Last Updated on: 1st July 2024, 06:49 pm

SUMMARY:

Navigating Existential Questions Amid Turbulent Times

In times of difficulty, our beliefs and worldviews are often put to the test, challenging us to confront existential questions we might otherwise avoid. These moments illuminate deeper issues within our hearts and compel us to reevaluate our understanding of life and faith.

The Imperfect Framework of Perception

Our perceptions, shaped by limited frameworks, can lead us astray amidst challenges, making it crucial to discern between reality and manipulation even as we seek understanding.

Prompting Questions of Faith

Challenging circumstances prompt legitimate questions:

  • Why me?
  • Why is this happening?
  • Where is God in all of this?
  • Does God care?
  • How do I fix this?

These questions challenge and refine our worldview and faith, demanding sincere introspection and engagement with our beliefs.

Embracing Challenges for Growth

Trials compel us to interrogate our beliefs, align them with truth, and reject convenient falsehoods. This process echoes Jesus’ call to embrace truth for liberation (John 8:32).

Overcoming Human Psychology

During crises, our natural inclination to avoid discomfort and conflict can hinder growth. Acknowledging this tendency empowers us to confront challenges directly, rather than retreat.

The Call to Rejoice in Trials

Scripture instructs believers to “count it all joy” in adversity (James 1:2), a countercultural stance that challenges despair and empowers proactive faith.

Active Faith and Spiritual Warfare

Rejoicing and celebrating God’s promises amid trials aligns us with spiritual truths and empowers us to enforce God’s justice in our lives (Psalm 149).

The Power of God’s Word

The metaphor of the double-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12) underscores the authority and efficacy of God’s Word in spiritual warfare and personal transformation.

Aligning with God’s Promises

Aligning with God’s promises requires active participation in faith, not passive resignation, to overcome spiritual opposition and experience victory.

Conclusion

Navigating existential questions amidst trials requires aligning our beliefs with truth, wielding God’s Word as a spiritual sword, and embracing joy as an act of faith and resistance against despair.

 


FULL ARTICLE:

Amid challenging circumstances, when we must navigate difficulties, we often find ourselves questioning our beliefs. Indeed, one might argue that we would never confront the existential questions of life if not for facing existential challenges. These challenges, inherently unpleasant, illuminate deeper issues within our hearts and confront our worldview as it intersects with our experience of “life.”

In turbulent times, we’re compelled to examine our beliefs to ensure they align with reality rather than fiction. However, keen observation does not always lead to or guarantee sound conclusions, as our perceptions are shaped by a limited and imperfect framework that leaves us vulnerable to manipulation.

Moreover, when life gets tough, our heart attitudes prompt questions we might not typically ask otherwise, such as:

  • “Why me?”
  • “Why is this happening?”
  • “Isn’t there a better way to handle challenges?”
  • “Where is God in all of this?
  • “Does God even care?”
  • “How do I make it go away?”

These are perfectly legitimate questions, and now that these questions are foremost in our minds, they challenge our understanding of the world’s workings and our relationship with faith and belief.

Challenges and conflict are vital to motivating “life.” Trials force us to put our beliefs and thoughts on the witness stand, interrogate them, and compel them to speak the truth instead of the convenient lies we stick to.  Jesus, after all, did say,

“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

Therefore, we understand that to escape the captivity and torment of trials, we must seek the truth, as it is the truth that sets us free.

All good and well, but how does that help me?

During trying times, our own human psychology often works against us instead of serving us well. The drive for self-preservation is strong within us, which inherently means avoiding conflict and discomfort as much as is possible, even when it means being dishonest with ourselves about why we do what we do. While this behaviour is understandable, it is not necessarily helpful. When we understand this, we can begin making the relevant adjustments to face life head-on instead of trying to avoid it.

That may be the crux of the matter.

Avoiding conflict, or the “truth” for that matter, is like avoiding life itself, and if we don’t protect and grow our boundaries, life will encroach and diminish them.

The response we provide to the so-called existential questions of life is critical and, whether obvious or not, holds immense significance since the outcome of our experience—for better or worse—hinges on how we answer these questions.

So, is there a better way to deal with challenges?

In an interview, Jordan Peterson discusses the short-sighted and immature behaviour exhibited by the Israelites during their journey from Egypt (bondage) to the Promised Land (freedom) when faced with unexpected difficulties. He says:

“When Moses is leading the Israelites through the desert, they get all bitchy and moaning, pining for the tyranny, and complaining about Moses, faithless about God, and hopeless about the Promised Land. And you know they are a whiny pack of slavish hedonists, okay, and they have a little fit like they always do.”

