy their reputations.
And it makes me ask: “God why is it so tough for them?”
What do you do when you know you’re called, equipped, love the work you do, you have evidence it’s helping people, and yet you’re experiencing a tough stretch. Maybe somebody on your team has bolted unexpectedly, or a struggle with finances hangs over your head like a dark cloud. You think: “God, why aren’t You providing?” Or, “God, what am I missing?”
When your calling gets tough, you can begin to wonder: “Am I the right guy for the job?”
John the Baptist had a powerful calling: He was the forerunner of the Messiah. Near the end of his life, he was imprisoned for standing up to king Herod’s blatant adultery. While in prison, John sent some of his followers to ask Jesus: “Are you the one to come, or should we expect another?”
JB had one of the most amazing experiences recorded in Scripture. Right after he baptized Jesus, he saw heaven open, heard the audible voice of Father God, and witnessed the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus in the form of a dove. Pretty powerful encounter, right? And yet in a season of difficulty, serious doubt crept into John’s mind.
I have a journal full of instances where God’s call on my life was confirmed. Multiple moments where He provided miraculously are recorded on those pages. And yet, when a tough stretch seems to go on longer than I think it should, I tend to forget His past provision and faithfulness. I find myself wondering/worrying: “Will He come through again or not?” I’m pretty sure you’ve had similar moments.
So what can we do when our calling gets tough? How can we work our way through difficult and trying seasons? How do we resist the temptation to quit? Here’s four ideas I think might help:
1. Be brutally honest with God
Go all out Psalms on Him. “My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long?” “Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief.” “My soul is weary with sorrow…” These are but a few examples of gut-wrenching, honest words from the psalm-writers revealing their anguish and despair. I love the raw, honest, and emotionally-charged nature of the Psalms. Apparently God can handle it when we vent to Him about our challenges, fears, worries, and doubts.
2. Be brutally honest with a safe and competent person
Avoid the temptation to carry the load by yourself. To pretend you have it all together and don’t need help. Check your pride at the door and admit you need people, especially in times of difficulty. The apostle Paul told his friends in Galatia: “Bear one another’s burdens…” The Greek word he used for “burdens” means “a load too heavy for one person to carry.” When we share a heavy burden with a trusted friend, its weight is immediately reduced by 50%.
3. Keep plodding
Don’t give up without a fight. Don’t give in without a battle. Keep doing those things that move the ball down the field of your mission. What behaviors bring the best outcomes for your ministry, your assignment, your career? Keep doing those even in the face of deep despair. When your emotions say you should bail, keep working on and in your assignment. That being said, sometimes in the middle of a deep struggle, you need to . . .
4. Step away for a moment
Take some time to chill out. Catch your breath. Try to gain some perspective. When the weight of your doubt overwhelms you to the point where you feel paralyzed, punt for a day or two. Get some sleep, have some fun, enjoy the company of friends who make you laugh. These activities can help you clear your head. They’ll likely enable you to think more clearly about your calling. You might even find yourself better able to hear God whispering to your heart, giving you fresh direction or the next move/moves that will help you emerge from this difficult season healthier, wiser, more focused, and more faith-filled.
Your calling stays with you for the duration of your life here on planet earth. The way you express that calling will likely change over time, but God has wired you and gifted you on purpose to fulfill His specific purpose for your life. Before you tap out: get real with God and a safe, competent friend. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. If needed, take some time away to rest, recharge, and reset.
I’m not promising you things will get better immediately. But if you find yourself in a tough season . . . understand it’s a season. Better and brighter days are ahead.
I’m rooting and praying for you!
PS. If you find yourself at a really low point emotionally, get some help right away. See your counselor, get with a trusted friend. I encourage you to get my book: Unshakable You: 5 Choices of Emotionally Healthy People. It’s a practical guide to recharging your emotional batteries. Don’t mess around with depression. Take positive steps today to move toward emotional health.