the weblog of Alan Knox

Are struggles a sign from God to stop or an opportunity to persevere?

Posted by on Sep 6, 2012 in discipleship | 7 comments

Are struggles a sign from God to stop or an opportunity to persevere?

When I run long distances, I often get to a point where I do not want to continue. Some people call it “hitting the wall.” Of course, if you break through that wall, common wisdom says that running gets easier.

There are other times, however, when I struggle while I’m running because of pains that indicate I should stop running. Recently, I began to feel a tightness in my leg and decided to slow down and eventually stop. In other words, I did not try to “push through the wall” in that case.

So, when I’m running, I have to pay very close attention to my body to understand when I should push through the pain and struggle and when I should stop.

Something similar happens in our lives. Sometimes, when we struggle, we are supposed to push through and persevere in spite of the struggles, trusting that God is going to give us the strength and grace to continue. At other times, struggles are an indication that God is telling us that we are headed in the wrong direction and that we should stop or turn in a different direction.

But, how do we tell the difference?

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know how important Scripture is to me. But, in this case, we cannot find the answer to this question in Scripture. In fact, we find BOTH answers in Scripture.

For example, at times when Paul faced difficulties in a city, he would leave that city and go in a different direction:

But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. (Acts 17:13-14 ESV)

At other times, when Paul faced difficulties in a city, he remained in that city:

But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. (Acts 19:9-10 ESV)

(By the way, if you read though Acts 19, you’ll find that Paul faced many struggles while in Ephesus.)

So, when you face struggles, how do you know if God is telling you that you are going in the wrong direction or if God is telling you that it’s time to persevere through the struggles?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 9-6-2012

    Those who follow my blog can probably guess my answer. 🙂

    We need to be being filled with the Spirit and seek God’s guidance on such matters. The Spirit’s directions for us are often contrary to what we might expect. Even when we are sincerely trying to serve God, he may have different plans for us.

    “They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them” (Acts 16:6–7, NASB).

  2. 9-6-2012

    Wow, this is a great question. I am facing some struggles right now in the context in which I minister. Some of these are personal and some are with the ministry. Many times I’ve asked just this question. At this point I keep persevering, but sometimes I wonder if it is the right thing to do.

    I appreciate what Chuck has said, but how do we know when it is the Spirit’s direction or just our own decisions, desires, will, etc. I’ve seen many people pull up stakes when the going got tough because the “Spirit led them.” Really? Perhaps he did or maybe he didn’t? How do we know? Why do most pastors feel called to larger churches that pay more and almost never to smaller churches which pay less? You get the point.

    So I’d love to hear what others have to say.

  3. 9-6-2012


    To answer your closing question:

    I don’t know. So I simply ask. Thus far, our Father has not played games with me, like some cosmic ‘hide-and-seek’ regarding His Will for me. He is faithful to answer. 😉

    I reckon many might think and fast and pray and sulk and worry and fret and so forth, but I have yet to see one benefit in attempting to answer questions only He can answer.

  4. 9-6-2012

    I don’t know.

  5. 9-6-2012

    Walls happen. Life happens. Crap happens (now, I am really sounding theological, here). God is not ignorant of what hit us or what we hit. I believe that He either sends these things or at least permits them to happen – even if it is our own shortcoming. Our job is not to allow our emotions to dictate the next step, or even allow the circumstances to necessarily dictate the next step.

    All in all, it is God from Whom we need to hear for the next step.

  6. 9-6-2012

    I do know that I do an amazing job of fretting, worrying, doubting… until I procrastinate long enough that the opportunity has passed so I don’t have to worry about having the courage to make A decision… and then no matter what decision I make I can do a fabulous job of dwelling, regretting, doubting, beating myself up, second guessing — no matter which I choose…..

    and I do always make sure to tell people who share their struggles with me exactly how THEY should interpret & handle THEIR situation they are in…I always know when God is telling OTHERS to slow down turn direction or push through.

    and I’m pretty sure all of that is exactly opposite of what God would desire!

    Really though — perhaps a lot of our struggles are not meant to be “signs” from the Lord – but are just part of the adventure. Our decisions really are a lot less important than our heart/relationship with the Lord. He knows if we are operating out of fear… or operating out of faith… whichever decision it is. 🙂 He knows if we are operating out of guilt… or out of an act of love/sacrifice/devotion from a thankful heart! 🙂

  7. 9-7-2012

    I really appreciated the comments on this post, everyone. I love the thought and heart that everyone put into them. I hope my follow-up post does not disappoint. 🙂