Scripture goes on to say,

“Do not complain, as some of them did, and were killed.” (1 Corinthians 10:10)

This obviously holds significant implications for us and how we choose to conduct ourselves when challenges arise. If, as the Bible indicates, complaining is not an option when faced with challenges, what are we to do? What is the alternative? Fortunately, the Bible provides clear instructions for what we are to do when we encounter difficulties.

Count it all joy, my brethren, when you fall into manifold temptations.” (James 1:2)

Now, that’s all well and good, but for us, this instruction may not entirely make sense and might even appear absurd when filtered through our own bespoke worldview crafted to fit an idealised version of life.

Particularly as Christians, the Lord intends for us to mature in faith. He desires that we do not remain immature with naive thinking and behaviours, especially the expectation of receiving all the benefits without any of the responsibilities (response-abilities) that come with being a Christian. Or indeed, that life might be free from a spiritual adversary instigating adversity.

Certainly, we are not merely the cherished bride and beloved child; we are much more. We are His valiant foot soldiers, dedicated servants, and unwavering occupying force in lieu of His glorious return. It is crucial to recognise ourselves as an advancing army and to conduct ourselves accordingly.

Perhaps we have overlooked this truth, which could explain the church’s diminished influence (territory) in the societal sphere, haemorrhaging adherents in the current environment.

Count it all joy,” meaning to actively rejoice, may even sound like some sort of religious sadism, but what if it isn’t? What if joy and actively celebrating are actually the keys to overcoming our challenges?

Does that sound like an unbelievable statement? Too simple?

Perhaps not. Why else would the Scriptures actively prescribe this course of action in the face of adversity!

So what is there to celebrate?

The teachings of the Bible are countercultural, often instructing us to do the opposite of what society typically advises. In the world, we are taught to feel sad and downcast when things go wrong and to rejoice when things go well, which is a very reactive approach. While it’s true that difficult and sorrowful events happen, and that is not what we are celebrating, Christians are called to rise above the culture and proactively resist the urge to be dismayed, complain, or fearful.

Faith is the opposite of fear and we are told,

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that saves everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16)

It is only when we feel powerless to affect change in our circumstances that we feel ashamed. As Christians, we need never feel ashamed, for we have access to the power of God to resist the entropic corruption in the world that seeks to ensnare us in gloom and despair. This dark force, Satan’s sway, actively undermines our pursuit of abundant life, and it is this force that actively seeks to halt our endeavours to experience the promised provision of God.

As Christians, however, we are called not just to survive but to thrive. We do this by exercising dominion over the world and the unseen forces operating within. We are instructed to persist with God’s “prescription” until circumstances perfectly align with the pattern Jesus set as the gold standard for our experience on earth. And what is that standard?

“When you pray say: Your control come, Your will be done, on earth…as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

Importantly, this proactive and countercultural stance of joy and celebration—the proper biblical expression of faith—not only aligns us with God’s instruction in James 1:2, it also empowers us to overcome challenges and transform our circumstances. Transformation happens as we align ourselves with God’s will.

Remember that the Lord’s instructions are motivated by His will for us, which is our rescue, preservation & promotion.

In short, He says what He says, for us to do, because He wants us to be safe, secure, and thriving.

Our agreement demonstrates our cooperation with His will. Importantly, righteousness—being right with God—really means alignment, and alignment is key when it comes to accessing God’s provision. That is what God has always been seeking in His dealings with mankind: someone to cooperate (agree) with Him to implement His plan, help, and rescue, i.e., He has always sought someone to align with Him.

His perfect will for us is clearly outlined in the volume we call the Bible.

Agreement in this instance refers not only to words but also to tangible actions. In this case, our agreement is exemplified by actively demonstrating  joy and celebration in the face of contrary evidence.

The instruction in James 1:2 also implies that “celebrating,” “rejoicing,” “praising,” and “thanking” God are choices. It is also not something we wait to feel like doing before we do it.

This is also referred to as our “sacrifice,” since it costs us to do so when circumstances are contrary and we under pressure.

“So, through Jesus, let’s keep bringing our offering of praise to God. This is the fruit that comes from lips that openly declare His name.” (Hebrews 13:15)

If “rejoicing” is a choice, then we are responsible—meaning we are response-able or able-to-respond. If we are response-able, then it clearly means that we are empowered (able) to take charge of our lives and the world at large.

The “choice” to rejoice then is our “response-ability” to effectively deal with trials and tribulations and transform them from curses into blessings.

So, how do we do that? How do we motivate ourselves to rejoice? As Christians, we can be properly motivated when we understand what trials are, how they originate, and why “rejoicing” is the answer we are looking for.

The answer is found in Psalm 149, as it expands on the instruction to, “count it all joy.”

