A pastor in Los Angeles, Pancho has been married for 38 years and has five children. He had a difficult youth, being fatherless, uneducated, and into alcohol and drug abuse from age 11. Any drug you can name, he tried. He didn’t want to be on a path of destruction, but he could not stop himself.
Then when he was in his early 20’s, his ex-girlfriend, who had recently given her life to Christ, invited him to a “rock concert” (that was actually a Christian concert). Pancho felt very upset when he realized where he was, but unable to escape, he listened to the gospel message that was shared there. No one before had been able to reach him with logic or love, but the Holy Spirit spoke to his heart that day and called him to a new life.
Newly committed to Christ, Pancho discovered a newfound reasoning, able to say no to harmful things that had been a normal part of his everyday life. God was in the business of changing his life! But is that where his story ends? Do new Christians just walk off into the sunset, happily ever after?
Even Christians experience trials, desperation, loneliness, and despair.
No. Jesus never promised that. Even Christians experience trials, desperation, loneliness, and despair. Maybe you have experienced those things or asked these questions: Is this how life is supposed to be? Why haven’t I been healed? What’s happening with my life? God, where are You?
The truth is that we will ALL go through hardships in life. Pastor Pancho called these “The Big D’s:”
and the list goes on…
One such trial for Pancho occurred when his wife was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2001. For 5-6 terrible years, he asked and doubted and despaired, walking a lonely road that he had no desire to walk. He went through some very intense darkness, questioning if God was really there. (And in case you wondered, Pancho’s wife has since been healed!)
Jesus is not afraid of these hard questions or dark feelings; He truly understands pain. He was fully God, yet fully man, thus He felt fatigue, desolation, sorrow, and fear. He asked the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42) He cried out from the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34)
Peter is a disciple whom we all admire, but even Peter doubted Jesus. In Matthew 14, Peter asked Jesus to call him out to walk on water as He was doing. Jesus called, so Peter began to walk on the water. But when he took his eyes off the Lord, the winds came, the doubt set in, and Peter fell to the waves below. Jesus reached out for him, saying, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31) Yet we know how Peter’s story ends: he went on to become a powerful apostle, healing, preaching, acting in faith everywhere he went. Doubt was not his enemy; it was a step on the path to his great faith.
Doubt is not your enemy, either. It’s your ally, the transition for you to become a better person. When doubt comes, where there is pain and suffering amidst the trials of life, you will be forced to search more deeply and ask more sincerely. Doubt is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of the expansion of our faith, compelling us to seek God as He really is.
Poet Robert Browning writes, “I show you doubt, to prove that faith exists.”
Jesus knew that we would experience hardship on this earth, but his message is one of hope: “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Jesus did not promise that life would be easy, but He promised that He has been victorious and that with Him, we will be victorious, too.
Booker to Washington writes, “no man should be pitied because, every day in his life, he faces a hard, stub-born problem, but rather that it is the man who has no problem to solve, no hardships to face, who is to be pitied.”
Don’t let doubt become a bully for you, but a stepping stone. It is a sign that you are in transformation.
Don’t let doubt become a bully for you, but a stepping stone. It is a sign that you are in transformation. Pancho encouraged us that he has doubted in his darkest moments, but he trusted in Jesus and moved forward into a higher level of commitment to God.
And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:3-5