Sometimes when God asks us to trust in Him it doesn’t go the way we thought it would.
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
When we follow Him into the unknown we hope that He will be preparing the way, making our paths straight. But what happens when our feet blissfully wander into pain?
These are the seasons that we don’t like to talk about.
These are the times in life when things don’t go the way that we’d expected, in fact, they can go the opposite direction of what we were hoping for. The questions and the wounds that we face in these seasons can be paralyzing.
As I look back over my life, it seems as though “hard seasons” has been stuck on repeat.
I am easily moved by the heart of God and yet just as easily derailed by conflict that follows. Not only do I get overwhelmed by life’s challenges, but I often feel alone in them. I haven’t been able to understand why God would promise me something and then allow so much pain to happen instead.
For years, I would rely on the circumstances to determine whether I was on the “right path”. If things went smoothly, He was with me, but as soon as conflict would arise I felt abandoned. I would be bombarded with shame believing that I must be doing something wrong.
This mindset was detrimental because I was actually believing that there would be no trials in my life if I was hearing God correctly.
I couldn’t understand how to hold the tension of a promise from God and a trial in the same hands. It felt like I was in no man’s zone, and I didn’t belong anywhere. I was holding onto a promise that didn’t yet exist in my reality, and I didn’t know where to stand – or when to give it up.
But I had no idea how rich the dark seasons could be.
Finding the heart of God in the midst of pain is like finding yourself in the eerie silence of an eye of a hurricane. The raging storm is swirling around you, but the walls are pushed out just enough for you to be still.
When He comes closer than the pain, in between our own heart and our accusers, we find the depths of His love for us. When everything is stripped away, and His eyes are solely on you – there is something profound that takes place between a man and His Maker.
You are seen, surrounded by His glory, and His favor is in the middle of the storm. It is a sacred place that is not found by the praises of man, but rather in the secret space of heaven. These are defining moments at our core when His love becomes better than life.
There is an unexplainable Peace that surpasses understanding when He pursues our heart no matter what struggle, relational conflict, or logistical setback that we are facing.
Even when we’re wrong.
His Love is not dependent on our performance or the circumstance. He is a constant Advocate, cheering us on and whispering Hope no matter the situation.
The reality is that life is always going to be full of uncertainties and challenges if we are growing. But when we realize that He is fully present in every single terrain than we are able to thrive no matter the season.
These are some of the things that have been a lifeline for me in the middle of some of the hardest seasons of my life, and have helped me stay fully alive and engaged.
1. Find Refuge
It is so important that we find a safe place for our real and raw emotions.
A place that offers us comfort for even our most irrational pain. Sometimes we know the right answers, but our hearts aren’t always ready to agree. This could feel like a dangerous exploration of what’s actually inside – but it is a vital one. You may have the option to stitch up fast, but the wound will fester and only spread its infection. Take the time to heal and allow grief to run its course.
Lean into Him, close enough to find His heartbeat – more than the answers. Try not to be consumed with what to do next week, or tomorrow, or even five minutes from now – just be present in this moment and find Him. Play worship music, rest, and let Him fill you up again.
Find a Refuge that is safe enough to sit with you until you are healed. God is always that refuge, but so are deep friendships, counselors, and family members. Be honest, open up with them and ask for help. This can be difficult, especially if we feel the pressure to “have it all together”, but we need to fight for the best version of ourselves – and that it is one who is healed, set free, and fully alive.
The hardest part is letting go of who you think you should be – and allow yourself to be who you are.
2. Staying Rooted In Love
Everything is about Love.
When I am able to internally embrace a God who loves me, He becomes my power source that all of life will draw from. His voice of kindness is nourishing when I feel like a failure, and I am not as hard on myself when I allow His compassion and grace to roam freely in me.
Usually, what sends me spiraling out of feeling near to God is either the fear of man or an offense with one. I default to a sense of striving and proving myself again, and love becomes compartmentalized in me.
Love can’t flow freely inside of me when there is blockage – locked doors holding onto pain, bitterness, revenge, and unforgiveness. When I choose to hold onto my offense, justify it, and build a case against someone – fear becomes the driving force, not love. My capacity is weakened because I am no longer resting in His arms of love, but instead I am desperately trying to defend myself.
When I release forgiveness out loud it exposes the pain that was caused, revealing layer after layer of more things to forgive. It humbles my own heart, and my walls begin to come down to let His love into the pain. Forgiving others reminds my soul that He is God and that I am not. I let go of being their judge and speak blessing over their lives.
Love becomes rooted deep inside of me and freely flows through my veins when there is no “off limits” places inside of me. His Love gets to reign over my inner world.
3. Keeping the Wonder Awake
One night during worship, I felt the Lord whisper, “why do you think you have to be so serious?”
I realized in that moment that I been trying so hard to be “grown up” that I had forgotten how to be childlike. A weight lifted off my shoulders that night and I felt a freedom to play again. I love to laugh, but for some reason I didn’t think it was “proper” in the season I was in.
As I began to live present in the moment, I found so much joy in the little things. From a spontaneous dance party with my kids to rekindling my love for playing the piano or splashing paint on a canvas just for fun. Creating something new breaks off the mundane and reminds me that there is always potential for new life – it releases hope.
It awakens gratitude inside of me which protects me from negative thinking, and it keeps me in a posture of wonder and appreciation for what I do have.
Creativity wakes up a sleeping heart that once felt like the walls closed in on it.
Make a new sound, a song, a drawing, or dance your heart out – and create something that never existed before you unleashed it.
4. Who Is Surrounding You
I can’t imagine where I would be without the people I have been surrounded with. They have taught me the heart of the Father and His love for me in ways that I could have never convinced myself existed. There have been so many days where I didn’t want to get back up, or out of bed, but they have constantly reminded me who I am. Not who I looked like, but who they knew that I was becoming. They believed in me more than I believed in myself.
We need to surround ourselves with people who will water the seeds that God has put inside of us.
Even when I had no hope, they hoped for me. Their faith carried me, they loved me even in my mess, and were unafraid to embrace my whole story. The connection and belonging that I have felt in the middle of painful seasons has been Life to my weary soul.
5. The Power of the Simple Gospel
Throughout the past couple of years there have been many times where everything I thought I knew felt shredded, but the one thing that remained true was Jesus. His love is simple yet profound; he sets the captives free.
We can get caught up in new ideas and amazing concepts and revelations, but in the end – it is the simplicity of the gospel that brings us Life. Sometimes I just need to remember the power of the blood of Jesus, and get face to face with him again.
I may have questions, frustrations, demands, and just so many things that I don’t understand, but all of anxiety begins to fade when I hear Him speak again.
I’m not God – but He is and His heart is Good.
He is the One who helps us get back up. Facing trials in your life doesn’t mean that you have been abandoned, oftentimes it means that He is building a capacity inside of you to sustain the very thing you are hoping for. While our sights are set on forward momentum, He is beautifully building a deeper strength within us.
Because He is Faithful even in the trials.
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” – James 1:2-4 message