5 Things I Learned From a Hard Season

While it is not human nature to desire a trip through suffering, sometimes we need pain to remind us of essential truths or point us back to what really matters. Character is like a photograph: it develops in darkness. We may never know completely why we’re sometimes sent on a hard path, but there is always a silver lining. Here are five God reminded me of in one particular season.

1. Death is just a doorway

For most of my life I have known I’m not afraid of death, I’m afraid of dying. I know what lies beyond, I just don’t want any pain in getting there. However, after going through a season where God broke me, I experienced a mindset shift.

In coming face-to-face with the deep-set darkness of my soul and the battle between flesh and spirit, I lost my sense of belonging. This world is not my home. I am an exile, an alien, merely passing through until I get to where I’m going.

When the frills of this world lose their appeal and you have security in the life to come, dying becomes a minor detail that gets lost in the glory of the bigger picture. Yes, there might be pain, but I can’t look away from everything I have to gain!

2. Gathering with people is a gift

The day-to-day can be exhausting in and of itself, but when your mind is continuously running around in circles, nothing sounds more appealing than going to bed. Because of this, I got into the bad habit of skipping my small group’s Wednesday night meetings.

My introverted nature had spent the available energy. I needed to recharge in the quiet of my room. I needed to go to bed.

While these are legitimate needs, we as human beings are a dichotomy of flesh and spirit. Yes, we need physical rest, but we also need to gather with like-minded people to refresh our mentality. We need people to get us up when all too often it is our tendency to wallow in self-absorbed pits.

3. Faith isn’t always pretty

I did not find Psalms meaningful until I read them when I was struggling. So much of what David wrote mirrors the cries that were coming from my heart, and not all them of were pleasant.

“Faith does not always feel or sound spiritual. Sometimes it simply knows God is listening, even when it has nothing good to say.”

Peter Hubbard

God wants to know what’s going on in your life. He wants you to talk to Him like He is your best friend. Whether you’re happy, sad, bitter, bubbling with joy, lonely, or angry, what matters is that you are talking to Him.

There is something intimately special about letting God know how you feel. Because of Him, you are never alone, and there is something oddly comforting in knowing that He sees every tear, every cry, every twinge of pain. He knows exactly what you’re going through and—in His loving kindness, pure goodness, and sovereign control—there is purpose in your pain.

4. Not everything has to be straight

This could be taken two ways, the first being literal. My dad will tell stories of how, since I was a little girl, I ensured that everything was level or in its neat little box. One of the repercussions of heartbreak, however, is you lose a lot of the care you once had. I’ve since learned that mismatched alignments can be aesthetically pleasing.

The second meaning is that not everything has to make sense. While I would much rather be solving the puzzle of life with all the pieces laid out in front of me, that is not always how God works. Sometimes you need to draw blanks to grow your faith, to learn how to trust within the unknown. Ultimately, you don’t need to know why. You just need to know God.

5. God is bigger than the storms in my mind

In the swing between maintaining sanity and feeling alright, there were nights my mind was swelling with so many thoughts I was afraid it might burst. I could not comprehend how my head could contain the raging sea I was trying so hard to keep from spilling out. However, what was even more awe-inspiring was the sudden realization that God is more powerful than the confusion I cannot grasp.

The lyrics from Shane & Shane’s recreation of Psalm 46 became a prayer of mine: “Though oceans roar, You are the Lord of all, the One who calms the wind and waves and makes my heart be still. Though the earth gives way, the mountains move into the sea, the nations rage, I know my God is in control.” As another song puts it:

“Peace, bringing it all to peace
The storm surrounding me
Let it break at Your name

Still, call the sea to still
The rage in me to still
Every wave at Your name”

— Mosaic MSC, “Tremble”

Of course, there are many more lessons and good reminders still to come, but for now I will meditate on the ones that have already been taught. As the psalmist writes in 77:11-12, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.”

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