Almost exactly 6 years ago I woke up in Estes Park, Colorado by Rocky Mountain National Park to my wife Lindsey skipping into our bedroom. (She doesn’t normally skip…ever.) I couldn’t imagine what was going on that would cause my typically very laid back wife to giggle, smile, and skip around like a five year old girl wearing her first “Frozen” dress at 6 o’clock in the morning.
Honestly, I was more focused on getting more sleep. Life had been hard lately. I was wrestling with how to trust God when bad things happen (more on that in a second). Can God really use our gifts when we fail to trust Him or obey Him like we should?
I had mostly questions those days. Answers were hard to come by. We were living in what I call “the fog.” You know, that period of time during any major loss, conflict, or frustration when you can’t remember if you just ate 1, 2, 3, or 4 waffles. You wonder if you’ll ever know how to think clearly again.
Sometimes people will ask what you are thinking and you look at them as lost as a Cubs fan at the World Series. Other times, weeks or even months will pass and you’ll think, “Wait, I don’t remember giving those gray hairs permission to grow on my head.” But I digress….let’s get back to the story at Rocky Mountain National Park and you’ll see why I desperately wanted to see how to trust God when bad things happen.
All I could think about was: why is Lindsey awake this early, what’s going on, and when can I get some water to help with my 8,500 ft elevation headache? Lindsey jumped back in bed and then life as we knew it changed forever. And no, I’m not being dramatic here. This was one of those forever-burned-into-your-memory, lost in a mall, or narrowly escaping from a burning building type moments. Or better put, it’s one of those “I’m craving Buffalo Wild Wings without any wings in sight” kind of memories that you will hold onto forever. Here’s what happened:
“Guess what, guess what, guess what! I’m pregnant,” she said.
“Huh? I mean, really?” I replied.
“Yes. Yes. Yes. I took two tests, and I’m definitely pregnant,” she said.
“Seriously? You are certain?” I said.
“Yes. I mean we have to go to the doctor and all that. It’s still early and anything can happen. But yes. It’s real. After all this time, it doesn’t seem real,” Lindsey said.
To put things in context, this was four months after finding out Lindsey had ovarian cancer and two subsequent abdominal surgeries to remove the tumor and other cancer related issues. The previous 3 years were full of endless attempts to get pregnant, all the fertility treatments medically allowed, and constantly questioning if we would ever get to be parents. We were scared. We were frustrated. We were confused. We were conditioned to expect the worst. That is why neither of us could hardly believe this was real…but it was!
For many people, a pregnancy may arrive unplanned or be attained quicker than you even imagined. For us, it was a multi-year emotional, financial, and spiritual struggle that taught us how good God is and how we can trust Him even when we feel out of control. And we certainly weren’t perfect. (Note: God taught us about His goodness during that time. Anyone who knows us well can say we definitely had and still have much room to grow.) We were being tested in how to trust God when bad things happen. And learning to trust has been a long process for us both.
So when I say I can’t believe I sit here today posting this picture with us as a family of 5….I mean it. There were times when we both doubted if we’d even have one child, let alone 3. I really am blown away, humbled, and grateful to Lindsey, our family and friends, all those who prayed, our doctors/nurses, all those who gave financial gifts, and to God for giving us what we didn’t deserve — 3 precious little angels/Tasmanian Devils. On a side note, I’m also blown away that all 5 of us for the most part are looking in the general vicinity of the camera. (This is admittedly a less important, but additional example, of how God gives us what we don’t deserve.)
God does that often. He gives us far more than we deserve. He’s good even when we aren’t. We got angry as we waited. We complained all the time. Maybe I should be clearer. I got angry and complained while waiting. Lindsey was much nicer about things. (Remember, she’s the laid back and patient one.) Yet God, in His goodness, gave us what we didn’t deserve, because that’s how He rolls.'Yet God, in His goodness, gave us what we didn't deserve, because that's how He rolls.' -- @bradbridges #grace Click To Tweet
What has God given you that you didn’t/don’t deserve? Share your story sometime. We’d love to read or hear it.
All of us have been given more blessings than we will ever deserve. As we stumbled through infertility, pregnancy, and now through parenthood, we’ve had the opportunity to learn from God, from others, and from our own mistakes. We haven’t “arrived” but any means, but there are some tips on how to trust God when bad things happen.
9 Tips on How to Trust God When Bad Things Happen
1) Remember the past
No one has had a 100% easy life. The news portrays Michael Jordan as a glamorously wealthy billionaire. And we all wish we had his Nike royalties. (If you don’t, you are lying.) His father died at a truck stop while sleeping in his car, he was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost to Duke during the ACC tournament during his last year at Carolina…and losing to Duke would make anyone sick.
When we remember the difficulties of the past and how God has helped us through them, we can much more confidently handle the present and the future. I’m not one of those guys that argues for claiming a future and forcing God to give it to you. Not at all. But I do believe what God has done in the past can give us hope for the present and the future.'What God has done in the past can give us hope for the present and the future .' -- @bradbridges #hope Click To Tweet
2) Take Small Steps Forward
Life won’t always give you what you planned. If you are wrestling with how to trust God when bad things happen, trust me when I say that you are not alone. You aren’t. Many others face the same thing. Don’t let the obstacles you face keep you from taking steps forward.
3) Ask What You Can Learn
None of us enjoys learning through pain. All of us do experience pain though. The question is whether or not we will choose to learn from it. I’ve never been good at this one. It’s not easy.
