Have you ever felt overwhelmed because life made some twists and turns you didn’t expect?
I certainly have! Within a period of three months, this was my reality…
- A close friend of mine passed away
- My husband had a bulging disc and surgery
- One of my family members started therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder
- My son with disabilities became severely depressed
- Three of my family members faced serious illnesses
- My health was compromised, requiring surgery and ongoing physical therapy
- Our beloved family dog passed away
And happily…but no less stressfully:
- My daughter got married
- My two older kids moved out and now live more than three hours away
- Three of my kids entered universities
Life isn’t supposed to be this complicated…or so we believe.
We expect life to go smoothly when we plan well, work hard, pray, pay our bills, drive the speed limit, pray more, have daily quiet times, are kind to others, and keep praying. When we do the “right” things, we expect life to give us something back, such as peace, contentment, joy, relief, good kids, comfort…whatever that means for each of us.
When reality doesn’t match the plans we had in mind, we get anxious, irritated, frustrated, angry, stressed, tense, depressed…you name it.
Perhaps you can relate. Maybe you envisioned for your life:
- A good marriage…but now you’re divorced
- Healthy kids…but now your kids are “different,” diagnosed with a disability
- Relatively good health…but now you’re in constant physical pain
- No debt…but now you’re financially on the edge of ruin
- A few close friends…but you have none
- A little freedom from responsibility…but now the demands couldn’t be greater
How do you find meaning, purpose, and hope when things don’t turn out like you’d envisioned—when God’s plan is so very hard and nothing like you thought it would be? What do you do to press on?
The book of Job is a great go-to when everything’s a mess. Job is the Bible’s poster child for one who endured relentless trials faithfully. When things fall apart, we find consolation in his words. Job had the very same questions and concerns that many of us have:
- Where is God?…I’ve looked everywhere but can’t find Him (Job 23)
- Why do the wicked prosper and the righteous are left wanting? (Job 24)
- I long for the past—when God was with me and people respected me (Job 29)
- I am mocked, an outcast, rejected, helpless, fearful, physically sick, and emotionally dry; my grief is too deep for words (Job 30)
We know the end of Job’s story, so we tend to focus on what we will get if we endure long enough. This is a thoroughly self-focused mindset. Job’s story is significant because it teaches us to focus not on ourselves but on God’s will and ways. We can see what Job lost, but we also can see what Job gained: intimacy with his heavenly Father like he had never known.
Pain and the unexpected are two of God’s greatest avenues to get our attention. How we respond to pain and unexpected circumstances reveals our truest soul condition. Like Job, transformation comes when we don’t try to control the end result but instead run to Christ for comfort, wisdom, and peace.
My family and I have done a lot of adjusting to God’s plan by reframing our beliefs according to God’s unchanging, solid truths. We’ve struggled and grieved and been very discouraged at times. Change is hard, and we’ve experienced the pain of the crucible. But we haven’t remained there. Like many people in Scripture, our transformational process began with a mess and is moving toward a more God-centred mindset, where we recognize His ways are right and good.
Life brings to our paths many twists and turns—not to mention quite a few bone-jarring, back-breaking potholes. But as you travel along your path, remember that God has a purpose for every single event He allows in your life. He has a plan, and though it can be both joyful and painful, He loves you and causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him!