What is God Doing in My Season of Suffering?

This is Deidre.

Her drink is a medium roast coffee (with a dash of heavy cream on special occasions).

And how fitting that Sips & Scripts involves two people sitting down for a chat with mugs when Deidre’s blog is named “The Second Cup.”

When I asked her about the name “The Second Cup,” she offered this explanation:

“You know in your quiet time with the Lord in the morning when you’re reading your Bible and you finish that first cup of coffee but you’d rather stay with Him than start the day? 

Or when you are catching up with an old friend at breakfast and the conversation is so good you just need to keep asking for warm-ups?”

Deidre’s “second cup” symbolizes the deep stuff. It is the unhurried, intentional presence given to something – or someone – of importance. 

Deidre and I were essentially strangers when we set up this chat, having only connected briefly through the Joyful Life Magazine’s contributor group. But I can tell you that by the end of the chat, if we were in person, we would have stayed to enjoy a second cup.

This is not to suggest that we didn’t have a conversation about tough issues— we did. But Deidre was able to cradle the conversation about suffering with such hope and with such grace that it didn’t feel unbearably heavy.

THE HEAVIEST OF HEAVY YEARS

“The last year and a half has been tough, with one difficult thing after the other, it seems. When our first child was only 6 months old, and we were finally beginning to come out of the newborn stage, we found out that another baby was on the way. I was just starting to adjust to being a new mom and caring for an infant. I remember crying to my husband, ‘I feel like I will never feel rested again.’

I struggled with a lot of emotions after that, and looking back, I wonder whether I was just downright exhausted, or if I had some postpartum or prenatal depression. 

In the midst of this pregnancy, the pandemic and lockdown hit. I’m a Title 1 Teacher who provides math and reading interventions to elementary students. So, like every teacher in our nation, I had to quickly adjust to a completely new way of educating. While it was the best option available to us during the pandemic, it’s not natural for kids that young to be educated on Zoom. Being home with a baby, dealing with pregnancy sickness, and teaching online full-time was certainly a challenge. 

When our baby girl Vivian was born in August, it was a very bright event in the midst of a grey season. My mother-in-law came to stay and help us for a week after Vivian was born, and it was a time that I cherished. But only a month later, she received a diagnosis that we would never expect: a tumor in her brain.

During her time receiving treatment, and later in hospice care, our little family spent many weekends traveling up and down the state of Maine to visit her. My husband and children ended up getting COVID during this time, and we had to cancel a much-anticipated vacation as a result. 

And just last month, my mother-in-law passed away. 

Although it’s been a heavy season, it’s been a catalyst for my contemplation about God’s goodness.”

WHEN GOD’S GOODNESS IS HARD TO FIND

“In thinking about the search for God’s goodness when it isn’t easily recognizable, I am reminded of a feeling I get when reading the Old Testament. There are some passages where our loving God is hard to understand–when he expresses his wrath by destroying entire nations of people or makes seemingly impossible commandments- and I have a hard time coming to grips with this. Not only does it make me uncomfortable and confused, it also creates an internal struggle because I want to be sharing the approachability and compassion of God– especially with people who don’t know Jesus yet. I fear these passages will make them turn away rather from God than press into him.

Don’t get me wrong— I love the Old Testament—but when I am reading it, I tend to gloss over the parts of God as the source of destruction because I don’t like them. 

I also had the habit of manipulating these parts to make them more palatable, trying to convince myself that the author didn’t really mean that or that the given passage doesn’t apply to me or that it isn’t really true.  But I’ve made a commitment to myself not to do that any longer.

This year, I’ve challenged myself to read these passages with eyes wide open and instead of dismissing them; I ask God: ‘How does this part of scripture reflect your goodness, even though I interpret it as something bad? How do these parts exemplify your good character?’

I’ve been trying to look at the last 18 months in the same way. 

Instead of glazing over this last year and assigning it a cliche (what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger), I am challenging myself to dig into my trials and instead ask the question: ‘How do the events of this past year reveal Your glory and goodness, God, even though I don’t like them?’

