The Hardness of Life. The Goodness of God.
It’s impossible to REALLY know God if you’ve only known good.
This is the phrase that keeps running through my head these days. Hard days, for more reasons than one. I’ve found myself increasingly attune lately to the hardness of life. My dear friend, probably my best friend, Caroline, has lost two friends in six months. One to disease, another to addiction. Another friend of mine is facing a huge life challenge and spiritual battle that words can’t even do justice to. Still another friend woke up a few years ago and had completely lost his hearing. It was gone, inexplicably, without reason and without warning…and every day now he must wake up and continue his fight to adjust to this new life, without sound. The same way my brother-in-law, Kevin, is fighting to adjust to this new life without his left leg.
I have readers who reach out to me every single day to share their stories of heartbreak. So many beautiful souls, all twisted up, because another not-so-beautiful soul failed to love them well. Failed to protect their hearts. Failed to SEE them. I have friends who have lost jobs and lost pets and lost their way. I’ve lost my way a bit. Or maybe it’s not that I’ve lost my way so much as I just don’t know what’s next for me. And it’s scary. Sometimes exciting, but mostly scary. As I stand here at the crossroads in my life, pondering whether to go left or go right…I pause for a moment just to sit in the uncertainty and observe the Hardness of life. And what’s funny and strange and unexpected is that I find myself tipping my hat in respect to it a bit. Not because I’m happy that I’m struggling and people I love are struggling, but because of this one undeniable truth:
It’s impossible to know God if you’ve only known good.
Without the hardness of life, you’d never get to experience the softness of grace. Grace is like sinking into the coziest, fluffiest, most sumptuous recliner you could ever imagine at the end of a long, impossible day. Grace is like a chocolate chip cookie when you were expecting oatmeal raisin. Or like getting an A on a test you forgot to study for. Grace is beautiful, and holy, and life-altering to all it touches. And grace is also completely, entirely invisible to those who have never walked through the fire, never felt their world spin on its axis, never questioned, never failed, never fallen, never doubted, never hurt, never cried.
I look closer at the scars on my shoulders from where I had skin cancer removed and I see grace. Grace that we caught it early, and removed it from my body. I look closer at Caroline’s journey and am reminded that on top of everything else she’s been through lately, a few days ago, she almost lost her beloved cat. He accidentally got out of her apartment and wandered free for hours and hours…lost in the woods that he might have been lost to forever had a series of divine encounters not led Caroline back to him. GRACE. I look at the stories of women who write to me about terrible, heart-wrenching breakups and I see the hand of God removing them from situations that would have caused them much greater pain down the road. I even look at Kevin’s leg and see grace. Grace that God spared his other leg. And his LIFE. He was one hair, one breath, one moment away from death…and yet, here he sits with us today…not brain damaged, no other major injuries, fully alive and alert and able to someday dance with his daughters at their weddings. Grace upon grace upon grace.
Is this a Pollyanna, shiny, superficial way of looking at tragedy and hard times? No. I’m not pointing out the silver lining of suffering…I’m simply calling attention to the work of the Savior in the midst of it. Suffering sucks. There is no silver lining to it. And yet…and yet…the great paradox if it all is that it’s impossible to know God if you’ve only known good. Because God is in the hard. He runs to the hurt. He rushes to the heartbroken. He even catches our tears in a bottle, the Bible says. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” (Psalm 34:18)
Every time I write about sadness, or heartbreak, or tragedy, or hard times, I inevitably get people messaging me and tweeting me and asking me: “Are you depressed? What’s with your latest post?” and the answer is NO. Please don’t assume that because I write about challenges and struggles, my own or other people’s, I’m depressed or down or being negative. I’m none of the above. I just feel like there are seasons for light and fluffy and there are seasons for hard and real, and this is the latter. Because the truth is: life IS hard. And then it’s beautiful. And then it’s devastating. And then it’s gratifying. And then it’s complicated. And then it’s sweet. And then it’s confusing. And then it’s clear. And then it’s broken. And then it’s blissful.
And through it all, God is there. I know this because I’ve experienced it firsthand. He’s certainly there in the good times, too…but you see the HAND of God in the good. You see the HEART of God in the bad.
That’s why I’ll say it again: It’s impossible to REALLY know God if you’ve only known good.
Remembering that makes me feel brave. Brave enough to take a deep breath and stand a little taller, a little more certainly, at my own crossroads. Because the truth is…whichever way I go, whichever way it turns out…I know I’ll be okay.
And so will you.
Get your copy of my latest book, Beautiful Uncertainty, at any bookstore or order it here.
That is so true. I remember going through an unbelievably trying time after college. I’d never been depressed before, but for the first time, I was lonely, verbally abused, and my self-worth was zero. If I hadn’t pushed myself to go back to church and throw myself into my Bible again, I don’t think I ever would have gotten out, and freed myself from that “friendship” (believe it or not, abusive relationships aren’t necessarily romantic). Now I see God’s grace when I get to spend time with my real friends.
That’s where I’m at now…I’m trying but I still feel lost and like God is far away even though I know he’s not. I’m glad someone else has been there!
God Bless U.As Bible Say First Thank Abuot God Then All Thing Is Arrangmented For U.Think And Pray May Take Time.Then God Response.