I remember a friend with the flu talking about how he was learning humility and the importance of rest during his bout with sickness. I admired his tenacity to learn and grow even while facing mucus, endless chicken noodle soup, and cough syrup by the kilo. But he spoke with wisdom. Wisdom we all need to hear.
4) Do Something You’ve Never Done Before
For some, this comes easier than others. Trusting God when bad things happen sounds nice and fluffy. It might even sound easy. But it also requires some type of action. I’m not saying you are responsible for your destiny or that you don’t need God — you do. But we can put ourselves back into the same bad situations, if we continue to do the same things.
I’ll never forget a man I met once whose wife had died. He wasn’t the first person I had ever met that was a widower, but he was the first one I met who had visited 20-30 countries since his wife died. Many people would sit and wrestle with grief day in and day out if their spouse died, but he decided to re-invest his grief into others through service.
5) Realize You’ll Trust Imperfectly
I think we lose hope when bad things happen, because we’ve placed the bar too high on ourselves. We have to give ourselves and one another grace to grieve. Don’t expect to perform at the top of your game the day or week after something bad happens. Don’t expect to know all the answers. Don’t expect yourself to trust God perfectly without ever wrestling with fear, failure, or concern. Give yourself some slack, and jump back into the game.'God doesn't expect perfection from you and yet He still gives it freely.' -- @bradbridges Click To Tweet
6) Be Honest With Those You Love
I don’t think I could have ever gotten through our journey through infertility, cancer, and the financial stress that ensued without Lindsey (my wife) and my family. The nature of the topics discussed related to infertility creates an isolation bubble around couples. It’s ironic that at the time infertile couples most need support and encouragement from others, they tend to stay quiet and not share their story due to shame, inappropriate comments from others, or fear of having to talk about it all the time.
My guess is that if you were to share your feelings honestly with those you love, they wouldn’t judge you or put you down. They would appreciate your honesty and show you they care. Your family and friends can show tangible love when you need it in a way that helps you know how to trust God when bad things happen.
7) Be Honest With Yourself
After a major setback of any sort, you will need rest. You will need to process the events that have transpired, in order to best move forward. For some, this means talking to someone in their family. For others, it might mean speaking with a counselor. For others, it could mean playing a sport, sleeping, journaling or something else.
Your emotional awareness (or emotional intelligence as some call it) will play a major factor in how you need to process what has gone on. During our infertility struggle, we knew that we had been through a few brutal years and some of the most terrifying months of our lives as we navigated cancer treatments. Through the advice of others and warning signs that we saw in ourselves emotionally, we decided to go on a vacation with family to get out of dodge and enjoy nature. It is ironic that it was during that vacation that we found out we were expecting our first child.
8) Speak Candidly to God
Our fear of how we think God will respond can easily inhibit our ability to receive the blessings, encouragement, and hope He offers. God will never expect you to speak to Him perfectly. When you look at the Psalms, you find a man clamoring for help, complaining, excitement, and many more emotions. Even looked at Lamentations? If it is okay for Scripture to be emotionally aware and emotionally honest, perhaps we should follow its lead.
9) Never Forget the Light At the End of the Tunnel
The struggles you currently face may not ever end. I’m aware of that. It could be that your cancer, your soured relationship, or your work conflict will continue for a very long time. Even so, there will be a day when you will retire. Even if cancer slowly takes your life away, you have a choice to live with gratitude for the life you have now and the eternal life you will have or to complain and live in anger. One of the most powerful examples of this was Kara Tippetts who bravely fought cancer with multiple little children at home and eventually died this year of cancer. I say that she died of cancer, because I don’t believe she lost the battle. I think she won because she decided that cancer would not take away or change how she lived life (other than obvious physical limitations). We have a lot to learn from Kara Tippetts. She used all of her days as a tool to inspire and encourage others facing seemingly insurmountable hurdles. Her book The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard has been a consistent top seller on Amazon since she passed away nearly 6 months ago.
I’ll never forget the dark days of infertility, of wishing I had answers for my wife, of wanting so badly to provide her with something she and I both greatly desired–kids. I felt like a failure. She felt like a failure. I was completely confused about how to trust God when bad things happen. I lived in fear that I would not only never be able to find a way to have kids, but that after years of trying we would eventually end up broke with no way to adopt.
Looking back, I can see how God was working in my heart and mind in many ways to change me and to change us. I can see that there were many examples of potential lights at the end of the tunnel. That doesn’t mean I did a good job noticing the hope that was there. Sometimes we need to walk through the fog to understand the existence of the light.'Sometimes we need to walk through the fog to understand the existence of the light.' -- @bradbridges Click To Tweet
As you or someone you know fights through a sickness, broken relationship, or frustration of any sort, never forget about the hope that lies ahead. Along the way, my prayer is that these 9 tips on how to trust God when bad things happen help provide some encouragement and a little direction to you as you wait in the fog.
If you like, you can also keep in mind that you will likely never have to endure a painful ACC tournament loss to Duke. If Michael Jordan can recover from that one and become the best basketball player to have ever lived, we all have hope. (As a disclaimer, the UNC Tarheels beat Duke two times that year before the ACC tournament. We wouldn’t want to let the Duke fans out there get too proud of that victory. But I guess it did get them to 1-2 against Carolina for the year.)