Faith and Circumstances
By Maria Fontaine
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Different people often view situations in different ways, ranging from pessimistic to overly optimistic, and everything in between. There are many situations in which it really helps to have an abundance of faith and a good deal of positiveness and optimism. Realistically, we all have to continually deal with and handle problems, and if we don’t approach them with persevering faith, it’s easy to get dragged down and become negative.—Particularly when they’re difficult or serious problems.
So unless you take on an attitude of faith and try to see the bright side and the victories the Lord has available, even out of the seeming defeats, it can get you down. It’s not good for you spiritually to allow the problems of life to overwhelm your faith and get you discouraged and pull you down.
Some people have enough faith and natural optimism to do well when they’re in a positive situation. But when they’re often surrounded by difficult or seemingly impossible situations, they can end up getting dragged down. If they have a negative or pessimistic streak or attitude, the negative circumstances can play on that and tempt them to get on a negative channel.
When people have had a tendency to be negative or pessimistic all their life, it’s not usually the kind of thing where they can get a quick victory and suddenly become happy, full-of-faith people overnight. If that’s the way you are, the way you’ve been all your life, then those tendencies are usually pretty deeply ingrained in you, and it takes time to overcome them.
Our goal, as mature Christians, is not to be dragged down by circumstances or the problem situations others face, but to manifest faith and help to influence others with our faith. Being full of faith is what helps keep us from being constantly burdened and worried about the problems we or others face. It really takes faith to be able to rise out of the morass or abyss of our negative situations and help others do the same.
That’s another characteristic of having a lot of faith: you don’t worry so much about things. Some people seem to always be trusting the Lord. They hardly ever worry about things, but just figure that everything’s going to come out all right in the end, and it usually does! Because that’s the principle of faith. “If you can believe, all things are possible to him that believes.”1
I think people who deal with problems all the time, as do missionaries on difficult fields or those spiritually counseling others, or those involved in working with the very poor and needy people in underdeveloped countries, have to be strong in faith. The people who actually have to take care of the nitty-gritty of the problems and emergencies and all the difficult situations that come up have to be pretty stable.
They can’t let things affect them too much. Unless you have strong faith and depend on the strength of the Lord, I don’t think too many people can take a barrage of negative circumstances and problems like that without being adversely affected by it. Problem situations need people who can be positive, inspirational, and full of faith.
If you show faith in people that they can handle their own problems, or that the Lord’s going to take care of them, and help them to overcome their discouragement, that will probably do more for them than anything else. People are responsible to try to resolve a lot of their personal problems themselves, with the Lord’s help; but they do need encouragement, and they often simply need to have their faith rekindled to just get up and try again.2
Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.―Nelson Mandela
You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.―Helen Keller
Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so.—Noam Chomsky
The Lord Is Greater than Our Circumstances
Everybody has something in their life that could seriously hinder and even cripple them if they allowed it to get them down and didn’t rise above it. But the wonderful thing about it is that the Lord has made a way for us to overcome those things, and in fact, He intends for us to! Because His help is available to us, circumstances—past or present—do not have to dictate our lives.
Look at all the men in history who rose above seemingly insurmountable odds to become great—overcoming poverty, physical handicaps, poor family backgrounds, etc. I’m sure we could each name a few examples of great men and women who had experiences or events in their lives that they could have easily become bitter about or allowed to overwhelm them, but they didn’t! They just fought harder to overcome those obstacles, and in so doing they became strengthened. Instead of complaining that life had given them a “lemon” or a bad deal, they made lemonade out of their lemons.
Because of their handicaps, these people rose higher than they might have otherwise risen. George Bernard Shaw, for example, was terribly shy, but because he was determined to overcome his timidity, he forced himself to speak publicly, joining debate societies and speaking at public meetings—in an effort to overcome the difficulty he had in speaking publicly. His weakness eventually became his strength as he became a brilliant and witty speaker and prominent writer.
Some people were born into great poverty, but fought to overcome it and to be able to do something in life in spite of it. Often because they’d had these problems, they turned around and were able to have sympathy and compassion on others who were poor, and worked toward making life better for them. For example, Booker T. Washington was born a poor slave, but after working hard in coal mines and salt mines, he became an educator and spokesman for African Americans, establishing a school so others could improve their lives.
Often people who have experienced difficulties in life and have overcome them are in turn able to be a great influence in helping others to have the courage and faith to overcome their difficulties. Their example is a proof to those who see and hear of their struggles and victories that it is possible to overcome great difficulties in life, and rise above seemingly impossible situations to triumph in the face of despair. Their victories are a testimony to us all that difficult circumstances do not have to overcome us, but we can rise above them if our heart and our attitude is right.
Jerome K. Jerome was a British writer whose father died when he was 12, and at 14 he had to go to work to support his mother and sister. His life got even harder when his mother died, but after many different jobs, the end result was that he became a writer—not of sad stories, but a famous humorist, writing humorous stories to encourage others. After such a hard beginning in life, he said, “It is from the struggle, not the victory, that we gain strength.”
This reminds me of a story of a young man who had grown up with a very severe case of stammering. He had been prayed for repeatedly, but the Lord had not seen fit to deliver him. Finally, this young Christian concluded, “I guess the Lord wants me to use my stammering for His glory, because when I witness to others, they feel so sorry for me, they always listen!” Even though he couldn’t get rid of the problem, he didn’t let it overcome him. He didn’t let it cause him to sink into withdrawal from others. Instead, he learned to use it for his advantage for God’s glory. He got to the point where he could even thank God for his affliction and see the good in it.
We who walk by faith certainly do not have to be confined or limited emotionally, mentally, or spiritually by the weights of our circumstances or our past. In fact, the Lord often allows those things so we will fight to get the victory over them, and the Lord intends for the difficulties we face in life to make us stronger. Instead of looking at obstacles or mishaps or bad experiences as terrible and drawbacks or handicaps, we can use those things to make our life better. We can see them as stepping stones for climbing upward. Then they don’t hold us back and pull us down, but we can actually use them to improve our lives and the lives of others.
Through this process, we can learn to fight with the Lord’s help and become stronger because of the struggle. If we didn’t have any problems to fight, we could be tempted to become complacent and meander along, which doesn’t generally build the strength of character that comes from fighting to overcome problems. We could miss out on seeing the beauty blossom in our lives that suffering often results in, or finding true friends in those who come to our side to help in our time of need. We wouldn’t experience the same compassion for others who have gone through the same thing or be able to “comfort them with the same comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God,”3 and understand what they are going through and be able to help them to overcome.
God uses our trials and difficulties to teach us patience, trust, and faith in the Lord, and to help us to be more merciful on others.4
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.—Hebrews 12:1–3 NIV
Originally published June 1989. Adapted and republished June 2013.
Read by Tina Miles.
1 Mark 9:23.
2 Originally published June 1989.
3 2 Corinthians 1:4.
4 Originally published December 1992.