When life is hard and trials seem to flood over us, we can easily feel like we are useless— maybe even worse than useless. Temptation loves to strike us in these moments. Doubts about God’s grace knock us down when we feel weakest. It is in those moments, when our faith seems smallest, that we need to have patience with God himself. We need to remember why we were created and that God gives something to us that can never be taken away. When your faith feels small, remember these five things:
1. God created us for his delight and joy.
Pain in this life is inescapable for anyone who wants to live in this world. Difficulties will always come. Nevertheless, we must remember to trust in God, knowing these hard providences are never in vain. God created you because he delights in you. He wants you to know him, delight in him, and love him even in the midst of suffering. God offers you a life of meaning and purpose. All good things come from his hand. His goodness never changes, even when we do (James 1:16–18).
Remember what a wonderful thing life is and how God created each one of us for eternal communion with him. Falling and failing cannot overcome his purpose for us and will never prevent his goal of having us with him in eternity (Rom. 8:32). Reach out to God when you fail, and earnestly seek his face in prayer. He will never deny joy and delight to those who seek it in him. Pray that he will convert your soul again and again to his love each morning (Psalm 23).
2. God pursues us when we fall.
Too often we attempt to use God to merely get things from him, or worse, we give things to God to get what we want. Yet, God often doesn’t give us what we want, because it would not lead to our actual good. When God fails to give us what we want, that is usually when we fall into temptation—when we want something too much. We may think that we need something or someone to find happiness and so we are willing to cut corners to get it. We are looking to use God for our personal happiness. God sees what we are doing but, nevertheless, pursues us.
God had compassion on us in our foolishness and folly. Our heavenly Father demonstrated his mercy by sending Jesus Christ, his Son to die for our sins (John 3:16–17). He knew we would fall again and again. Even when we pursued our own glory and happiness apart from him, he still sent his Son! He pursued us like a good father running after a wayward child.
God reached down to us in our sin because he wants to be with us and he prizes us. Christ took on the likeness of men in humility, being obedient to his Father even to the point of death, so we would be reunited with him (Phil. 2:5–11). The cross is where we see God’s reckless pursuit when we fall. He won us to himself on that day.
3. God still loves us when we fail.
Even when we continually fail, God still loves us. The good work God began in declaring us righteous by faith will continue until his last Word finalizes that restoration and perfection, making us just like his Son (Rom. 5:5; Gen. 1:26). We will never enter into eternal judgment. Nothing can or will separate us from his love—nothing (Rom. 8:38–39).
When Christ died on the cross, his sacrifice made it possible for you to enter the very presence of God (Heb. 4:16). When the Father looks at us, he sees his Son and the life Jesus lived on our behalf. There is no blemish or spot, no sin or failing that can change his vision of us. The very thing we need and want, that we look for in the arms of so many other idols—God’s unconditional love—is what we receive as a gift of grace.
Just as Christ is in heaven at the Father’s right hand, so our inheritance of love can never be taken away. The Spirit of God is given to us so we might know that nothing will separate us from that inheritance. We can now approach God as his own children. We can approach this loving Father who loves and cares for his children even when we fail. We have been reconciled to God by Jesus' death. How much more then will we be saved by his life?
4. God gives us himself in the gospel.
We often think of salvation as the entirety of what we get from God. He loves to forgive, I love to sin—could there be a better deal? Yet, when we think of grace in this way, we miss the whole point. We often think of salvation as one thing over there, quite apart from our personal happiness right here and now. "Salvation" is religion and dealing with God, and yet happiness is something radically different. Or so we think. We look for happiness everywhere else, believing God is not very interested in those sorts of things. We cannot find happiness and so we get mad at God in our circumstances. But this gets at everything all wrong.
Grace is not a something. Grace is a someone. When God saves us, it is because he gives us himself. When God saves us, he is saving us to find true happiness and love. But God can only do that by giving us himself—which is precisely what salvation is. His unconditional love which is imperishable is what we were made and saved for. He saves us for an eternity with himself—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He can give us no greater thing than himself and that is precisely what he does by giving us his Son. In so doing, he actually gives us the happiness we were made for. As Augustine famously wrote, "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you" (Confessions, Book 1).
5. God provides us with a new delight in him.
If we truly understand that God gives us himself by creating us and by pursuing us when we fall and that he gives us himself again in Christ, we will see how God provides us with a new delight in him. Even when the flood waters of this world seem to drown us, God gives us himself again by the Spirit and speaks words which cannot be uttered, declaring God’s abiding love (Rom. 8:26–27). No chasm of sin or doubt is too deep for God to deliver us! We have a redeemer who delights in us so that we can delight in him. Christ would have us live life at his side and remember the suffering he went through to bring us to himself and the future hope of glory.
So when your faith feels small and weak, when you fall into temptation, when you doubt God’s goodness or grace, have patience with God. Remember that God gives us salvation and happiness, joy and delight because he has given us nothing less than himself— the triune God. He has given us eternal life. And so, remember, that when your faith is in this eternal God, it is never small or weak.
The more empty and hollow we feel inside, the stronger the guards we place to keep others from finding out who we really are.