“I ask God: How does this part of scripture reflect your goodness, even though I interpret it as something bad? How do these parts exemplify your good character?”

MAKING SENSE OF GOD WHO ALLOWS DESTRUCTION

“Last night, I was thinking about the idea of finding God in the heaviness when I opened my Bible to the date in my reading plan and it fell to this verse:

I form the light and create darkness

I bring prosperity and create disaster

I, the Lord, do all of these things

Isaiah 45.7

My former reaction would be to ignore the parts of the verse that describe God as the source of disaster.

But in my effort to lean into the confusion, I started giving it more thought.

Darkness and disaster? Doesn’t that come from the enemy?

So I stopped to ask the question ‘Why? Why do you create darkness and disaster, God?’

As I read on, the next section answered my question:

Your heavens above rain down my righteousness, let the clouds shower it down. Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness flourish with it. I, the Lord, have created it

45.8

He follows the section on disaster with a reason for creating adversity: salvation and righteousness spring up from the disaster site.

With this verse in mind, I began to reflect on the bad things that happened in the last year. Was God using these obstacles to cultivate righteousness in me? 

Everything I went through this last year has been so challenging that it has forced me to release the idea of control. It has forced me to abandon comfort. Very few of my fleshly desires were met. 

And as an end result, I have given over so much of myself to the Lord. I have relied on him, and trusted him, and followed him more.

To reiterate— I am human and would never elect to suffer. How many people prefer to be uncomfortable, or grieving, or exhausted?

God removed stillness from my life and comfort from my flesh, but would I have abandoned them willingly? Not likely.

My discomfort creates a dependency on God that I would not have otherwise known.”

DESTRUCTION CREATES SOIL FOR SALVATION

“And now I can share my experience. My trials have opened up connections with people that may not have otherwise existed. And some of these people have been nonbelievers.

People can be won to the Lord by observing our peace in these trials.

Take my mother-in-law for instance: during her entire battle with cancer, she was joyful. She would say: ‘This is a win-win situation. Either I am going to be healed and so many people will see that God performed this miracle, or He will call me home and I will be in heaven with Jesus. Win-win.’

Her suffering became a testimony for others. She used her situation to talk to many people about Jesus.

Does He allow disaster to make soil for salvation?

Based on my mother-in-law’s story, how we react in adversity might just be the seed for someone else’s salvation.”

LETTING GO OF NEEDING TO UNDERSTAND IT ALL

“God sees things much more intricately than we could possibly see them. I’ve always known that, but now I understand it differently.

The book of Job has always been one of my least favorite books of the Bible. I’d rather not spend time meditating on such suffering.

But I became interested in the book of Job in an unlikely way— through Johnny Cash. I’m a Johnny Cash fan, and I love his book Forever Words—a collection of his unpublished poems and song lyrics. Cash was really interested in the book of Job and became an amateur scholar in the book of Job later in his life.

The book of Job reminds me that our human brains see very little of God’s masterful plan.

It reminds me that when I ask the question “Why, God?’ there is not usually an answer that will satisfy us in our limited scope. 

So I let go of needing all of the answers and remember that He always knows what He is doing. And I remind myself that it is not my job to explain God fully because no one can.”


I love Deidre’s revelation that our God is He who allows the living to die in order to create richer soil for new growth. 

And a comfort to me when I experience suffering is that our trials refine us to be more like Him. If there were only goodness and light in the world we would never have the occasion to grow; we would never need His strength in supplication.

In her 18 months of difficulty, Deidre has become more dependent on Jesus than she has ever been in her life. And as life eases up, she looks forward to connecting with other mothers or those grieving losses and offer her experience as a testimony to the goodness of God in all circumstances.

with His love,

Adelaide

To connect with Deidre:

Worship Songs at Midnight: Powerful Tools for Battling Anxiety

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This is Vicki.

Her drink is a lady grey tea like a proper Brit.

And I can’t go any further without pointing out Vicki’s adorable mug. She was gifted this mug which comes from a smallshop called I Am So Many Things. And if you look at the detailed picture here, it is filled with beautiful affirmations to take in as you sip.

