We say “life is hard,” and everyone nods in support. It is a common truism, a well-accepted reality we all can affirm. The political climate, the cultural tone, work pressures, personal and relational stress—all of these contribute. People are anxious, overwhelmed, divided, polarized, and weary. Life is hard, so we all join in a united moan. It can almost feel cliché. You shrug it off as though there is nothing you can do but accept it.

But there are hard things that go deeper. They are more profound and burdensome and feel intolerable. Perhaps it is grief, loss, disease, suffering, or brokenness. It goes beyond the “we are in this together” type of hard. It is an isolating sorrow that threatens to swallow us. It is an “I feel completely alone” kind of hard, an oppressive kind of hard. You long for reprieve; you pray for it. Yet it doesn’t come. 

This may tempt you to doubt God’s goodness, perhaps even become angry at him. We are a people who yearn for deliverance. We long for God to take away the hard. We ask, plead, beseech—and, at times, despair. We lament as the psalmist does: “How long, O Lord?” There is something very natural, even right and good, about wanting to be free from the hard things of this world, to have them removed from our lives. We yearn for God’s protection and rescue. 

But what if God wants something different? What if—rather than deliverance from the hard—he wants you to invite him into it? What if he wants you to seek his presence in the hard, more than his protection from the hard? His provision in the midst of life’s hardships, rather than relief from them? Psalm 46:1 says “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Surely God does answer prayers for relief, but this verse shows that God does not intend to take away all, or even most, of the hard in our lives. Rather, he wants to be our source of strength, our refuge, as we go through it. It is not the absence of troubles in our life that is our comfort; it is God’s presence. It is his transforming power that enables us to rest in the hard and be at peace in the storm. Why pray for the absence of hard things in our lives when it does not guarantee the presence of peace? Only a deep foundational trust in God’s goodness and sovereignty will create that.

As God allows us to go through hard things, we have an opportunity to trust him more deeply and know him more intimately. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8). He desires to show us more of who he is and what he is capable of doing through our struggle. He wants us to say, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him” (Lam 3:24). He desires to be our refuge and our hope in this life. We can experience his presence in a very palpable way. Invite him to be with you, draw near to him, and you will experience something more glorious than relief.