Honest to God: Getting Real With Christ During Adversity

Black and white close up of man praying with eyes closed and head resting on his folded hands
Adversity has the potential to move us closer to God if we are willing to be honest with Him during trials.

I once wrote a story about three brown cows who desperately wanted to change color. Tired of their earthy hue, they decided that purple would impress the neighbors and gain them notoriety. So after much planning, the herd’s leader pushed a large can of purple paint out of the nearest farmer’s garage and onto the driveway where it spilled for each Holstein to roll in it.

Their plan worked.

A short time later a farmer passed by. He couldn’t believe his eyes! He’d never seen a purple cow! He’d never even hoped to see one. But one thing was certain: he was enthralled with their pastel beauty so he herded them home. They were proud, and he was impressed—just like they hoped.

And then it rained.

The downpour washed away the paint, and with it, the cows’ posturing and posing. What they’d pretended to be was gone—and all that was left was a purple puddle.

The rains of adversity, like the downpour in this story, have a way of washing away our pretense and revealing our true selves. Adversity even has the potential to move us closer to God if we are willing to be honest with Him during trials. You might be wondering, How do I become more real with God during these times? I’m so glad you asked. Christ is teaching me that transparency with Him requires three things.

I need to remember that feelings of desperation are okay and can even be a blessing.

One afternoon I felt like these cows. I wanted to be impressive, but felt inadequate. I longed to be a better woman for God but knew my righteousness was like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). After several moments of bearing the “I’m-not-good-enough burden,‚” the Holy Spirit whispered. “Shana, don’t you see that this [desperation] is a gift?‚” God instantly showed me that my feelings of desperation were indeed good because they pushed me to my knees and closer to Christ. That’s why Matthew wrote, “Blessed are the poor in spirit‚” (Matthew 5:3).

We can only see desperation as a blessing when we recognize that we can gain Christ in greater measure in exchange for it, and receive abundant love from Him while our heads are bowed and tears fall.

Pride, the opposite of humble desperation, keeps God at a distance. It makes me think that I have it all together and, by the world’s standards, it may look like I do. But in God’s economy, what looks right is really wrong. That’s why Jesus says that those who are poor in spirit (desperate) are the real winners.

In his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning writes,

“…we never lay hold of our nothingness before God, and consequently, we never enter into the deepest reality of our relationship with Him. But when we accept ownership of our powerlessness and helplessness, when we acknowledge that we are paupers at the door of God’s mercy, then God can make something beautiful out of us.‚”

So if you feel desperate, rejoice! Your longing is a gift; your inadequacy a treasure and your need a blessing that can draw you into a deeper relationship with God.

During adversity, I need to remember that it’s okay to be angry.

At my former job, I hung a poster outside my cubicle showing Lucy from the Peanuts screaming, “Look out everybody! I’m gonna be cranky for the rest of the day!‚” Lucy’s announcement became a joke with my co-workers because she’s so not like me.

Somewhere in my youth, I learned that anger was unacceptable, possibly because I often saw it misused. Then when I came to Christ, this faulty message was reinforced in church. After all, good Christian boys and girls never get angry, right? Wrong. Not only is this teaching wrong, but God expects that we’ll experience anger. Jesus never said “Don’t get angry,‚” but He did say, “Be angry and don’t sin‚” (Ephesians 4:26). In this Scripture, He acknowledged that people would get angry. Why? Because anger is a secondary response to emotional pain. And there’s no doubt there’s a lot of emotional pain to go around on this sin-filled planet! Anger will happen!

Anger is like a red light on the dashboard of a car signaling that something is wrong under the hood—that there’s a hurt that needs to be given to God and perhaps forgiveness granted to someone. Like desperation, anger has the potential to take us to places of deeper intimacy with Christ when I bring what hurts me to Him for healing.

How can you do this? Yell or scream when no one is around or run outside and holler at the universe. You can also do what author Muriel Cook calls “Hot Pen Journaling.‚” Write down your true emotions without sweetening it. Be real. Tell God the truth. Then ask Him to show you what’s fueling your anger so He can minister to what’s hurting you through prayer and His Word.

Last week I was angry when someone I loved hurt my feelings. Rather than denying how I felt or sinning by taking it out on someone, I beat up my bed. I yelled. I screamed. I clobbered it as hard as I could. The result? I felt 100 percent better. I forgave the person who wounded me, and thanked God for loving me. Minutes later I was singing a song, proclaiming His truth and praising His name. Sound crazy? Not really. Even the Psalmists knew that expressing all of your emotions—good or bad—is okay.

During adversity, God wants to blend feelings with His truth to bring me through trouble and heal my heart.

One day while reading a Psalm, I got the idea to do what I did in second grade—color in my Bible. I picked two of my favorite hues: pink and green. Every phrase where the Psalmist expressed his feelings, I highlighted pink, and the places where he proclaimed God’s truth, I colored green. The result was an interesting pattern: Pink, green. Pink, green. Pink, green. Feelings, truth. Feelings, truth. Feelings, truth. Immediately, God showed me that His plan for our lives involves the blending of our emotions with His truth.

For the person whose life is based solely on emotions, there is no healing for his heart, because emotions alone are not trustworthy.

For the one who only acknowledges God’s truth and shoves down negative emotions because “It’s the Christian thing to do; I shouldn’t feel this way,‚” healing is also elusive because she’s living a life of denial about what’s really happening in the depths of her soul.

God wants to merge what we know in our head about His Word with what we feel in our hearts. Only then will He apply His truth to our emotions, just like He did with the Psalmists. That’s why it’s crucial that we’re honest when we feel angry, disappointed, disillusioned or fearful during adversity. It’s only then that He can hold us in His arms, speak truth to us, heal our hearts and give us the courage to move through the trial.

I understand that getting real with God can feel terrifying if you’re uncertain of His love. I encourage you to choose to believe that Christ is safe because He loves you enough that He died for you. You can take your fears, tears, concerns and anger to Him.

If you’re experiencing a trial now, do some “Hot Pen Journaling,‚” run outside and scream, tell God everything that’s on your heart and then get alone with Him and let Him quiet you with His love. I promise you’ll find Him in your rainstorm of adversity in a way you never imagined.

Shana Schutte is a freelance writer, author and speaker living in Colorado Springs, Colo.

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