Christian mug with beautiful affirmations from the shop I Am So Many Things
Mug from the shop I Am So Many Things

Vicki is from Scotland, which means I have now had two Sips & Scripts in a row with women who have the most enchanting accents (I recently chatted with Aimee Walker from New Zealand on “Discerning One’s Life Season”).

And before the end of our chat, Vicki and I decided that we are kindred spirits, because as we chatted along, we realized just how much we type-A, anxious-types have in common.

VICKI IS NO STRANGER TO ANXIETY

“I wrote a piece recently for The Joyful Life Magazine about finding peace of mind in the midst of anxiety and fear, but once I was faced with some unsettling health problems, I fell back into an anxiety spiral and felt like I failed my own test. How can I sit here and offer advice on anxiety and then not take my own advice in the midst of the anxiety?

But I felt the Holy Spirit answer: of course you can talk about it. All humans approach anxiety from a place of weakness. You need to talk about this because you need to show people that My strength is needed in order to overcome these things.

No matter how much I know about anxiety in my brain, it takes God to help me along through my spirit.”

BREAKING THE PATTERN

“I’m becoming very aware of the generational pattern of anxiety and the self fulfilling prophecy that can result. When you constantly hear yourself described as an anxious person, it’s easy to believe it—and allow yourself to be defined by it. Subsequently I grew up with the understanding that I was an anxious person, and there was nothing I could do about it.

As a mum myself now, I am very aware of the words I use regarding my daughters’ identity and mental wellness because of the impact they can have.

My daughter was diagnosed with autism when she was four.  Though she is high functioning, anxiety is a common symptom for many with an autism diagnosis.

As her mom, I want to model to her how we can manage (as best we can) the symptoms of anxiety. She is old enough now to be able to see when I am struggling.

For instance, when we received the diagnosis, I felt myself starting to spiral: what will this diagnosis look like for her life?  What will happen to her when she is an adult?

An anxious experience for me is like being caught in the whirlpool of water as it empties from a tub.  The spiral of thoughts gets tighter and tighter until I am literally circling the drain.  This is the point in which I get the physical symptoms of anxiety like panic attacks.

When I hit this point, I reach up my hands to God and say, ‘Heavenly Father, I can’t get fully on top of my own anxiety, and I need your help. Help me and, also, help me help my girl.’”

RECOGNIZE, REFRAME, RELEASE, REFOCUS

Last summer, I did a great Bible study on stopping the spiral of toxic thoughts called Get Out of Your Head by Jennie Allen. From there, I started to adopt a process to help me manage my anxious thoughts which can be summed up in four parts:

  • recognizing the thoughts I am frequently having
  • reframing these thoughts in light of the gospel
  • releasing these thoughts to God
  • refocusing my attention on worthy thoughts and actions
The book Get Out Of Your Head by Jennie Allen
Click image to browse

STEP 1: RECOGNIZE

“Jennie Allen suggests that we make an inventory of the thoughts we are having in a given length of time, and then examine them, which becomes the first step in the process of managing anxious thoughts. So I asked myself: What are the thoughts that I am thinking? What are the patterns? What am I noticing in these thoughts?

So, really, what we are doing in step 1 is capturing our thoughts for examination, just as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:5:

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it to obedient to Christ.

NIV

In doing this exercise, I was able to identify the triggers to these thoughts. I would look at a social media post and spiral, or I would find myself comparing myself to other mothers.

The key is to keep the thought captive and not allow it to take hold. Similarly, Ruth Chou Simons has a book based on the premise that we become what we behold (Beholding and Becoming: The Art of Everyday Worship). What we pour into our senses become the things that begin to seep into our souls.

The book Becoming and Beholding by Ruth Chou Simons
Click image to browse

This practice of capturing thoughts really allowed me to take stock of what ideas I was feeding myself on a regular basis.”

STEP 2: REFRAME

“Next, I take the captive thought and reframe it. I am afraid of X,Y,Z can be reframed in the light of our Savior: I have nothing to fear because God is in control.

I am not enough can be reframed as He is enough.

