Everyone experiences difficulties in life. It can be the loss of a job, an illness that never seems to end, a broken marriage and a broken heart, not being able to make ends meet, a physical or verbal attack by a friend or a stranger, the devastation of a natural disaster, and the list goes on. But the greatest tragedy is that all of these difficulties and trials have shattered hope.
When we go through some difficulty and then we finally reach the end of it, we can respond is different ways. One way is to be happy for ourselves and try to just put it all behind us, never thinking of the difficulty again. Another is to not be able to get over it, to remain bitter and resentful that we had to go through this trial at all, never giving thanks for the restoration we have experienced.
A third way we can respond is to rejoice that we have made it through with the help of God, but to never forget how it felt to be in the midst of that trial. This third response helps to develop an intercessor’s heart filled with empathy. This is the response I have chosen in response to the many trials I have faced in life. God has used this response to develop in me an intercessor’s heart with the desire to pray for others who are going through trials of their own.
I recently learned of the ongoing struggles of a fellow Christian on the Third Day Connect website, which involved several of these difficulties all at once. I don’t know this woman, but my heart went out to her and I wanted to help. But I have no way of helping her except to pray. And so pray I have, primarily that God will restore her hope, which seems to have been shattered into a billion little pieces by the weight of her troubles.
I doubt her story is all that unique. Many struggle because the weight of life has shattered their hope. I know I can’t restore their hope, but I know the One who can. The devil would like God’s people to drown in their trials, but God has promised to restore hope to those who believe.
I have a wooden sculpture of the word “Hope” that I got at the Relay for Life. I sat it on top of a picture in my bathroom and it fell to the floor and broke into many pieces. My son tried to glue it back together using Elmer’s glue, wood glue, and a hot glue gun, but pieces still keep falling off. It will never be the same. I actually bought a new one at Relay for Life this year to replace it, but I keep both on the windowsill in my bedroom as a reminder of hope shattered and hope restored.
The apostle Peter wrote about weathering trials and the promise that God will restore hope:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:6-10.
Peter’s reminder that other believers are “undergoing the same kind of sufferings” led me to another thought. What if, instead of waiting until after we have been restored from our trials to intercede for others in prayer, we also prayed for others undergoing the exact same trials we are undergoing right now?
- What if, as you looked at a pile of bills you didn’t have the means to pay, you stopped to intercede for all those around the world who were also struggling to make ends meet?
- What if, as you sat in the clinic chair undergoing weekly chemotherapy for cancer, you prayed for the many who had just received their diagnosis or who were facing surgery to remove a tumor?
- What if, as you sat in your living room in shock that your spouse had left you or cheated on you, you cried out to God for all the broken hearts and failing marriages across the nation?
- What if, as you surveyed the damage to your house from fire, tornado, or flood in disbelief that it could all be destroyed, you interceded with our Father for the many who lost all their worldly possessions?
- What if, sitting in the front pew at your loved one’s memorial service, you shed a tear for those sitting around you and at memorial services throughout the world?
What if we used our pain and suffering to care for others in pain? How would that change us? How would that change them? Would it give God an opening to restore hope to a people that desperately need it? I believe it would. And I believe it would strengthen the intercessor’s heart in all of us. Will you choose to join me in this intercessory endeavor? I hope so.