Psalm 149 (Contemporary Version)
1. Praise the Lord! Sing a new song to the Lord; sing his praises in the assembly of the faithful. 2. Let Israel celebrate their Creator; let the people of Zion be joyful in their King. 3. Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with tambourines and harps. 4. For the Lord delights in his people; he crowns the humble with victory. 5. Let the faithful rejoice in this honour and sing for joy even on their beds. 6. Let the praises of God be in their mouths, and a doubleedged sword in their hands, 7. to bring justice to the nations and punishments to the peoples, 8. to bind their rulers with chains and their leaders with iron shackles, 9. to carry out the judgment decreed against them. This is the honour of all his faithful people. Praise the Lord!

Properly understood, Psalm 149 is more than a suggestion; it describes the duties that every Christian assumes by accepting the offer of a covenant relationship with the Lord, i.e., “This honour (duty) have all His faithful people (saints).”

Covenant, as a framework, not only offers benefits but also includes mutual responsibilities and duties, and Psalm 149 describes some of these duties.

Properly understood, actively rejoicing becomes the practical expression of faith—our sacrifice—without which there is no experience of victory.

In fact, it’s fair to argue that without sacrifice, there is no Christianity at all, as it was established on the ultimate Sacrifice. Why should we be surprised that it is maintained through sacrifice when Christ exemplified the true path of spiritual service so clearly?

Sacrifice, the very thing we avoid, is what we so desperately need. But here’s the catch: Whether we realise it or not, we always sacrifice something; we don’t get out of it. At best, we can only choose what we sacrifice—either comfort or victory. The choice is ours and only ours to make, God cannot make it for us.

When we truly believe that Jesus Christ is the victorious King of kings, who has overcome the Arch-enemy, and if we pledge our allegiance to Him—as we claim we do—then sharing in His victory, we must also embody the truth expressed in 2 Corinthians 2:14:

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ and spreads through us the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere.”

Notice how 2 Corinthians 2:14 begins with active thanksgiving and links it with “triumph.”

What shall we say to these things? Praise and triumph are joked at the hip; they do not travel alone.

Praise is how we actively demonstrate our faith in the midst of challenging circumstances or contrary reports.

This is the true path of faith as exemplified by our forefather, Abraham.

18. Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 19. Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21. being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:1822:)

Abraham faced seemingly hopeless circumstances but chose to fix his gaze on God and His promise, expressing his faith through praise and thanksgiving instead of complaining about the very real obstacles. This is how he obtained the prize.

What does Psalm 149 teach us? Here are the key points.

  1. We are response-able to celebrate our victorious King and His victory over Satan, the forces of hell, and all the misery being caused by them. We do this by:
  • Sing fresh songs to the Lord.
  • Be joyful in our King.
  • Join together in praise.
  • Celebrate God, the Creator.
  • Worship with music and dance.
  • Rejoice constantly.

These instructions are for all of God’s people. But why?

2. It is through praise that we:

  • Exercise authority over “rulers” and “leaders,” and enemy forces.
  • Enforce God’s decrees (justice).

It’s important to clarify that when we speak of justice, we’re not referring to earthly individuals or leaders alone, but to a higher form of justice where spiritual beings exert influence over the physical realm. Ephesians emphasises that our adversaries are not merely human but spiritual forces or beings.

“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)

Certainly, while physical people and circumstances may play a role in our difficulties, they should be viewed as symptoms rather than underlying causes. This raises the question: How does this dynamic operate?

Understanding spiritual warfare—because that is what trials and tribulations relate to—hinges on fundamental principles that guide and inform all our actions as Christians. The chief of which is the following:

“We are not striving to achieve (gain, win) salvation, but rather to enforce the salvation already provided.”

2 Peter 1:3–4 echoes this sentiment.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by his own glory and goodness. [BUT] Through these He has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”

Notice the words “has given us everything” and “He has given us his very great and precious promises” and “that through them we may participate.

If it is spiritual warfare we are facing, we require spiritual weapons, not natural solutions from the material realm.

It is only through spiritual weapons that we enforce the written judgements of God, encapsulated in “the great and precious promises of God.” These promises are not random emotional expressions of fealty, as our Hellenistic worldview might suggest; rather, they are covenant commitments that God has bound Himself to fulfil towards us.

If our experience (the material world we live in) contradicts these promises, then change is required. Since God is always correct and also unchanging—which is reassuring because it means He is reliable—it is we who must adjust and align with His prescription for overcoming trials.

Arguing about this point is futile and only serve to delay our experience of victory.

As with all legal judgements, they may be legally valid (positional truth) but not necessarily effective (experiential reality). This disconnect between legal judgements recorded in the Bible as promised provisions, and our experience, causes many believers to struggle and perhaps become frustrated and disillusioned. This is altogether unnecessary, however.

By employing our spiritual weapons, we effectively enforce what God has already declared to be legally true and valid for us, thus our legal right as Christians. In this manner, we can vanquish the spiritual forces and their “leaders.

