Had A Rough Year?

How Problems Turn Into Purpose

If You Had a Rough Year,

You might be asking yourself some big questions.

If you had a rough, painful year, you might even be asking God those questions, or wondering if He’s really there.

Trust me, I understand.

Every New Year brings another realization that we all had another birthday, but our son is still nineteen. It’s been four Christmases, four New Year’s, four birthdays, but he’s still nineteen and I’m getting older. As our other kids marry, have careers, finish schools, have children, there’s always a thought- “This year he would have been, would have done, would have…” 

But it’s always would have. What would his wife have been like? What would their kids look like?

And still, the questions we’ve been asking all along: Why? How? Where was God? How is it fair? 

Such questions have no answers, and cognitively I know there is no value in asking them. But four years into our grief over losing a child, and after speaking with dozens of other people who have been through terrible loss, I can tell you this:

The questions come even when you try not to ask them.

But I have some good news for you if you’re in a season of asking such questions in your own life: 

If you hang on, and keep looking for it, God will eventually help you find some meaning in your pain. 

This sounds like another of those empty Christian platitudes, like “He’s in a better place now,” which are never helpful (except maybe to the people saying them). But I promise, it’s actually true.

The other day I was reading through the Psalms in my favorite bible translation, The Voice

I found Psalm 40, set in a time when the writer David was coming out of a great period of suffering.  As I read it, I realized that despite what we may go through in our lives, God wants to be there, is always ready to tenderly comfort us and help us through, and then is faithful to give us a sense of being able to use our story to help others. (I added the emphasis)

Psalm 40: 1-3, Voice

I waited a long time for the Eternal;
He finally knelt down to hear me.
He listened to my weak and whispered cry.
He reached down and drew me
from the deep, dark hole where I was stranded, mired in the muck and clay.
With a gentle hand, He pulled me out
To set me down safely on a warm rock;
He held me until I was steady enough to continue the journey again.
As if that were not enough,
because of Him my mind is clearing up.
Now I have a new song to sing—
a song of praise to the One who saved me.
Because of what He’s done, many people will see
and come to trust in the Eternal.

No matter how rough this past year was, take heart in my story of still going four years later, and in this verse. Notice the progression:

Something bad happens, and we wonder where God is, why He’s taking so long to show up. 

And finally He does. 

But He doesn’t just take it away. Pain lingers, even when we start to heal and even when we decide God is still there and still cares. 

And He’s gentle. He pulls us up, sets us down, and gives us time and space to heal. When it’s time, when He knows we’re strong enough, He reveals something we could not have seen before in our pained, grieving state. He clears our minds up, and shows us that, although we will never understand why some things happen, there is something good that can come from it. 

Once we are clear-headed enough to see that God was there all along, that He helps us in the worst times, THEN and only then can we understand that we have a new story to tell. 

A story that will shave some time and some pain off of the journey others have to take when it’s their turn to hurt.

Losing a son was the worst thing that ever happened to me in my life. 

But God has used it to bring some good into the world. He has opened my eyes to see how He was there, gave me a new song- a new message to people all over the world. All of my writing, this blog, my newsletter, podcast, books, everything that I do online came from that pain. And you’re reading this right now specifically so you can hear me say this:

When you’re hurting, take heart. There will come a time when you’ll find purpose in the pain. I made it though by the grace of God. You will too.

I pray that this new year will be your best year ever. Especially if last year wasn’t. 

 

 

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I'm Dr. Lee Warren. I'm a writer and a neurosurgeon.

I help smart people understand how they're wired, so they can become healthier, feel better, and be happier.

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