Reframing takes strength, and another line from Allen’s companion study guide to her book that is revolutionary to me is this one: As God’s children, filled with the Holy Spirit, we have the mind of Christ already in us. The issue is whether we are using it to think the thoughts that Jesus would think.

God has given us the tools we need by His power, by His spirit. And so, if I have His spirit inside of me, I can choose to think the way Jesus would think.”

STEP 3: RELEASE

“The next step is releasing that initial anxious thought.  

Because, in truth, I can reframe the thought in my brain, but I really need to release it from my heart.  Some fears and thoughts are so heavy that we can’t even reason with them; we can’t carry them on our own.  We have to give them over.

Often, in my attempts to find peace of mind, I sometimes still slip into the practice of seeking peace by the world’s definition (i.e. Googling symptoms for reassurance). But in fact, He is the source of our peace.  We can only attain that peace if we are surrendering that which we can’t control to the One who has control over all of it.

One of the best examples of the need to surrender is my daughter’s diagnosis.  I was very active in getting my daughter evaluated and advocated for her in light of her diagnosis, and my involvement was a means of asserting some semblance of control.  If I am actively working towards something, then the anxiety is kept at bay, but only for so long.

I just had to release her, and her diagnosis, to God: I cannot carry this, God. I know you created her, and this is part of your plan for her life—whatever that looks like.

When I release these things to God, I can literally feel the tension leave my body.”

STEP 4: REFOCUS

“There is a beautiful verse on refocusing our minds on God:

Don’t worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done.

Philippians 4.6-9, NLT

This verse becomes the guidebook for lessening anxiety. 

It reminds us to offer up our fear in prayer (both big things like a child’s diagnosis, but also the small things). And that the type of prayer matters. I need to forego the prayers of Why? Why me?! Make it stop! and instead ask God for His supplication, His provision.

I often pray about the big things, but I am guilty of neglecting to release thousands of small things to Him. The small things are the ones that  idle in the corner of my mind and eventually build up in a big way.

The verse also implores us to thank Him for all he has done so far and to praise His name.

Intentional gratitude, especially when it manifests in the act of praise, forces us to take our eyes off what is making us fearful and fix our gaze on Him instead.

Another part of the verse spoke to me in light of my recent backslide into an anxious spiral:

Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me… then the God of peace will be with you

Philippians 4.9, NLT

These words act as a reminder that the skill of managing anxiety is like any other skill: it takes practice.”

THE POWER OF PRAISE

“My daughter experiences intense night terrors. If any parents have gone through night terrors with their children, they know how troubling they can be.  The child is very distressed, but they are not fully awake nor responding to typical methods of soothing.

The only thing that has worked to bring her out of her night terrors is to recite scripture over her or sing worship songs until she slowly and steadily comes out of it.

Here are some of my favorite songs to sing to her

  • ‘The Battle Belongs to You’ by Phil Wickham
  • ‘By the Grace of God’ by Bethel Music
  • ‘It is Well’ (so many versions but Kristene DiMarco has a powerful one)

There is power in praise.”

WHAT WE CAN AND CANNOT CHANGE

“It is important to mention that there are definitely genetics at play when it comes to anxiety; not all anxiety is a reflection of a poor prayer life. What we don’t hear enough from Christians is that it is perfectly ok to use medicine to solve the chemical imbalance while still putting the powerful spiritual tools into play.  Though I am not currently on medication, it is always an option for me should I need it.

I simply don’t know how nonbelievers navigate fearful and trying times. At the end of the day, I can have all the anxiety tools in the world, but I still need God. No matter my circumstances, He is the ultimate Source of my peace.”


In listening to our recorded chat, I discovered just how many times I jumped in to agree with Vicki; all that she describes about anxiety I have experienced myself.

It’s amazing how when we open up about our struggles we realize how much we all have in common.

with His love,

Adelaide

CONNECT WITH VICKI

Click here to connect with Vicki on Facebook

Click here to connect with Vicki on Instagram

Click here to see Vicki’s Work on The Joyful Life Magazine blog

Click here to read Vicki’s post on “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: Celebrating the Children God Gave Us”