When Difficulties Overwhelm

The Sonshine
April 1, 2016

Walter Olsen


There are times in all of our lives when difficulties seem to overwhelm us. We hardly know where to turn and we may feel confused and anxious about the future. While this is the plight of all people sometimes, believers have a strength and hope even in the midst of severe trials. It is our position in Christ and our personal relationship to Him that makes all the difference. Our position is that of a saint, that is, one who has been forgiven of his sins and thus has the assurance of eternal life. He is the one who is justified by faith and is a member of the body of Christ. Our relationship can and should be one of abiding in Him. When that is true, we can face our challenges with confidence.


Still, our challenges can seem overwhelming to us. We are frustrated, hurting, and confused. This has been the lot of many Godly people in the Bible.


What, then, can the believer find and, by faith, apply to his life that will help him in his time of bewilderment? Let me make a few suggestions from the Apostle Paul’s experience in II Corinthians 12.


Acknowledge your challenges. Some challenges are private and unknown to others, but many are not. It helps to know what you are facing, whether private or public. Paul acknowledged his problem when he said, “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure” (II Cor. 12:7).  Paul’s difficulty in this situation was not a mystery to him. He knew the word of God, he knew God, and he knew himself. He knew, it seems, his tendency to boast about the blessing of God he had received regarding the revelations of God given to him.


As believers, we should always be aware of giving all glory to God for His blessing in our lives. It is so easy to take credit for ourselves when all glory should be given to Him!


Paul’s particular thorn is not identified, though some think it may be poor eyesight. At any rate, we can all take comfort in that, if we have a ‘thorn in the flesh,’ we are not alone. Our thorns in the flesh may be allowed of God to bring us closer to Him and to keep us from indulging the lusts of the flesh.


Pray about them. Commit the need to the Lord as Paul did. He said, “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me” (II Cor. 12:8). When we have any difficulty in life, we should take it to the Lord. This is the normal response of a believer who is walking with God. We know from the word of God that God knows and cares about our needs. We are exhorted, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you” (I Pet. 5:6-7).


To fail to pray is to assume we can handle the problem by ourselves. It is to fail in our trust and dependence upon Him. Perhaps it is an evidence of a breakdown in our walk with Him. If we are truly abiding in Him, our first response would be to pray. The point is, if we are really walking with Him, we have found His sufficiency to be ample in previous challenges. Whatever the need is, our first impulse should be to bring it to the Lord in prayer.


If we think about it, perhaps we can think of problems we have never brought to Him! We carry them as  unnecessary weights that tend to rob us of our joy and peace we might otherwise have. It is not that all of the problems will be solved to our liking, but we know that God shares the burden with us and that He has a reason for the un-lifted burden. We can rest in the fact that He knows and cares and will sustain us in our times of need.


Rejoice in what you have. Can we really rejoice in the midst of severe trials? It seem incongruous with what we think life should be or what we would like it to be. Yet, the purpose of our lives is greater than our enjoyment of it. The purpose of life is to honor and glorify God. It is to reveal God in all aspects of our life. Of course, no one likes the pain of physical suffering,  emotional disturbances, or grief and we should do what we can to alleviate such suffering whether on our own behalf or on the behalf of others.


The purpose of this point though, is to see what we as believers have even in the midst of severe trials. It is not at all to diminish the suffering, because it is all too real as we go through it.


God’s  message to Paul in the midst of his trial was, “…My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness…” (II Cor. 12:9). It is in the time of suffering that we can see something of the mighty hand of God. He may help relieve the problem itself or He may give us the strength to endure it. It is a blessing to know that He bears the problem along with us! We are not alone!


Accept the trial as part of God’s will for your life at a given time. I know this may sound odd to many, but it is what Paul exemplifies in his dealing with his trials. Because of the manifestation of God’s grace, Paul was able to say, “…Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of God may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (II Cor. 12:9b-10). Paul’s sufferings were immense as we read in II Cor. 11:23-30. Most of us are accustomed to  seeking relief in our sufferings, and rightly so. None of us like to suffer physically or in any other way.


However, we cannot avoid suffering in this life. We never get so spiritual that we are above suffering! We experience physical pain, personal problems, family problems, relationship problems, and any number of other things. Even though we may be growing in the Lord, we will suffer from the consequences of the fall in the Garden of Eden. Pain, separation, loneliness, grief, and death are a part of all of our lives.


However, suffering should not be an end in itself. The end of suffering is the glory of God. We need to look to Him to accomplish His will in our suffering.


Paul seems to be saying that it is better to suffer with Christ than to be without suffering and without the special, intimate ministry of God in such times. There is something about the ministering presence of God that is of greater value than a life without suffering. It is in our suffering that we often get closer to God. There seems to be a greater need for Him. Indeed, it can be a time of spiritual growth and special blessing. Paul was able to say,”If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities” (II Cor. 11:30).


