You look at your schedule for the month and think, “How am I going to make it through this?” You hear the unwelcome words from your doctor, “It’s cancer.” You feel deep grief and regret over your child who is rebelling against God and the Christian upbringing you tried to give them. You notice the empty seat at the table – they’re gone – and tears well up in your eyes. Hard times are indiscriminate. No one desires them to come, but they come to everyone. And when they come, hard times rattle us. They can leave us wondering why. They can threaten the security and sense of well-being we once enjoyed.
Theology doesn’t take the pain and challenge of hard times away, but it does give us a rock to stand on. Theology, if it is healthy, gives certainty and comfort in hard times.
Heidelberg 1 asks, “What is your only comfort in life and death?” Another way to ask that would be, “What is your only comfort in hard times?” And within the answer is this line: “He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation.” Notice three things in that line.
First, Jesus Christ your faithful Savior preserves you. He keeps you. He upholds you. He sustains you. Life may feel out of control, but in it all, because you belong to him, Jesus is caring for you. 2 Thessalonians 3:3 says, “But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.” So, both physical and spiritual threats may loom, but you have a sovereign and omnipotent Guard keeping you. In fact, it is the Father’s will for His Son that His Son preserve His people. In John 6:39–40, Jesus told the listening crowd,
And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
Jesus is certain about this. You should be too. What tremendous comfort for you who looks on the Son and believes. Eternal life is yours and Jesus will preserve you; he will raise you up on the last day and will not lose you.
Second, nothing can happen to you that is not the sovereign will of your loving heavenly Father. Does this raise questions? Sure. But true faith trusts that Father knows best. So trust and draw comfort from this truth. If a tiny hair falls from your head or you get a cancer diagnosis, it is the will of your Father who loves you. In Ephesians 1:11, the Apostle Paul comforts the church in Ephesus with these words: “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” Whatever may happen to us, God is working even hard times according to the counsel of his will. How does this truth give us certainty and comfort? Listen to what Jesus promised his disciples in Luke 21:16–19:
You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. 17 You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.
Talk about hard times. But then he added, “But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.” There is certainty and comfort in hard times. Jesus promises you that as you trust him and walk with him not a hair of your head will perish; you will endure and gain your life.
Third, because the two earlier points are true, it is certain then that all things in your life must work together for your salvation. They must. This is God’s promise in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” When hard times come to you, as you love and trust God, you can be certain and comforted that hard times will work for your greatest good and eternal salvation.
Knowing these three truths will surely not deter hard times from coming, but when they come, these truths will provide you the security and comfort you desire and need to endure hard times with joy.