I received some upsetting news the other day.
As soon as I heard it, my heart started pounding and a cold chill swept through my body. I could barely process what I’d been told. It was completely unexpected. My first response was, “I can’t believe this is happening. Jesus, have mercy on me. And help me to respond well.”
When I had time to calm down and think through the next steps, my second response emerged. I asked God to fix the situation. Or, more accurately, to make it go away. I didn’t want to face it or walk through it. I wanted God to take it away, make it right, prevent me from suffering. That would be easiest for me.
And then came my third response. I’m not proud of it.
I thought: “Why me? Why do hard things always happen to me? Things were getting better – but now they are getting worse again. My life is filled with disappointment, but what more could I expect? My life never turns out well.”
I am ashamed as I write those words. Ashamed that I so easily fall into self-pity. Ashamed that I conveniently forget all of the incredible blessings the Lord has given me, particularly in the last year. When things are bad, I respond by complaining. Whining to God that my life is harder than other people’s.
I assume everyone else has perfect health. Fulfilling lives. Conflict-free relationships. Successful careers. Thriving children. Insignificant problems.
In short, I overestimate my problems and minimize other people’s struggles.
Now for a little perspective – this disappointing news was not life altering. It was difficult to hear, but not insurmountable. In the scheme of life it would be an insignificant event, but in the moment it was all-consuming.
So in the midst of my pity party, I call my sister. For those of you who don’t know her, she is my rock and my reality check. She reads and edits every one of my blogs and reminds me of truth when I forget it. She keeps me grounded.
So when I start ranting about how difficult my life is, she listens. She agrees it’s a hard situation. But then I start spiraling downhill, demanding, “Why me? Why is my life harder than everyone else’s?”
She pauses to choose her words carefully. “I know it’s incredibly difficult right now. And I will be praying continually for you. But don’t believe that your life is always harder than everyone else’s. Life is hard. For everyone. You don’t always know what others are going through.”
I sigh as I lean back in my chair. She’s right, of course. Her words remind me of the quote that I recently tacked on my door: Be Kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.
Everyone struggles. Worries about their children. Has hard days. Faces disappointment. Feels inadequate. Makes mistakes they wish they could erase.
After I get off the phone with her, I remember Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ words, “Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?“
And so I start talking.
I remind myself of all of the extravagant blessings the Lord has poured on my life. The unique blessings, such as my loving husband and my supportive family. And the spiritual ones, which are lavished on all believers, such as redemption, the forgiveness of sins, the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the promise of eternal life. We are given all of this along with countless other assurances from the Bible. Assurances like, “All things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose.”
Romans 8 helps me see that there is a bigger picture. I don’t see the full plan. I can only see today.
Remembering those verses puts my life in perspective. God is not surprised by disappointing news. He knows it all beforehand and uses it to conform me into His image.
As I reflect on the situation, and the character of God, my prayer changes. I am able to say: “Though I don’t understand this Lord, You have brought this situation into my life. Because of that, I know it is good. And I know that you will use it – both for my good and for Your glory. I want to trust You. Help me to do that.”
Every time I think about the situation, I decide to seek God in it. Rather than dwelling on the negative, I begin praying that God will use it. In my life. For others involved. To His glory.
This is not an easy prayer. It is a deliberate choice to push worry, anger and self-pity away. But as I seek the Lord and keep talking to Him, He enables me to take my thoughts captive. Slowly, my sense of desperation dissipates.
Recognizing that God is going to use this trial makes me feel calmer. Every time I think about the issue, rather than getting upset and anxious, I pray. I ask God to work in the situation. To redirect my emotions. To help me trust Him.
It’s easy for me to jump to conclusions. To think that a trying situation is going to lead to another and then another. I often extrapolate present difficulties into the future- which is the crux of not trusting God. Those difficulties may not ever present themselves, but even if they do, God’s grace will be there to meet me. Even if the worst happens, God will not fail me.
I wish I could remember that when problems first arise. I needlessly worry when I could be trusting God. I shouldn’t be surprised when trials come. The Bible says to expect them. They train me and refine me. They do deep work in my soul and reveal my character.
I do not know how this situation will end, but I do know that God brings beauty from ashes. No matter what happens, I know He will use it for my good and His glory.
There is no greater comfort on earth.