Katie applied to only one prestigious graduate program because she was told in a casual conversation by the Dean that she would be admitted. But when the committee decided on her application, she was denied admission. She was crushed. “Why would God do this to me?” she cried. “What am I going to do now?”
When these curve balls of life come at us, we often ask “Why?”
It's a good question and one worth asking of ourselves and of God. Sometimes we can figure out an answer. Often we can’t.
What would you say to Katie? What do you do when a crisis or serious disappointment comes into your life? As Katie sat across the table from me, I told her, “I cannot change what has happened, but I can help you deal with the challenge you are facing.”
When the difficult times come, how are we to respond? In other words, how do you hit a curve ball that threatens to put you out of the game? I’ve found a few practices that allow me to keep my balance, perspective and find strength during times of trial.
1. Immerse yourself in Scripture. I am always amazed at how Scripture brings clarity and perspective. It is that magnet that resets my compass to an accurate heading. I find the Psalms, Proverbs, the Gospels, and the Epistles particularly helpful.
2. Commit a short passage of Scripture to memory or put it on a 3x5 card. Make it a prayer when you start each day and throughout the day. I particularly like Psalm 40 and have reworked it into this prayer:
I am waiting patiently for you, Lord. Turn to me and hear my cry.
Lift me out of this hard place. Give me stability and strength.
Put a song in my mouth and a song of praise to you on my lips.
Lord my God, you have done many miracles.
Your plans for us are many.
If I tried to tell them all, there would be too many to count.
My God, I want to do what you want. Show me what to do.
Lord, do not hold back your mercy from me;
let your love and truth always protect me.
Troubles have surrounded me; I cannot see a way to escape.
Please, Lord, save me. Hurry, Lord, to help me.
Lord, because I am poor and helpless, please remember me.
You are my helper and savior.
My God, do not wait to come to my aid.
3. Make a list of the good things that are true in your life. It is easy to focus on the trial and miss what is going well. Use that list as a prayer of thanks for God’s blessings.
4. Identify the emotions you are feeling and turn it into a prayer. For example, “I feel angry right now God. It doesn’t seem fair that this is happening to me. Help me to turn my anger into forgiveness. Don’t let my anger become bitterness.”
5. Ask God to reveal what he has for you in the midst of the trial. Begin to look for what his purposes are and let him have his way. What does God desire to do in your life through the trial? Allow him to accomplish it. That’s the spirit of James 1:2-4:
“Brothers and sisters, welcome the tests and challenges that come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith 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.”
When I am able to answer the why question, I often find it after the trial or trouble has come and gone. God doesn’t often remove my problems, but he does walk with me through them. What I’ve learned is that the trials and troubles I encounter usually are preparing me for something, protecting me from something, or providing me with something.
It should not surprise me that God works in this way. I’ve submitted to his ownership and Lordship. I’ve asked him to take my life and let it be wholly consecrated to Him. As a result, God orchestrates many things in my life. He blesses and he brings challenges. Both the easy things and the difficult things are signs of his active work in me.
Katie eventually was admitted to a graduate program at a different university and, while it wasn’t as prestigious as she’d hoped for, she got the training and the degree she wanted. It wasn’t the path she thought, but it was what she needed for her career. She looks back and sees the benefits of the alternate path. In her case, she believes that God protected her and prepared her by putting her on that different course. And she’s grateful for it.
A curve ball need not strike you out. You can hit it and still score.
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