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5 Simple but Powerful Tips to Strengthen Your Faith in Difficult Seasons

Mike Leake

Borrowed Light
Updated Apr 11, 2024
5 Simple but Powerful Tips to Strengthen Your Faith in Difficult Seasons

Alex is a college athlete. As a young man, brimming with overconfidence, he decides to trek up a treacherous mountain. He has more arrogance than supplies. When he gets halfway up the mountain reality punches him in the throat. He doesn’t have the endurance or the supplies to go further up the mountain. What could Alex do to strengthen his chances of making it up the mountain?

The reality here is that Alex could have strengthened his chances of a successful climb if he had taken it seriously from the beginning. When you find yourself in the middle of difficulty and suffering, that’s not the time to ask the question. Suffering and difficult times reveal the veracity of our faith.

Yet, God’s grace reaches down to ignorant mountain climbers who weren’t prepared for the days ahead. Yes, it is far better to have been prepared before the difficult times set in. But thankfully God also helps us to grow even in difficult times.

Here are a few practical tips for strengthening your faith in difficult times.

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Young man praying outside

What Does It Mean to Strengthen Your Faith?

What exactly do we desire when we say that we want our faith to be strong during difficult times? Does it mean that we are shiny happy people, who smile in the face of suffering? Or can it mean that we are hanging on, white-knuckled, to a faith that feels like its slipping in the storm?

Strengthening your faith is not synonymous with maintaining an unceasing smile or a façade of perpetual happiness. In its truest form, deepening one's faith often involves grappling with moments of lament. The Scriptures are filled with expressions of sorrow as well as yearning.

Consider the Psalms. They are filled with anguished pleas and heartfelt cries — and yet they are clinging to faith. Or consider Lamentations. Jeremiah’s writing here is an outpouring of grief, but at its center is deep trust and hope in the goodness of God.

When we talk about strengthening our faith, it must include an honest confrontation with the reality of suffering outside of Eden. A strengthened faith will bring raw and unvarnished prayer. Real faith is vulnerable. It is resilient and deeply rooted, but is usually planted in the soil of suffering. A strengthened faith knows how to lament and how to celebrate.

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Woman crying on the floor by the window

1. Learn to Lament

Biblical lament is an expression of grief, sorrow, or regret that is directed to God. Many believers feel as if such an expression is out of bounds and has no place within a robust faith. Quite the opposite is true. Christopher Wright has rightly said,

“…the language of lament is seriously neglected in the church.  Many Christians seem to feel that somehow it can’t be right to complain to God in the context of corporate worship when we should all feel happy.  There is an implicit pressure to stifle our real feelings because we are urged, by pious merchants of emotional denial, that we ought to have ‘faith’ (as if the moaning psalmists didn’t). So we end up giving external voice to pretended emotions we do not really feel, while hiding the real emotions we are struggling with deep inside.  Going to worship can become an exercise in pretense and concealment, neither of which can possibly be conducive for a real encounter with God. So, in reaction to some appalling disaster or tragedy, rather than cry out our true feelings to God, we prefer other ways of responding to it.” (Christopher J.H. Wright, The God I Don’t Understand, 52)

If we want to strengthen our faith in the midst of difficulties, we will need to know how to lament. That means being honest with the reality of suffering and carrying those aches to God. Keep a journal. Pray. Tell God everything.

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A man reading a Spanish Bible

2. Engage the Scriptures

In Isaiah 7, King Ahaz is confronted with a difficult situation. Here is what is happening politically for him. Assyria is the major world power at this point. Egypt still holds some sway over the world scene, but Assyria is the new kid on the block that is expanding their empire. And they are going westward. This causes Judah’s neighbors to the north – Israel and Syria – to grow uncomfortable. They encourage Judah to join them. But the encouragement is a little like a threat. They are moving their troops to the border, flexing their muscles, and saying, “Join us or you’re going to have problems.”

This is like what we face living in a fallen world. There are always many competing voices to the voice of God. For Ahaz, God was saying, “Trust me. Do nothing. They are a smoking firebrand, do nothing and they’ll fizzle out.” But Ahaz couldn’t listen. He got himself involved in the battle and it led to their undoing.

When we continually engage the Scriptures, we are consistently hearing the Word of God. Without doing this we will only hear our own voice or the voice of the culture. We need God’s Word to chisel and shape us. We need God’s Word to inform us and to point us to Christ. Consider a daily reading plan.

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Peaceful woman outside

3. Preach the Gospel to Yourself

We need the good news of Jesus for every step of the Christian life. The gospel is our anchor. Or to say it better — Jesus is our anchor. When we proclaim the gospel to ourselves, we are reminding our hearts of unchanging truths. It moves our perspective.

