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How to Trust God in the Midst of Adversity

“I can do all things through Christ Who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13
I don’t think this verse is our promise from God that we can do anything we put our minds to. I think it is actually a verse of comfort from a guy who wrote it while chained in prison, encouraging the rest of us who are stuck in dire circumstances to keep trusting. I think this verse actually drives home the very crux of the Gospel of Grace: we can face all sorts of things and persevere through them, as long as we keep trusting in a faithful, changeless God.

Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned in thirty-seven years is that I can trust God in the midst of adversity.

I was raised in the Charismatic Movement, taught to believe we could believe it and receive it, name it and claim it, blab it and grab it. Because I believed in God’s plan to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me a hope and a future, I knew that all things were possible if I just believed in God.

In those days, I wrote Scripture on index cards and carried it with me until I had the verse memorized.

How to Trust God in the Midst of Adversity

​I got my first taste of freedom from that kind of formulaic Christianity during my freshman year of college, and I quickly burned out on the church game. Like many kids that age, I grew jaded and bitter. I questioned everything, doubted everyone, and dared anyone to question my choices.

Yet I still tried everything to find my purpose, which I expected to be magnificent. I was accustomed to excelling, and didn’t God promise me a hope and a future? But after being President of my Freshman class, making the Dean’s list, and dating a couple of girls, I still wasn’t satisfied.

So, at nineteen, I walked away from a four-year scholarship at a public liberal arts university, opting instead for a tiny ministry school. Why? Because I’d been playing the church game all my life. As long as I performed like the rest of the crowd, I could be anonymous. It was going to be easy.

​How to Trust God in the Midst of Adversity via @iamsteveaustin #hope #graceismessy #catchingyourbreath

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How to Trust God in the Midst of Adversity

After ministry school, I served as a youth pastor and worship leader for the next decade, believing I could change the world and change the church. Around the age of twenty-nine, the shiny things lost their appeal and I began to burn out. I lost myself in trying to do everything bigger and better than the time before. 

The truth is, I was using ministry to try and cover up my mental illness. I was dying inside, crushed by the weight of depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I nearly lost my family as a result.

For a while, I lost my will to live.

These days, I am no longer the boy who intentionally memorizes Scripture, and I haven’t been the President of anything in nearly twenty years.

So what about that hope and future God promised me?

I have always called Jeremiah 29:11 “the graduation verse” because that’s when it is most used. 

And what about this one: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

In reality, neither of these verses are promises from God that we can achieve anything we put our minds to. Philippians 4:13 was actually penned by Paul, while chained in prison, encouraging the rest of us who are stuck in dire circumstances to keep trusting. 

In essence, Paul is saying that we can face all sorts of difficult circumstances and persevere, as long as we keep trusting in a faithful, changeless God.

​It's natural for good, positive parents to want to tell our kids they can do anything. ​We want them to aim for the moon, and reach for the stars. Our hope is that they graduate with honors, get the job, get the girl, and have the life they want. 

​But Paul's gritty hope is saying when we don't get the job, or the girl, or the life we wanted, but instead lose our house, or our baby, or our momentary sanity, we can still endure all things through Christ who gives us strength.

​"I can ​endure all things through Christ who gives me strength." - Philippians 4:13, via @iamsteveaustin #graceismessy #hope #holdon

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When Lindsey experienced the hell of postpartum depression following our first child’s birth, it was the scariest time of my life. No young guy ever dreams of having his wife placed in a psych ward. I would have rather died. When she was rolled away on that stretcher, I couldn’t imagine anything worse.

A year later, Lindsey got the call no wife wants to get. “We found your husband’s body. He’s been transported to ICU.” 

In both situations, we faced our darkest days, but we trusted in God in the face of great adversity and He walked with us through every experience.

Neither situation was easy - far from it! I wouldn’t wish those dark and uncertain days on my worst enemy. And in the midst of that kind of hell on earth, I wasn’t quoting Scripture or living out my faith with ease.

But the truth is, we did endure, and God was with us.

Lessons in Adversity

​We never want to face adverse situations. Unfortunately, they will happen. It’s not a matter of if, but when. If there is to be a silver lining, it’s that ​we will learn from them. That is if ​we are willing to learn.

The deeper the adversity ​we face, the more it tests ​our resolve. ​We will learn much about ​ourselves in how ​we deal with ​the situation.​ I didn't want to have my wife hospitalized for her own safety, and that of our son. She didn't want to accept that I'd intentionally tried to end my life. 

But we couldn't heal in either scenario until we were willing to face the pain in the first place. It's the only way to learn from adversity.

​Today, I no longer want to do “all things”. Instead, I want to do a few things well, and persevere through adversity and tragedy, because the dark days make the Light ​shine that much brighter.

​The dark days make the Light shine that much brighter. via @iamsteveaustin #adversity #hope #faith

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By Steve Austin

Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.

  • This. All of this. This is where I am. I’ve been the good Bible study girl. The one who leads worship. The one who faithfully goes to choir even though she hates it. I don’t want to do all things either. The good news is that we don’t have to. 🙂

  • Hi, Steve, you have done a awesome job on your website. I was going to say that I was raised a baptist, was known as the good guy at church, was there every chance I could get, and was in every activity, maybe not as a leader. My home life and family was a nightmare. I have a battle with wanting to do more in the church and not knowing where I fit into in the church body. Like you say, to find contentment where we are at with seemingly the small things in God’s grace. A internet ministry is a big thing in the eyes of God, having a family and raising a family is a big deal…being a husband and a dad is a calling in themselves. I have also struggled with a mental illness. I admire you, and pray blessings upon your family!

    • Richard,Thanks so much for sharing your story with me. I am so blessed by your openness to join the conversation. I love what Brene’ Brown says about the power of “me too”.

      I am glad you are finding grace in the midst of it all, too.

      Please don’t be a stranger!

      Sincerely,
      Steve

    • Thank you, my friend. The power of vulnerability has radically changed my life. I credit so much to good counseling and the work of Brene’ Brown. She’s a genius.
      Blessings right back to you and yours! 🙂

  • I really enjoyed your post and I too believe this scripture goes deeper than simply getting the life you want. Purpose is something I deeply believe in and most people think about purpose or God’s plan for their life in the wrong way. It isn’t to be famous or rich or any of the other things we see promoted; but true God inspired purpose and calling is about living the life you were meant to live, even if it doesn’t live up to the “dream”. You’re right, the apostle Paul had it rough, yet he considered himself to have the ability to “make it through”. Often our purpose and calling is displayed most powerfully when we find ourselves in a place we thought we’d never be, under terrible circumstances, yet we still persevere.

    • Larry,Thank you! I was in an interview with Troy at ProjectPastor.com the other day and he made a statement that will stick with me a long time, “God is only looking for faithfulness.” It’s true. God isn’t going to meet us at the Pearly Gates one day and say “Well done, my good and wealthy servant” or successful, or famous, etc. God desires for us to be faithful, more than anything.

      Thanks again,
      Steve

  • Me too, been there, done that. I’m glad for all the great teaching and training and I’m happy to be pretty familiar with the word of God, but I am “doing my own thing,” now and loving it. I’m almost to the point of being glad I went through all that. It is the small things that matter with God, to God, and to me.

    • I’m almost to that point, too! 🙂 Almost. I am thankful for the journey, though. I’m an expert in The School of Hard Knocks. Grateful for every ounce of His grace. Full to the brim!! 🙂
      Please don’t be a stranger. I always appreciate the interaction.

  • A fitting read for mothers like myself who often feel we have to be all things to all people. “Chill and Trust” could replace my current catch phrase, “Pray and Go.”