Let Jesus Himself and the truth of His word be your primary source of joy. When other things take His place, we cannot know the joy God intends for us. Jesus said, “These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (Jn. 15:11). Material things play a significant part in our lives and are necessary to our physical well-being. We need food, clothing, shelter and whatever it takes to manage our lives in the world we live in. Jesus knows our daily needs. He said to His disciples, “Therefore take no thought, saying, what shall we eat? Or what shall we drink? Or wherewithal shall we be clothed…for your Father in heaven knoweth that ye have need of all these things…But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness: and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:31-33). 


The problem is when the pursuit of material things becomes the goal and satisfaction of our lives. It is then that materialism becomes a kind of god. It is a god that can become very controlling. It has been said, “The more we have, the more we want.”


As believers, we have nothing of greater value than Jesus Himself and His word. No matter what else we may have, nothing is more precious to us than the Lord Jesus. Yet, I fear many believers never come to comprehend this. It is so easy to get taken up with the demands and pleasures of life that we never enter into much of a true walk with God. We know Him as our Savior, but we don’t know Him as the very essence of our lives. If that be true, it is a great loss.


If we look to circumstances, even good health, as being the primary source of our well-being, could not we be missing something even more precious  in our walk with God? I know it is easy to say this when we are feeling well and all of our needs are being met, but could there not be some truth in this thought?


I like David’s pursuit of God. He said, “As the hart [deer] panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God” (Psa. 42:1-2). Further, he said, “Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from Him cometh my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense…” (Psa. 62:1-2).


Trust that the Lord has a purpose for you in your present trial. It may well be a purpose that you cannot at the present see. We can’t always see the end from the beginning. It should be enough for us that we walk by faith, leaving the results with God. Remember Paul’s word, “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (II Cor. 5:7). Sometimes the trial can be of an overwhelming proportion, and yet some good may come of it. Sometimes we may feel like David when he said, “Save me, O God; for the waters are come into my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overwhelm me” (Psa 69:1-2). Later in the same Psalm he said, “I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving” (Psa. 69:30).


A powerful example of this truth is the experience of Joseph after he had been sold by his brothers. When his brothers appeared before him we read, “And Joseph said unto them, Fear not; for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Gen. 50:19-20). So, the next time a severe trial comes, commit it to God and let Him have His way, depending upon Him each step of the way. Yes, I know this may sound irrational to some, but I believe it is the way of God. I believe also that this decision comes only as a result of walking with God. It is not just a self determining effort, but a result of abiding in Christ and His abiding in us.


Look beyond the present difficulties to the eternal promises of God. It is so easy to get our fixation only on this earth that we lose sight of eternal realities. We live in physical bodies and on a physical earth and so earthly realities consume out thinking. This is natural. And yet, for the believer, there is another dimension - the dimension of God and heavenly realities. That doesn’t mean we can neglect or deny our physical existence and the problems that attend it, but that this life is not all there is! By faith, we can look beyond our suffering to the glorious promises of God.


Moses is such a good example of this truth. He chose  “…rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season…for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward” (Heb. 11:25-26). In other words, Moses was not consumed by what many would consider loss! He was able to see beyond the present. We all suffer many losses in this life. However, as believers, we endure “…as seeing Him who is invisible” (Heb. 11:27). Please note, this is not to take our present losses and sufferings lightly! They can be and often are very significant. It is, though, that we have hope beyond the present suffering.




It seems we either are suffering through some difficult things or, as has been said, “There is some in the mail.” Either way, God’s plea to us is that He might be our sufficiency.



Special ministry in the month of March included preaching in Eau Claire  and also in the services of our home church, First Baptist of Woodville, while Pastor and Mrs. Tapp are traveling in Italy and Israel. Earlier, I brought the message at the funeral for Bobby Mills on February 29th and for the funeral for Marilyn (Johnson) Stensland on March 1st. We also attended the funeral for Norma Marot in Chetek on March 4th.



We celebrated Easter with my sister, Dorothy, and her family near Barron. My other sister, Sharon, was also there from Brainerd.


BJ had fluid removed from her right knee and cortisone injected. So far so good!


Our snow is gone (for today!) and the grass is greening up. We have also enjoyed the return of many spring birds.


In the spring time, we often do some special spring cleaning. It is easy for dirt, dust, and grime to accumulate over the long winter months. Perhaps it is a good time to take a good look at our lives and see if there is any special cleaning that needs to be done! (Psa. 139:23-24).


May God grant to each one who reads this the wonderful blessing of His presence!


Telephone 715-688-6220 olsenbw@baldwin-telecom.net The Sonshine can also be read on the church website: fbcwoodville.org Click on Missions



Walter Olsen

155 Willow Circle

Baldwin, WI 54002