I usually don’t mind sharing my struggle if I can also tell how it resolved, how I’m better and how everything’s fixed and right again in my little corner of the universe. Yet the story I’m living is one that isn’t wrapped up with a pretty bow or a tidy ending. Instead, it’s full of unknowns, questions, and complexities. I still don’t know how this story will end.
All of us live in the middle of our stories, in one way or another. Maybe a personal trial leaves you unsure what the future holds and grasping for truths about God that you can hold onto. Or perhaps current events remind you that “you do not know what tomorrow will bring” (James 4:14). When you and I face the unknown, our ultimate hope is found in God, who made himself known to us in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:15-19). Our hope in him is “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:19), and here are just three of many characteristics of God to remember in the unknown.
1. God goes before us.
The afternoon the specialist called and told me my toddler’s probable diagnosis with a serious genetic condition, I experienced first-hand the truth that God goes before us. My kids and I had a playdate scheduled, and there wasn’t time to Google the unfamiliar name of this condition—let alone wrap my mind around what it might mean for my child and our family—before there was a knock at the front door.
As our children played together nearby, with tears streaming down my face, I shared the news with my friend. After listening intently, she simply said, “That’s what my son has.”
I’d known that one of her sons had a rare childhood liver disease and had spent significant time in the hospital as a baby, but I didn’t know many details about that season of her life. For her part, in seven years since her son’s diagnosis, my friend had never met another family face-to-face who had a child with this condition. It was clear that my gracious Father had gone before me, preparing another mom to weep with, encourage, and pray for me.
Just as Moses’s words strengthened Joshua in the Old Testament, it was as though the Lord was encouraging my heart through my friend, saying, “It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8).
However my story or yours plays out, we can find great comfort in knowing that the Lord goes before us. Our hardest days aren’t a surprise to our sovereign heavenly Father. He knows all about them. We remember that “the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23)—and they are waiting for us tomorrow.
2. God is with us.
Not only does God go before us into the unknown, but he walks with us. Yet we don’t always feel God’s presence. At least in my experience, this can be especially true when physical and emotional pain scream loudly. And it’s all the more reason for us to base our faith not on feelings but on the truth of God’s promises.
As a child, when I was afraid of the dark, I would recite Isaiah 41:10:
“Fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
As an adult, this same promise—that God is with me, strengthening and helping me—continues to be an anchor to my soul when I’m scared and “darkness [seems to] cover me, and the light about me be night” (Psalm 139:11).
The days following my son’s diagnosis were some of those days. Because it was genetic, the rest of our family was tested, and I learned that two more of my children shared the same condition. Grief and questions flooded in: What did this mean for the future? Where was God in all this?
I couldn’t trust my fluctuating feelings. I couldn’t make sense of the future. But Scripture told me that God was right there, holding onto me.
I could trust the Lord to be with me for each day of this trial because he’d already shown himself to be faithful. After hundreds of years of silence—the time between the Old Testament and the start of the New—the virgin Mary had conceived and bore a son named Immanuel, which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). In Jesus, God had kept all his promises, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him” (2 Corinthians 1:20), and made a way for me to live in fellowship with Him.
3. God’s grace is sufficient.
In challenging circumstances, especially ones with no immediate end in sight or with the potential to grow harder over time, we can question whether God’s grace is sufficient for what lies ahead. The breadwinner who loses his job asks, “Is God really going to come through when there are medical bills and a mortgage to pay?” Someone experiencing prolonged singleness wonders, “Will God’s grace really satisfy my lonely heart when I want so badly to be married?”
In my own trials, I’ve often tried to peek around the corner, to see what’s up ahead, only to find myself worrying about tomorrow’s trouble. But God’s grace is sufficient for today, in the present tense. As Paul testified in his own trial, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness'” (2 Corinthians 12:9). God’s grace is sufficient right now, in this moment, for every believer. God’s grace is available no matter how dysfunctional a family might be or what stage of cancer a loved one faces. God’s grace is adequate to meet the present need.
God’s grace is enough because He is enough, and His power is made perfect in our weakness. We know this because when we were at our weakest, “dead in our trespasses,” He “made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5). As the writer to the Hebrews invites us: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). In our time of need, including those times when our struggles surround the unknown, we can draw near to God. When we do, we find that He is more than enough.
We may not know what tomorrow will bring or how God will answer our prayers, but we can get to know our Lord better and trust him more in the day-to-day. However our stories unfold, we look forward to the very good ending, when “God himself will be with [us] as [our] God” (Revelation 21:3).