10 Practical Ways to Trust God in Difficult Times
Learning how to trust God when our hearts are breaking doesn’t always come easily. Here are 10 practical ways you can learn to trust Him more when you need Him most.
One morning several years ago, I jolted awake with a sharp pain in my chest. Groggy and confused, I took a few deep breaths and tried not to panic. When the pain didn’t stop, I called out to my daughter who rushed in and called 9-1-1. A few minutes later, I was surrounded by a team of paramedics. They loaded me into an ambulance and sped through our neighborhood, running red lights and weaving in and out of traffic to get me to the hospital.
Later that day, I was released with the baffling diagnosis of a “cardiac event with no known cause” which my doctor later changed to a “probable panic attack.” A panic attack. While I was sleeping. My life at the time was overflowing with stress as I navigated the painful end of my 25-year marriage.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a 9-1-1 response team to call when your heart is breaking?
When life takes an unexpected turn, and we find ourselves wrecked and crying out in pain, we desperately wish for someone to rush in and rescue us.
But when it comes to life’s biggest hurts – death, divorce, estrangement from loved ones, or other losses – we need something more than a paramedic racing to our side. In difficult times like these, we need to trust God to comfort and walk with us on the painful road toward healing and wholeness. And while we don’t think twice about trusting first responders in a health crisis, learning how to trust God when our hearts are breaking doesn’t always come so easily.
Here are 10 practical ways to help you trust God more when you need Him most.
1. Know who you’re trusting.
In order to believe that God has the power to heal our broken hearts and redeem our pain, we need to know Him intimately, right down in our bones. We need to know His character and why He can be trusted.
“In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” ~ JesusJohn 16:33
How much confidence would you have in a stranger telling you, “Hey, cheer up! I’ve handled the problem, so you don’t have to worry about it anymore.”? It’s unlikely that you’d be moved by such a claim if you didn’t know anything about the person behind the promise. That’s why we can’t keep God at a distance. We need to open ourselves up and allow Him to show us who He is and who we are to Him. We need to invest in our relationship.
Then when heartbreak rocks your world, you’ll be able to answer the voices of fear and doubt with a deep knowledge of God’s truth – that He loves you and cares about your struggles and circumstances. That he can be trusted with even the deepest pain and hardest edges of your life. That He won’t ever leave you to figure things out on your own.
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2. Believe that God wants you to grow your own way.
While a lot is written about how to grow your relationship with God, the truth is no one formula works for everyone. Just as we have unique personalities and preferences, the ways we feel drawn into God’s presence are also uniquely personal.
Bible teacher and author Beth Moore says in her memoir All My Knotted Up Life, “When I let the wind catch the pages of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, I find nowhere to land on one precise pattern for what it looks like to be summoned by God to walk with him or called by Jesus to follow him…All come to Jesus by faith. No one comes by formula.”
“I love those who love me, and those who diligently seek me will find me.”Proverbs 8:17
Some find Him while sitting quietly early in the morning with a cup of coffee or tea, Bible open, scribbling in a journal. Others feel His presence while spending time outdoors soaking in the beauty of all He’s created, listening to the sounds of birdsong or children playing or horns honking, depending on where you live. Still others seek Him in silence and solitude. All very different experiences for spending time in the presence of our one ever-faithful God.
Whatever practice you choose, spending time alone with God regularly will help you move beyond the surface and into a deeper, more intimate relationship with Him. The kind of relationship you can count on even when life gets hard.
3. Deepen your trust by remembering what God’s already done.
When we remember what God has done for us in the past and what He is doing for us in the present, it’s so much easier to trust Him with our future. Can you recall a time when God answered your prayers? Or guided a decision? Led you in a particular direction? Or shuffled all the pieces of what looked like a disaster into a fresh start or unexpected blessing?
Remind yourself of those moments – both big and small – by reflecting on God’s faithfulness. Go through your old journals or share your memories with others who were involved. Tell your story to someone else who might need encouragement. By looking back with wonder and gratitude at how God moved in your life when you needed Him, you’ll lay a foundation of certainty, hope and the strength to stand firm when difficult times threaten and the enemy tries to fill you with doubt.
4. Learn to trust God in difficult times by sharing life with His people.
Throughout time, God’s people have learned of His steadfast love and life-changing power by sharing stories of His faithfulness. So, along with remembering your own history, ask others to share their stories with you. Pay attention and notice how God is working in the lives of those around you and borrow strength from banding together. Our personal stories combined with the stories of others give our faith feet to keep running the race.
“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”Ecclesiastes 4:12
Don’t let pride or embarrassment, or shame get in the way of sharing what’s happening in your life. You’re going to need the support and encouragement of fellow travelers – those who trust God for you when you find yourself faltering.
The enemy loves nothing more than to isolate us in our pain and make us think that no one could ever understand what we’re going through. Ask God to give you the courage to be vulnerable and honest with a few faith-filled friends.
