Months ago, I spent several days with my sweet momma in the hospital. It was a privilege to serve someone who has sacrificed so much for me. Watching her during those first few days, I was reminded how sometimes we have to go through painful experiences to reach our desired destination.
For years, Mom had pressed through tremendous back pain. She went and went until she couldn’t go anymore. Everyone knew it was time for surgery. She sought wise counsel and made an informed decision. Then she walked bravely toward the operating room while Dad and I remained in the waiting room.
Twelve long hours later, we were finally reunited. The minute we walked in, we could see she was in horrible pain. I wanted to get on that hospital bed and take her place, but I couldn’t. No one could.
The pain was intense with new symptoms in different places. And they were just as painful, if not more, than the pain she had experienced before the surgery.
Nerves were waking up, and they weren’t happy. And then there was the stomach pain. It was unexpected and worse than her back. She lay in bed for days in agony. The pain made her think she’d made a mistake. She didn’t think she could handle the days ahead. She wished she could undo what she had done.
My perspective on the situation was different though. The doctor had said the surgery was a success, so I was sure Mom would be okay and that these symptoms would eventually dissipate. I had no doubt that soon she’d be feeling and moving better than she had in years.
But I also knew that before she felt better, she would have to endure more discomfort. With God’s help, she did.
I share this story because I know many of you are in that “in between” season of life right now. You’ve made a difficult decision to move forward; you’ve weighed the cost, sought wise counsel, taken that step—and now you find yourself in a dark, lonely, and uncomfortable place. Your pain is so intense that you’re asking, “What in the world have I done?!” You might even wish you could go back to where you were before.
Please, don’t let the moment’s pain keep you from the “better” that lies ahead. Press on with God. I promise that with Him, better days will come. But how do you keep moving forward?
Lift your eyes past the pain. Even the best life decisions can bring pain and unexpected challenges, but that doesn’t mean they were wrong. Ask God to help you look beyond your current situation and show you where you are going. If you focus on your pain, you’ll lose your will to go on.
Lift your gaze to the Lord. God is bigger than anything you are going through. Jesus is the name above all names (Philippians 2:9). Choose to magnify the Lord above your circumstances, because what you magnify is what holds prominence in your heart and mind.
Remember who is with you. God promises that you are never alone on your journey. The Great I Am is with you; He has not and will not abandon you. Ever. (See Deuteronomy 31:8). He walks beside you even through the valley of death.
Notice that Psalm 23:4 says you are walking through the valley; you aren’t to live there. God will bring you through the darkness in His perfect timing. He will bring what He has begun in your life to completion (Philippians 1:6).
Trust the process. Reaching your intended destination takes time and work. Sometimes, it looks like you’re going in the wrong direction. It might even hurt. Trust the process and refuse to turn back no matter how hard it gets. Don’t panic or retreat when you hit difficulties or life becomes uncomfortable. You can only reach a destination if you stay the course. There are no shortcuts.
Hold on to God’s promises, pray, and draw close. God’s Word never returns void; it goes forth and accomplishes what God says it will do (Isaiah 55:11). Speak the Word over your life. Pray: the fervent prayers of a righteous person bring great results (James 5:16).
And then, draw close to God. He promises to be your comforter, peace, wisdom, guide, strength, joy, and healer. When you seek Him, He’ll reveal Himself in powerful ways (James 4:8) and shower you with loving-kindness and compassion (Psalm 145:9).
Remember where you are going and why. You made the decision to move forward for a reason. It’s usually because you weren’t where you needed to be. Write that reason down so you don’t forget what it was like back there but keep the vision of where you’re going in front of you too. Remember why you want to be there. Let that be your motivation to keep pressing on.
Don’t let emotions dictate your next move. Many feelings arise during intense seasons of pain. Hopelessness, fear, doubt, and confusion are just a few of the dark emotional clouds that will try to overtake you and distort your judgment. They’ll cloud your vision, and you might think you made the wrong choice. Capture those negative thoughts before they capture you (2 Corinthians 10:5).
God’s chosen people experienced some unexpected, tough times in the wilderness, and they let fear convince them that God’s plan was wrong. There they were, steps away from their promised land, begging to go back to slavery and forced labor (Exodus 16:3). Really?!
They complained, grumbled, and outright doubted God—which only led to an extended “in between” season, stuck between Egypt and their destination. God had something so much better in store, if only they would have trusted Him and kept moving forward in obedience.
The same is true for you. Do not be like those who shrink back and are destroyed. Have faith and press on (Hebrews 10:39).
Take one day at a time. If you look at how far you have to go, you’ll be overcome with fear and doubt. Instead, take each day as it comes and remember—the grace of God that got you through yesterday will get you through today, tomorrow, and the next day. His grace is sufficient for every challenge you will face, for as long as you must face it (2 Corinthians 12:9).
And along the way, celebrate the victories, big or small. Thank God for progress.
Surround yourself with wise counsel. It’s essential to have trusted people by your side who can see the bigger picture and who will encourage you. You also need people who will speak the truth in love. Listen to them. Sometimes they can see things you can’t.
Kristi Overton Johnson encourages and equips people for victory through her writings, speaking engagements, and prison ministry. To learn more, go to kojministries.org.