Since I read your first two books, followed your blogs, your tweets, Facebook posts, and recently your third book, this piece is now my favorite! You’ve been such a blessing to me, Mandi, as well as a personal inspiration. I was raised in the faith, cut my teeth on a church pew, but only in my recent adult years have I truly discovered the depths of Gods love and grace for me. Like you wrote, it’s been through the storms of life, not the good days, that His faithfulness has been made known to me. Blessings in abundance to you, Mandi! God will be faithful to his daughters!
I’m at a crossroad with many things in life. Do I think about moving, progress my business and of course learn to be the only girl I know that us singke..my life is changing and this year will be hard for me.
I’ve been praying hard for him to walk with me on this unknown journey
I absolutely adore you Mandy. I was on a journey of self love and felt that I had finally reached my desired destination, only to slip back into negative thought patterns. That’s when I realized that this life is a journey not a destination. I will continue to fight, love, cry, smile and everything else and NO I’m not depressed when I talk about my low points.
There have been times in my life that I wanted to give up. But this Voice told me that I have people who love me more than I love myself and I owe it to them and my Lord & Savior to fight and be strong enough to lean solely on God and His promise to never leave me. Man or woman may walk out of your life but God will never leave or forsake you. Problems, stress, loneliness, doubt heartbreak will come as long as you live on this Earth. It’s your trust in God to fight your battles that will keep you in peace and give you unexplainable joy. I thank God for my tests because when it’s done my testimony will be great!
I love your article… you have a great gift to write encouragement to me, and sometimes the painful truth so well… thank u so much and God bless u and keep u!!
This was so needed and I’m so thankful you said it. Life is unbelievably hard and confusing right now and I need to see the grace in it. So I’m thankful you pointed it out and that you’re willing to say life is hard but God is always there.
I’m in a really hard season right now. Have been for a while. Like your friend, I lost several friends… Two to cancer, one to ALS all within 6 months of each other. During all this, my best friend of 36 years stopped speaking to me & my boyfriend walked out on me for another woman. I feel like I’m barely getting through my days most of the time, and then you post something I need to read on Instagram or Facebook. You’ve been a blessing to me & a help for my badly broken heart. Thank you!
Wish I could say the same! I have to say that I have had the opposite experience. It was only in the good times that I felt and experienced God’s presence and grace in my life 🙁
Mandy, thank you for being so transparent, so real, so genuine. I love it! I have my ups and downs. Recently, it seems like more downs than ups. But the best part is all the times I was down, and I didn’t know I would make it through, God’s grace pulled me through. If it weren’t for my faith, I would have given up on life a long time ago, but my faith in God helps me to find hope when all seems lost. Thank you for this vivid reminder.
Beautiful, wise words Mandy. Thank you for this. ..and I thank God for you.
Very well stated!! Grace is my favorite word in scripture. I love the post. Thank you for sharing.
So beautiful 🙂
Hmmm…….I totally agree with this post!May God bless you for this eye opening piece.
Mandy,your post speaks volumes about my current situation,sometimes I forget that the bad can actually lead us to the heart of God,how can I experience the forgiveness of God if not after falling!! I don’t want to fall and will never choose to fall but when I fall I know someone is waiting to pick me up…To God be the Glory
Oh wow. Thank you for posting this. I came across it after googling your name because a friend posted a quote by you on facebook. I’m so glad I did!
[…] this morning, so I googled the name and found her website. I was instantly pulled to this post, The Hardness of Life. The Goodness of God. I cried through it, it was so touching. I’m not in a “hard” part of my life. In fact, […]
Thank you for sharing this I’m going through a season in my life where I dont see God in anything I have a scare on my face from the hardness of life and i struggle to see grace upon grace. Im trying to keep the faith but even standing in Church and praising the Lord is getting harder. Ive changed and i miss me! The hardness of life has gotten to me. I hope to come out of this a better person. May this change me for the better, i hope like you to also see the goodness of God in the hardness of life.
I absolutely love this! I stumbled across your book online by accident one day and just felt the need to buy it and now I have bought all 3 of your books and it has just completely and utterly undone me in such an amazing way by the things you have shared in your books…….I know that God put you in my pathway to find and I am so grateful!
I love you, my sister!! I am at a crossroads in my life, and there are days where I wonder–God, where are you? And then, He shows me in the sweetest way, in the stillness, when I am quiet and not running myself ragged trying to make everything happen all at once. Grace. The phone call for the interview with a company I love and deeply desire to work for doesn’t come right away, but I know it’s coming? Grace. God’s sweet timing, lessons in trust. Trust when everything is good, more when everything is hard. Amen.
Thank you, my sister for sharing this…GRACE is the word. I too, am at a crossroads in my life and after a long dark time away from God and from talking to Him. Like a little lamb stuck in the thornbush, He has come and gotten me out! Grace. I am alive and healthy and ready to serve His world, to worship Him, praise Him and trust Him in all things the soft and the hard!
Thank You for this. I, too, have come to a point where everything seems to be unraveling. But I know when things are falling apart, God is putting them together the way HE wants them. So I’m learning to trust in HIS ways and HIS timing. I know HE has a good plan for me. So I am going to let HIM take the lead and I’ll follow.
I could not have read this at a better time in my life…cut right to my soul..
This place i am now…perfect timing that i read this. It ministered to my soul. I love reading your writings.
❤ Dominique Addison
I remember a time when life was so much easier, but it has been extremely hard the last 6 years. A lot of hardship and pain, sometimes i wonder if it will ever go away.
I think there is only one quality worse than hardness of heart and that is softness of head.