What does this tell us?

Importantly, this indicates that the perceived gap between what is true for us positionally (legally), and what we experience is not due to God’s unwillingness or delay, but because spiritual forces are interfering and attempting to deny us justice. These forces must be dealt with in order to receive satisfaction and walk in the promised experience.

Positional truth becomes experiential truth when we align ourselves with what God says and reject what the ancient usurper is trying to whisper in our ears. But what does it mean?

The Bible puts it like this:

“Whatever promises God has made, they are ‘yes’ (to us) in Christ. In return, through Christ we say ‘Amen’ to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:20)

That means God says “yes” to all the provisions (promises) of the New Covenant to make them legal and valid, and we persist in saying “yes” to those same promises to bring them into our experience. This is because no matter how comprehensive a covenant may be or how beneficial the provisions that it contains make available, it only becomes active and effective once both parties agree to the terms and conditions.

This makes 2 Corinthians 1:20, as well as Romans 12:1, covenant framework verses.

Now we can see what the aim of the game is.

Illustrated in Genesis 3 and Luke 8, we see how the devil operates to exploit our ignorance of said covenant. We’ll delve into this further in the next post, but in essence, he seeks to steal God’s truth from us and replace it with his lies. We must choose whether that happens or not (see Genesis 2:15), its not up to God.

Within this context, the practice of “rejoicing in trouble” begins to hold meaning.

It signifies that despite facing challenges, we have a compelling reason to rejoice: we are in a New Covenant with the King of kings who has liberated us and secured our provision and preservation through this Covenant. Any feelings of sadness or discouragement in light of the vast and wonderful promises of God that already belong to us reveal that we are placing more emphasis on temporary circumstances than on eternal truths.

In short, we are lending our ears to the devil. By reversing the polarity of this scenario, we can begin to live the eternal truths in our daily lives as experiential realities.

This mirrors Abraham’s approach.

Despite encountering seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and dire circumstances, he chose—HE ACTIVELY AND PURPOSEFULLY CHOSE—to focus on the promise he had received, and began to conduct himself in a corresponding fashion. He began to express thanks and praise for the promise of God, regardless of the obvious circumstances.

Scripture tells us that “he…gave…glory…to God.”

Similarly, 2 Corinthians 1:20 explains that “we say ‘Amen’ to the glory of God,” meaning that when we affirm and agree with God’s promises—that is what ‘amen’ means in Hebrew—especially in the face of adversity, we are in fact glorifying God just like Abraham because we are agreeing with Him. Thus, like Abraham, our faith is strengthened.

Yes, it’s true: God blesses us with incredible, wonderful, and precious benefits through our covenant relationship with Him. But the lingering question is: What does He receive from us? What do we give in return? Abraham discovered the answer: we…give…God…glory.

Scripture admonishes us, therefore, to “let the praises of God be in our mouth.” That part is clear, but what of the double-edged sword?

“Let the praises of God be in their mouths, and a double-edged sword in their hands” (Psalm 149)

The double-edged sword mentioned here symbolically represents the “word of God,” signifying His declared, immutable, and irrevocable decisions, which 2 Peter 1:3–4 calls, “his very great and precious promises.” For what purpose? “So that through them you may participate in the divine nature.” These things have been recorded for our benefit and convenience in the book we call the Bible; to neglect them is to neglect life and victory itself.

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword…” (Hebrews 4:12)

and

“Take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17)

Here is a more Englishy explanation:

This metaphor—the double-edged sword—underscores the authority and power of God’s Word in spiritual warfare and in shaping our lives according to His will. We frequently refer to the favorable declarations made on our behalf as ‘the promises of God.’ Importantly, the enemy we are dealing with can only be addressed and subdued with this sword, the ‘sword of the Spirit.

This becomes evident from the depiction in the book of Job. Job (אִיּוֹב in Hebrew) means “persecuted,” and who exactly was persecuting him? Yes, Satan!

“Consider Behemoth, which I made along with you; it is the foremost of My works. Only its Maker can approach it with the sword.” (Job 40:1519)

In Hebrew, ‘Behemah,’ meaning ‘beast‘ or ‘large animal,’ represents a powerful creature that symbolically represents Satan or the devil in this context. By wielding the Holy Word of God, we possess a powerful weapon, not forged of steel but of the Spirit, capable of defeating such a formidable foe.

“He rescued me from my formidable enemy, and from those who hated me, for they were stronger than I could handle.” (Psalm 18:17)

Notice that the word “rescue” is in the past tense, meaning that it has already been accomplished. It also means that God has done His part, and it is now up to us to do our part.

Heaven and earth must unite against the forces of darkness for them to be judged and vanquished.

 

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