5. Examine the evidence in the pages of your Bible.
Take a fresh look at the familiar stories of God’s faithfulness in seemingly impossible situations. Immerse yourself in the miraculous ways He rescued Joseph from a life of slavery, Daniel from a lion’s den, Jonah from the belly of a whale, the disciples from a deadly storm, Peter from prison, Paul from a shipwreck… and dozens of other moments recorded in Scripture when God showed up when all seemed lost. These stories not only serve as examples of how God turns hopeless situations into new life and blessings. They also reflect the story of His redeeming love in the person of Christ.
Jesus’ death on the cross rescued us once and for all. Knowing the truth about who He is and what He’s done and continues to do is our assurance that God, who sent His one and only Son to save us for eternity, surely won’t abandon us in our time of need. Instead, He will cause even the worst of difficulties to somehow work for good (Romans 8:28), even when seeing it from here seems impossible.
6. Stop what you’re doing and pray.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably got a few ideas about how to get out of the tough spot you’re in. Mostly my solutions have something to do with changes the person who’s hurt me needs to make. But mysteriously, nearly every time I count on that, I’m disappointed. That’s when I remember that while I can’t control what others choose to do, there’s one thing I do have control over. I can pray.
Prayer allows us to bring our mess to God. All the gritty details and futile attempts at fixing things. Our pride, fear, overwhelm, and tears. He can handle it all. Like the prophet Habakkuk, I can stand on the edge of the pit of despair and shout, “Where are you, God?!” (Habakkuk 1:2) Or like Jesus in the Garden, I can wrestle with what comes next and cry, “Not my will, but yours Father.” (Luke 22:42)
“Prayer does change things, all kinds of things. But the most important thing it changes is us.”R.C. Sproul
Prayer sweeps away the dark shadows threatening to fill our hearts and minds with doubt. It quiets the lies of the enemy who tells us we are lost, alone, and abandoned. Prayer leaves us feeling seen, heard, and loved by the only One who has everything we need, no matter what else happens. It quiets us with God’s peace and assurance while we wait for answers. As we lift our burdens to the Lord, He comforts us with the knowledge that while we don’t see a way through, He does.
7. Leave your brokenness with God.
This might be the hardest part. Especially when you wake up in the middle of the night with a weight on your chest and a pounding heart. Thoughts racing, telling you how you could have handled things differently or spilling out new ideas for taking back control. Consider moments like these a fresh invitation to cry out to God. Resist the temptation to play scenes over and over in an endless loop by asking God to quiet the noise and calm your anxious mind.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.Psalm 34:18
Just as ruminating over every “what if?” isn’t helpful, neither is coming back, again and again, to check on what you’ve left at the foot of the cross. You’ve spent time knowing and believing that God is trustworthy. You’ve poured out your heart to Him and given Him every thought and detail you can think of. Now trust Him with the outcome as you rest, watch, and pray. It might not be comfortable. In fact, it might feel like you’re wandering around in the dark. But know that you’re safe there with God who’s holding you while you wait. He won’t let you go.
8. Listen for God’s guidance.
Now it’s time to get quiet and listen. Turn off all the noise and give your heart and mind plenty of white space.
While it can be helpful to fill up on encouraging conversations, podcasts, books, and music (I’ve even got some recommendations for you at the end of this post,) you also need to give yourself room to breathe and listen for God’s guidance. This is non-negotiable.
Depending on your personality, practicing silence and solitude might feel utterly foreign to you. But as you lean into this spiritual practice, you’ll find your mind settling and your daily rhythms slowing to match the heartbeat of your Creator. When He speaks, you’ll hear him, but only in the moments between the hustle, bustle, and noise of life.
9. Follow God’s lead.
When a solution or next step presents itself, hold it with open hands and a spirit of curiosity. Ask yourself some clarifying questions: Does this align with what you’ve learned about God’s character? Is this answer something that would come from a good and faithful God? Is this what God wants for you?
Ask God to examine your heart and show you if you’re harboring any anger, resentment, or bitterness. Things that might lead you to do or say something that feels good at the moment but does nothing to bring about reconciliation or resolution.
Return to prayer and ask God to bring about His will, not your own. To give you the ability to offer grace and the gift of forgiveness to the one who’s hurt you if that is what the situation calls for. Don’t seek revenge or retribution for the hurt you’ve experienced. Instead, trust God to do whatever brings Him glory and gives you peace.
10. Don’t wait for a crisis to begin trusting God.
While a crisis can work as a crash course in learning to trust God in difficult times, there’s no better time than now to begin trusting Him with all your cares and concerns. Nothing is too big or too small to share with Him. If something matters to you, it matters to God. Because you matter to God. (1 Peter 5:7)
Seek Him daily, and you’ll grow a deep and meaningful relationship that brings you joy, peace and the confidence to meet each day with renewed hope, no matter your circumstances.
Trusting God in difficult times is a big ask. But our God is a big God. He delivers and saves in every situation when we seek Him first and remain open to His plan and purpose – even when our hearts are breaking.
Whether He brings you through your trial quickly or asks you to walk with Him on a long and winding journey, trusting God with your whole heart will lead you to the abundant life He wants for you. (John 10:10)
Not exactly a 9-1-1 response team, but something so much better. A God we can trust to bring us through the pain and deliver us healed and whole to the other side.
Here are some of my favorite resources for trusting God in difficult times.
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