Some days just feel daunting. You wake up, if you even slept the night before, greeted with a knot in your stomach, knowing that what lies ahead for the day requires more strength and energy than you possess.
The weeks when my husband had chemotherapy were often like that. Not just the physical toll, but the emotional as well. Questions and concerns would flood my mind as I watched the familiar drip of the clear toxic substance, hoping it was doing its job.
Our family was caught in a tidal wave of questions but very few answers:
Would the chemotherapy work?
Would it bring on additional conditions like the prior chemotherapy did?
Would he survive?
How would we make sure everyone’s needs were met when there was so little of us to go around?
How would we cover the demands in ministry and at work?
How would God work, even this, for our good and His glory?
How could I still share His help, His hope, and His healing when my attention had to shift to the needs of our family?
If I can be honest, depending on the day, those questions often took a more desperate turn:
God, are you there?
God, do you care?
God, what are you doing?
“From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (Psalm 61:2)
For several months I lived an emotional roller coaster.
Some days I was confident and bold, trusting God even when I could not see. Yet other moments I was overwhelmed by the enormity of our circumstances, and I could feel my grip slipping.
My heart hurt, tears flowed, and I could be overcome by confusion, anger, and despair. My head knew the answers, but sometimes my heart was so broken that I had to choose to consciously trust the truth of His word.
Many called, texted, emailed, or messaged me with questions. “What advice can you give?” “I’m between a rock and a hard place. What do I do?” “What about when God doesn’t answer?”
7 Tips for Handling Times When We Don’t Have Answers
1. Lean in and honestly share your pain with Him.
In the hardest days of life when questions are more numerous than answers, it can be tempting to withdraw—from relationships, from life, even from God. It may be contrary to your feelings, but let me encourage you to first Lean in to God when you want to pull away. The enemy would like you to shelf your Bible, not participate with church, and give up on your prayers. But the truth says that when we seek Him, we will find Him, but we have to do our part first.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)
Give it all to Him—including, and especially, the broken, tattered, and torn pieces of your heart. He is big enough to handle it. He knows already, but your sharing it with Him gives Him room to act.
2. Surround yourself with His truth.
Put yourself in a place to be surrounded by truth. In life’s hardest days, the enemy is fast at work spreading lies to your ear and heart. He wants you to give up—another victory for his kingdom.
During our darkest days, when my husband was in the hospital, or sick from chemotherapy and I felt helpless, and demands from other quadrants of our life screamed loud and relentless, I cried out to God that it felt like too much to bear. Often, those were the same days I received the most messages from others in need of support. There was only so much of me to go around.
The only way to keep pouring out was to get filled up. I had to will myself to go to church, even if it meant going alone and sitting on the back row. I played praise and worship music 24/7—yes, even while I slept. I wrote down Scripture to recite and memorize that uplifted my heart and reminded me of He who is big enough to handle what was crushing me. In other words, I intentionally surrounded myself in outlets of truth.
3. Stay close to those who will faithfully speak truth and life to you and in you.
Stay close to those who speak truth into your life, even when you’re tempted to run and hide. Truthfully, during our hardest days, I was tempted to withdraw. But that just feeds into the enemy’s plan. My closest friends knew if I grew quiet, if I posted less on social media, if the time between my responses to their inquiries took longer to come, they needed to get more vocal in their prayers. But in the long run, I had to choose to stay connected, even when I felt like no one understood.
“One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.” (Proverbs 12:26)
4. Draw on the hope and faith of others when yours is wanting.
Most truly couldn’t relate to our circumstances, but they could relate to the heartache and pain. And their faith remained strong when mine wavered in the moment. They reminded me of His truth to help combat the enemy’s lies that were so loud and almost palpable. Some days I had to rely on their faith and hope, while He renewed mine.
“Kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” (Proverbs 16:24)
“A person finds joy in giving an apt reply– and how good is a timely word!” (Proverbs 15:23)
“Like apples of gold in settings of silver Is a word spoken in right circumstances.” (Proverbs 25:11)
5. Acknowledge the things you can be thankful for.
For me, one of the hardest things to do when days were dark, ominous, and frightening was to be thankful. Scripture tells us to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4) While I struggled to find joy in the actual trial, I am so grateful that it serves a purpose. For that, I could be thankful.
My goal has been to purpose to find the things I could be grateful for when it seemed the valley was dark and deep, (#GratitudeOverGrumbling) because despite our situation, God is always good.
“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
By intentionally having a thankful and honest heart, sharing both my needs and my gratitude, He then can infiltrate our heart with His peace regardless of the situation. His peace permeates the questions, the doubts, the fears because despite it all He is good.
