A note from Kelly King: I’ve often heard people say you are either in a difficult season, coming out of one, or you are about to head into one! Difficult circumstances in our lives can lead to questions and doubts—even ones that cause us to question God’s direction in our lives. Martha Lawley shares her own personal journey with us today. You can hear Martha at our upcoming You Lead conference in Hot Springs, Arkansas, August 16-17, 2018. Click here for more information.
Surely I’m not the only one who has wondered about God’s intentions when life gets painfully hard. Perhaps your questions are more specific: Is God trying to ruin my ministry, my marriage, my career, or my happiness? We all well know that life this side of heaven is difficult. But sometimes we experience circumstances that are more than hard—circumstances that knock us down and drain the life right out of us. In these extraordinary seasons, we are often left to wonder what God is doing. For me, wanting to understand can be as powerful as wanting it all to go away.
Many of my truly difficult and overwhelming circumstances have involved my health. The past 20 years have been a roller coaster journey of both long and short term health challenges. But these have paled in comparison to the past 12 months! This intense season of physical suffering included two biopsies, another spinal fusion, extensive physical therapy, cataract surgeries, and a retinal reattachment surgery. During the retina reattachment surgery in January, a gas bubble was inserted in my eye to aid my recovery. The gas bubble works like a cast holding the newly repaired retina in place. However, the bubble has prevented me from flying or even driving home for the past two months. The emergency surgery occurred while on vacation at sea level. I live at an altitude of over 4,000 feet. I’m writing to you in my eighth week of exile. So I couldn’t help but wonder in the midst of all this—not out loud, but in my mind—is God trying to ruin my life? If that question disappoints you, I am sorry.
While not the best question to ask, it was a place to start, and God used it. He used it to teach me new truths and to remind me of much I already knew. He opened the door to greater understanding of who He is and His great love for me. He gave me the opportunity to see more clearly and believe more deeply. Here are four of the most important things He has planted even deeper into my soul.
1. Ask better questions. The Bible gives me encouragement that God is okay with sincere questions. But I believe He invites us to ask better questions. My questioning God about ruining my life reveals how self-focused I had become (“Why this? Why me? Why now?”). I’m learning that the better questions always focus on God—who He is and what He can do. Questions like, “How are you going to use this to advance the gospel in and through me?” (Philippians 1:12). “How can I display Your great strength in my great weakness?” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Asking better questions shifts my focus back to God.
2. Seek wisdom from above. God invites us to seek His wisdom (James 1:5). The world does not have the answers to our questions. Only God can provide reliable answers to our questions. God has already provided all we need to know in His Word and through His Spirit. I love the Bible, but on my most difficult days it can be a struggle for me to let God’s Word speak into my life. But this is when I most need these wonderful words of life—words that declare God’s love, reveal His motives, and describe His ways. Prayer is another way God reminds me of His truth. Praying is not difficult for me in times of hardship, but listening often is. God continues to use His Word and prayer to refocus my life in difficult times.
3. Keep trusting God—His motives, His plan (Hebrews 12:1-3). This is a continuing battle for me, and one I don’t always win. These past 12 months have been filled with moments of desperate confession, “I do believe, but help my unbelief!” God continues to graciously invite us to count each blessing and discover His loving care in each gift. As incredibly hard as this season has been, I have so much to be thankful for. Stopping to remember and name each blessing reminds me that God has been there each step of the way.
4. Discover the beauty in brokenness (2 Corinthians 12:9). God reveals His power in our brokenness. All I’m currently going through is an opportunity to reveal God—His power, His glory, His love. Only God can make our lives more beautiful for having been broken (James 1:2-4). Recognizing the greater purposes in my struggles—knowing not one minute of my suffering has been in vain—helps me persevere. Lord, help me!
What about you? What is God teaching you right now? How would you encourage someone in the midst of an incredibly difficult season?
Martha Lawley is an author, speaker, and Bible study leader, and LifeWay Women’s Trainer from Worland, Wyoming. She is also a retired trial attorney. Martha formerly served as the Women’s Consultant for the Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention until her family moved to northern Wyoming. She contributed to the women’s leadership books, Transformed Lives: Taking Women’s Ministry to the Next Level and Women Reaching Women in Crisis, published by LifeWay, and has written numerous articles for LifeWay’s Women’s Ministry website. Martha is the author of the women’s Bible study, Attending the Bride of Christ: Preparing for His Return. She serves her local church in various areas of leadership.