My two young donkeys recently experienced their first (possibly second) real snow. (In my part of North Carolina, “real” means anything that sticks.)
When we let them out of their shelter, they spent several minutes nosing around, shying, and staring. Then they lined up at the fence and looked at me as if to say, “All right, we’re finished. Make this cold, wet stuff go away now, please!”
Not only did the cold, wet stuff linger, but we got two more inches of it later that same week. By then, they seemed to be tolerating it—but I’m sure they still wanted their grass back.
Donkeys are originally from the desert, so they’re built for hot, dry conditions. Most donkeys I’ve heard of dislike cold, wet weather.
Yet, in many places where donkeys now live, a little cold and wet is unavoidable. Their human caregivers can—and should—take steps to mitigate trouble and keep their animals healthy. But to some extent, the donkeys still have to adapt.
Similarly, we humans sometimes face circumstances we wish God would take away. Maybe we didn’t expect them; maybe we don’t understand them. In any case, we want to shout, “God, I wasn’t built for this! I want my green pastures back!”
…And the cold, wet stuff stays. Or we get more of it.
We know God wants us to keep trusting and obeying Him. But how do we do that at such bleak times?
Here are a few thoughts:
Appreciate His Continued Care
Okay, so it snowed on your plans. Now you’re cold. Your feet are wet. Everything looks and sounds unfamiliar—maybe even a little scary. And did I mention you’re cold?
But pause for a moment. Take a deep breath.
Panic and disappointment tend to draw all our attention to what’s going wrong. And what’s going wrong can certainly be serious and warrant immediate action.
But even in the worst circumstances, something is still going right. Because God has not stopped working. He has not stopped working since the world’s first Sabbath, and He won’t stop till the world is renewed.
He may not be magicking away your hardship. But He is still caring for you in the midst of it, in ways you may or may not see.
So when you can, take a moment to name the ways you see Him moving, however small. And thank Him for all He has done and is doing for you—both the things you can see and those you can’t.
Approach Everything as a Chance to Learn and Grow
My donkeys could have stayed in their shelter when the gate swung open. They could see the snow just fine from there—no need to venture into it.
Yet they did venture into it. And other than some possible cabin fever from being kept in during the wintry mix, I think one of the primary reasons was their curiosity.
Fear and bitterness have a way of dampening our curiosity and shutting down our learning. We think we know as much as our skins are worth. Why approach something dangerous or disagreeable?
On the other hand, if we think there’s invaluable wisdom and experience to gain from the venture, we just might step out.
Often, our hardships offer just that. Maybe not comfortable, abstract, classroom education…but hard, hard-earned, hands-on learning. Learning we could never get any other way.
Now, I’m not saying we should go seeking danger or put ourselves in the way of unnecessary suffering. Far from it. Rashness doesn’t glorify God.
But when God hands us a test—which will be often enough without our seeking one out—we can expect to learn from it.
Jesus’s early followers understood this. In fact, the biblical writer James went so far as to encourage fellow believers to rejoice when they suffered—because their suffering was an opportunity to grow.
So rather than shrink from our trials as life-robbers, let’s meet them with open hands, ready to receive the hard gems they offer. Let’s ask our Teacher what He wishes to teach us and develop in us—and then engage with Him to make it happen.
Even when we can’t articulate the lessons we learn, we can look for spiritual growth and a harvest of Christlikeness.
Admire the Beauty of God Reflected in Hard Times
Snow can be uncomfortable. It can hide hazards. It melts into mud.
But it also waters the ground that, in spring, produces grass. It gives the world a fresh look. It can be a source of fun and adventure.
Similarly, hardship is multifaceted. It’s uncomfortable, hazardous, and messy. But it’s also faith-building, perspective-changing, and full of opportunities to experience God in new ways.
God doesn’t need us to be comfortable in order to work in us. He doesn’t need circumstances to go our way in order to work in our lives. Our plans can get snowed out and we can end up on ice (or in mud)…and He can go on doing amazing things in us and around us.
In fact, one Friday two thousand years ago, when things were going as badly as they possibly could and God Incarnate was being lethally tortured by His own creatures…He was saving the world.
Again, we needn’t and shouldn’t seek unnecessary suffering. (God also doesn’t need things to go wrong in order to display His glory.)
But when hardship comes, we can face it with the assurance that we will find God in it, just as we have found Him everywhere else. We can go through it knowing He is all around us here, just as He has been everywhere else.
When the ancient Israelites left Egypt and trekked through the desert en route to the Promised Land, they became hungry. In response, God provided a special bread that appeared miraculously in their camp every morning.
When the Israelites first saw the special bread, they weren’t sure what it was. So they called it manna—Hebrew meaning, “What is it?”
I’m sure that if my donkeys could talk, they would have called the snow manna—and it was far from the welcome, gourmet stuff given to the Israelites (other than being white and flaky).
We may not always be sure what to make of what God sends us. But we can always trust and know the One who sends it.
And in this manna—maybe even through it—He’s caring for us. He’s growing us. He’s with us.
So take His hand and step out into that strange white stuff. Call it manna if you must.
Trust that it’s as good a place to be as your warm green pastures. Because the same God walks here, too.
Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you, as if something unusual were happening to you. Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may also rejoice with great joy when his glory is revealed.1 Peter 4:12-13 (CSB)
Scripture quotations marked CSB have been taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
4 thoughts on “Finding God When Things Look Bleak”
Megan, Thank you for sharing this writing. I always enjoy them, but this one really resonated with me. You are awesome in so many ways, but you definitely have a gift with words & writings! I am so proud to call you friend and neighbor!💗💗
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Thank you so much for the kind words. Gina! ❤ I’m always happy for my writing to be a blessing.
Megan, I think God wrote to you and told you to write this directly and specifically for me. Thank you so much. This is definitely a large drink of water in a very difficult time of my journey. Bless you and thank you for being one of those who “have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying.” ♥
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Praying for you, Debbie. ❤ I’m humbled that God used these words to encourage you. May He continue to sustain you, keep you, and surround you with His loving presence.