Over the course of my life and time in ministry, I have found that life always happens. No one has escaped the fall of man or the forces set in motion by it. Sin and deaths entrance into our world guaranteed that we will all encounter suffering and for us believers, I have found this is a jagged pill to swallow. In our zeal and immaturity, we can sometimes assume that if God is good, we will never have to endure hardship. While God is certainly powerful enough to control everyone and everything, he has chosen not to. If he did, he would remove from the world incredible forces we are given the chance to choose, like love.
When life happens and we experience loss in whatever form, it often creates a crisis of faith. Most commonly, we meet this crisis with one question. “Why?”
If you’ve ever asked that question, than you are in good company. Moses, David, Job and even Jesus have asked that question of God. And while many have asked why, including yours truly, I can tell you from my personal experience that “why” is rarely, if ever, answered by God. God’s Word tells us that He will supply all our needs, so I think it’s safe to assume that the answer to our “why” is not a necessary response to overcome and move forward. Continuing to ask God a question he still hasn’t answered will keep you stuck.
So, what do you do with the why? Nothing. You learn to ask a better question.
In John 9, the Bible tells us about a man who was born blind. The disciples asked the infamous “why” and Jesus didn’t answer. Instead, he answered the “what.” He said, “this happened that the works of God might be displayed in him.” “What” is a better question and many times it is a question you can find an answer to. It is also a question that will move you forward. Here are the three questions I learned to ask when I was faced in the darkest moment of my life.
1. What can I do?
I call this the question of power. “Why” is a question of powerlessness. It shifts responsibly to someone else (even if it is to God) and keeps us stuck. “What can I do?” takes a position of responsibility with a stance of power. In other words, “this is my situation, but I’m not staying here—I’m not a victim, life isn’t over, I will find a path forward and I will overcome.” So, what can you do? Can you trust, can you forgive, can you grieve, can you ask for help? There is something within your power to do. When you find that thing, you can begin to move forward, and that is powerful.
2. What can I learn?
I call this the question of perspective. If you have walked through something hard, there is always an opportunity to learn and grow, especially if you are a person of faith. Make the decision to come out of your dark season better and not bitter. What did you learn about you, what did you learn about God? In what ways did you see God in what you went through? (I promise He was there). What perspectives have you gained and how can you grow? You will get to the other side of your storm, but wouldn’t it be great to get there transformed by what you have learned instead of conformed by the pain your endured?
3. What will God do?
I call this the question of promise. When we walk through difficult seasons of loss and pain it can feel like the end—like there is not purpose, hope or future. The truth is that God will redeem every pain that we bring to Him and He will work all things together for our good. He has a track record of giving beauty for ashes and joy for mourning. If you are still breathing, God isn’t finished, there is more to your story and it may be the best part! Start asking God what he wants to do in and through your pain, your loss, and your life. Psalm 145:13 says, “The Lord is faithful to ALL His promises and loving toward All he has made.” He is a promise maker and promise keeper. Today, ask Him for His promise, ask what He wants to do. Lift your head from your ashes and began to look for His promise. I promise He has a plan for you, and when you find it, it will propel you forward.
Life and ministry have taught me that everyone will endure difficult and sometimes devastating circumstances. Even Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation.” The best encouragement I can give from my own seasons of devastating loss is this: ask a better question. Don’t let “why” keep you stuck. Make the choice to start asking “what” and move forward, because I know the best is ahead!
If you would like to hear more on this listen to “Don’t Stop Your Story” on YouTube or Spotify.