While my circumstances were daunting, there was always something I could find to be thankful for: a child’s laughter, roses in winter, warm fuzzy socks, a friend’s text, or the fact that God never sleeps and I could pray to Him throughout my sleepless nights.
6. Remember that even when your circumstances don’t seem so, God is still good.
Remembering that God is good despite our circumstances, brings comfort and peace. And that is something we can always be thankful for.
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.” (Psalm 136:1)
“For the LORD is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.” (Psalm 100:5)
7. Hold on, and remember whatever you are going through is but a season. A new season is coming!
What never helped me was when someone flippantly said, “This too shall pass.” It lacked sensitivity, compassion, and empathy. Yet, I did need to remember that the truth of God’s word does ensure that everything has a limited duration.
“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Thankfully, no season lasts forever, and while some last longer than others, a new season is coming.
Trials will come. Answers may seem nonexistent or slow in coming. But God and His love are certain.
“In the eye of the storm, you remain in control and in the middle of the war, you guard my soul. You alone are the anchor when my sails are torn. Your love surrounds me in the eye of the storm.” Ryan Stevenson
The truth is that we will all go through difficult trials in our lives. Some, agonizingly long and painful. But because of Him, no matter what the situation, #HopePrevails!
(If you have a question you’d like Dr. B to answer, contact her here now. Your name and identity will be kept confidential.)
Depression doesn’t have to become a permanent part of life.
There is hope.
Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression and the companion Hope Prevails Bible Study help the reader understand how depression comes to be, recover their joy, reclaim their peace, and re-establish their true identity, while knowing their worth, remembering their secure destiny, and being confident that nothing separates them from God’s love.
Hope Prevails and the Hope Prevails Bible Study are must-reads for anyone suffering from depression or knows someone suffering from depression.
“It is a unique position to be both the doctor and the depressed patient. Those dual experiences offer rare insight into the nuances of a very difficult journey. Dr. Michelle Bengtson has written a wonderful, hope-filled book for those who suffer from depression and for those who love them. Because she’s been in the place of the patient, her compassion abounds. Because she has been in the place of the doctor, her knowledge is spot on. Because she is a lover of God, her book offers practical, spiritual hope for anyone who is searching. I encourage you to read it! It will make you better, no matter your situation.” ~ Jan Silvious, Author of Fool-proofing Your Life and Same Life, New Story
Michelle, thank you so much for writing this post. You and your family have been in my thoughts and prayers. So many things in this post I could relate to and I just thank for putting this all out there. Sometimes it is so hard to remember to be joyful and thankful in trials, but you are absolutely right. God is there, he is in control and has a plan. Blessings, Shannan
Thank you, Michelle, for sharing the real deal here — and for posing the hard questions right “out loud” so that we can see the truth that God’s love and sovereignty are, truly, the answer to all our questions if we will let our hearts see that.
Oh, friend. I thank God for you and the strength He gives you to continue your ministry through such a painful and devastating ordeal! Thank you Lord for staying close to my dear friend, wrap her up in your loving arms today! XO
It is super easy to drift into a negative separation from God when we are confused and struggling to see His hope in our situation. I agree with you, that in those times, we have to lean into Him hardest. Never slipping away into the abyss of our negative thoughts and hopeless expectations of what the world can do …but in great hope of what our great God is capable of. We must never lose sight of what He can do, especially when it doesn’t look like we want it to right now. I loved your point about surrounded yourself with your friends’ faith while yours is restored. Such rich truth, and why He surrounds us with community.
Happy Tuesday, from Turn it up Tuesday!
Thank you for being there for so many when your family is suffering. May God bring you through this triumphant. Thank you for your awesome words of encouragement written here.
OH my, your testimony as I hear more and more of it alternately breaks my heart and then mends it again ready for facing another season and the battle to focus on the Lord. These 7 tips are so very helpful for me. They resonate deep in my spirit. I remember with thanksgiving and a remembering of the pain is felt when my hubby had the brain bleed 6 years ago. It came on suddenly and I realized something was desperately wrong. Father had already paved the way for us as we went to the hospital, through surgery and home for rehab. His recovery was remarkable but I was NEVER alone. The presence of the Lord was so real yet I had my questions just like you did and the enemy wanted me to believe his lies over God’s Word, Truth and Promises. What you describe here is some of what He showed me and I love how you put it all together in these 7 tips. Thank you Dr. Michelle for always being transparent, honest, vulnerable and encouraging. I do love your messages.