Have you ever tried watching an athletic contest after you know the results? If you know your team will ultimately win, that 7th inning grand slam your pitcher gives up doesn’t seem to matter as much. You might not know how they come back, but if you’ve seen the final score, you know that you come out victorious.

The gospel gives us the whole story. If we know the ending, it helps us in the present. Preaching the gospel to ourselves reminds us of the story. It bolsters our trust in His ongoing care and provision. This is part of what Paul is doing in the glorious chapter of Romans 8. He faces the reality of present suffering but proclaims the good news of the gospel over it. Nothing can stand in the way of God’s love for us. If that’s the case, it helps us to endure, even though we are being slaughtered daily.

Personally, I’ve developed a devotional plan where I preach the gospel to myself through the attributes of God. God-Man-Christ-Response. Creation-Fall-Redemption-Glory. I move through each of these with specific truths, training myself to apply the gospel in and out.

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Woman volunteering at donation

4. Serve Others

When life hands you lemons, make a lemonade stand and give free lemonade to other people. It sounds counterintuitive, right? You’re facing tough times and so the natural thing to do is to focus upon our own needs first. Get those sorted out and then you’ll be able to help others. There is certainly some truth to the danger of trying to serve on an empty tank. But there is something miraculous that happens when we choose to serve others out of our weakness.

I found “Patch Adams,” starring Robin Williams, to be an enriching movie. “Patch” was deeply depressed. While in a mental hospital he found that helping other patients provided healing for his own struggles. It shifted his focus from his own struggles to the needs of others. We never want to use the service of others as a manipulative tool for alleviating our own issues. But it is true that making an intentional effort to focus upon others has a great benefit.

When you step out to serve, whether it’s through your church, a local charity, or just helping out a neighbor, something amazing happens. It shifts your focus. You start seeing the bigger picture of what God is doing. Your problems might not disappear, but in serving, you join in something larger than yourself.

Jesus taught us to do this. Who could you serve today?

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Journal to be grateful today, candle, and tea

5. Maintain a Thankful Attitude

The reality is that life is filled with blessings and difficulties. At times the trials are so “loud” that it is hard to focus upon the good things. When I was going through a particularly difficult season, I had a counselor encourage me to each day write down 10 ways that God was working in my life. He encouraged me to pursue thankfulness even in the difficulty.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t like the suggestion at first. It seemed trite. But I soon realized that he wasn’t encouraging me to ignore the problems in my life. Instead, he was encouraging balance. I didn’t have any problem seeing the difficult things. Those came naturally. I didn’t need to be trained to see the reality of suffering. But I did need to be trained to see the reality of blessings.

Thankfulness isn’t about ignoring the hard stuff; it’s about finding the glimmers of God’s goodness even in the middle of suffering. Doing this is a reminder that God is always at work. And if we are united to Christ, we know that God is always working things for our good. By being thankful, we are training our hearts to acknowledge God’s good work. A thankful heart often becomes a hopeful heart. The more we count our blessings, the more we see them, and the more we reflect God’s heart to those around us.  It's like flipping on a light in a dark room – gratitude illuminates our lives and often the lives of those around us, reminding us of the unchanging love and faithfulness of God. Consider keeping a gratitude journal.

Conclusion

The best time to strengthen our faith through these practices is before we even find ourselves in difficulty. But even if you’re in the midst of difficulty, consider pursuing these practices even now. The reality is that any spiritual discipline which helps us be more like Jesus will help. There are far more practices than these which are listed. But these are particularly potent when you are in the trial.

Related Resource: What To Make of Richard Dawkins’ Cultural Christianity

Richard Dawkins, a biologist who is perhaps one of the world's most prominent apologists for atheism, recently said that he considers himself a "cultural Christian." Dawkins added, "But I must emphasize that I think that the things that Christians believe are actually nonsense." Specifically, he scoffed at the idea that Jesus could be born of a virgin or that he rose from the dead. So it seems like Dawkins wants the societal benefits of Christianity, just without Christ. In this episode of The Kainos Project, we discuss what to make of Dawkins' cultural Christianity by looking into his comments within their context. Is Dawkins turning toward faith, or is something else going on here? What is cultural Christianity, and is it something Christians should seek to cultivate? If so, what should that even look like?

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Mike Leake is husband to Nikki and father to Isaiah and Hannah. He is also the lead pastor at Calvary of Neosho, MO. Mike is the author of Torn to Heal and Jesus Is All You Need. His writing home is http://mikeleake.net and you can connect with him on Twitter @mikeleake. Mike has a new writing project at Proverbs4Today.

Originally published Thursday, 04 April 2024.