In word economics, it should be cheap. But when you let it invade your thoughts, infect your heart, and cross your lips, it sets up camp and charges rent. Christians need to understand how this word spelled trouble in Scripture and how it can undermine faith. Click through to read Jesus' words and how God used this question to help his people discern their hearts.

The one word I can no longer afford

It’s one word. Three letters. In word economics, it should be cheap.
You could fill a tweet with it more than 40 times.
It’s so small. Seemingly insignificant.

But when you let it invade your thoughts, infect your heart, and cross your lips, it sets up camp and charges rent. And the price is exorbitant. What is that one word? Why.

No, this isn’t an Abbot and Costello routine. I’m not asking you why you want to know the word; I’m telling you the word is W.H.Y.

Held hostage by ONE Word

This word rarely comes up when life is behaving according to our script.

It’s during those times when the background is crashing around us, the actors aren’t delivering their lines as planned, and our role as director and producer of our lives is being challenged that this prima donna of a word enters stage right onto the scene.

Drama queen. Headed straight for center stage.
And once it is planted there, all other action stops.
No one moves forward or moves on.
You might as well find a chair and have a seat because you’re going to be there a while.

I admit that’s a lot of personification to make a point.

The bottom line is this:
Once we start pondering the “why” of our own dramas, all other healthy thoughts and forward motion are held hostage.

One we start pondering the "Why" of our own dramas, all other healthy thoughts and forward motion are held hostage.

The default word for the Israelites

We see this in the record of the Israelites’ behavior after leaving Egypt. They quickly resorted to grumbling, looking back at Egypt with a collective selective memory.

Over and over their use of the word “why” is documented. And it’s never a pretty picture. (All emphases that follow are mine.)

As they stood at the Red Sea:
“Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way …” (Ex. 14:11)

Less than a month after God provided manna and quail:
Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” (Ex. 17:3)

Just before God sent fiery serpents, after they had become “impatient because of the journey”:
“The people spoke against God and Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?’” (Num. 21:5)

It goes on and on, but I think you get the point.

“Why” turns into whine

We all can self-identify to some extent with the people of Israel if we’re honest. We spend much of our lives looking back at what “could have been”— and often with rose-colored glasses. An equally large portion is spent wishing for an easier route to the Promised Land.

Asking “why” quickly morphs into whine in either scenario and Solomon cautions that this is never wise.

“Do not say,
Why is it that the former days were better than these?’
For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this.”
(Ecc. 7:10)

And as the why ferments into whine, we find ourselves stalled.

We can’t simultaneously move forward while we stand still asking, “Why did this happen,” pause to look back longingly for the days before it did, or go on strike until we are assured of a better future.

New Questions

Whenever I teach about recognizing the enemy’s lies and resisting them, I end with explaining that it’s not enough to simply recognize and remove.
We have to replace lies with specific truth.

The same is true with eliminating “why” as our own default response when trouble and trials arise.

Consider these two questions as understudies-turned-leading actors when the dramas unfold in your life:

1. How do I make this count and cooperate with God’s work in my life?

You’ve likely heard it stated many times that God is more interested in character forming than circumstance shaping.
But when we submit to the difficult circumstances, our character actually comes out both shaped and reformed.

Lysa TerKeurst says, “Nothing will make God so real to you as seeing Him change your character. Not change who you are — your personality, your strengths, and your abilities — but how you are — your character.1

Trials refine so that you reflect your Savior more visibly, just like silver reflects more clearly after it has been melted and hammered and buffed.


You are transformed by
submitting to God’s design for the circumstances

and embracing the work of the master’s hands.
Not by changing the circumstances,
crawling off the anvil,
and running from the silversmith’s shop.

“The Lord will perfect that which concerns me;
Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever;
Do not forsake the works of Your hands.”
(Ps. 138:8)

In God’s economy, nothing is wasted. He can and He will make this count, both for your good and His glory. Start by pondering what you are supposed to learn and considering what:

  • lies need resisted
  • habits need submitted
  • bitterness needs relinquished

Entreat Him to give you a passion for His Word and the wisdom to understand what He will show you during this difficult time. In the end, that is the ultimate Make.It.Count experience.2

2. Who can I comfort because of what I’ve experienced?

As I began to delve into God’s Word, looking for answers after my own year of drama, I was led over and over to a recurring theme:

Restoration and recovery
after failure and hardship
lead to
encouragement and comfort
for others.

When those who have “been there” look around, they see the struggle of others more quickly.
You know when to sit beside and say, “I’m sorry,” and how deeply that counts.
And you know when to stand and cheer, “It’s time to move,” and how much that helps.

God intends for you to use your experience of weakness — where you learned that His grace was sufficient and His power was your strength — for good.

The noose that once threatened to take your last breath transforms into a lifeline for someone else.
Your scars become calling cards that open doors to speak truth to others who recognize them as credentials.
And as you limp, you will lead others toward the light — many who never would have followed if you were sprinting ahead of them.

When you comfort, encourage, and proclaim, “There is a way forward after fear, failure, and famine,” you participate in redeeming your pain.

What threatened to destroy you can transform into a lifeline for others

Go Forward

Consider God’s response to the Israelites’ seemingly impossible situation:

“The Lord said to Moses,
Why do you cry to me?
Tell the people of Israel to go forward.’”

(Ex. 14:15; all emphases here and below are mine)

Did you notice that the same word used by the group to grumble is the word their God used to give marching orders?

I had never made the connection until I began studying for this post.
I was floored at the synergy and the irony.

Yes, going forward is the goal.
Yes, we must give up our perceived right to ask, “Why.”
But whoa. Be prepared that as part of the forward progress, we may first be faced with God asking the questions.

When God asks, “Why …”

Over and over throughout both testaments, the Lord asks this question.
It’s never because He doesn’t know the answer.
But it always reveals something the questionees need to remove or refine in their lives.

“The Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?’” (Gen. 4:6)
“The Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?’” (Gen. 18:13)
“The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face?’” (Josh. 7:10)

“And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, ‘Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?’” (Matt. 9:4)
Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40)
Why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow …” (Matt. 6:28)
Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)
Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” (Luke 24:38)

These selected verses only scratch the surface.
This word appears to have been one of Jesus’ favorites.
He wasted no time in getting to the root of the problem and exposing the toxic thoughts that were thwarting forward progress.

Thus the paradox:
The same word
you can’t afford to stand still asking
about your circumstances
is the same word
you can’t afford not to answer
when it’s your God
moving you forward.


Like I said in the beginning.
It’s one word.
Seemingly so small and insignificant but, in reality, a double-edged sword.

May God grant us the wisdom to replace it in our own questions and the discernment to let it do its full work of revealing when He is the one asking.


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1. Lysa TerKeurst, What Happens When Women Walk in Faith (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2005), 119
2. With thanks to Bronwyn Lea, whose blog post inspired the idea of praying, “Make it count.”

Once we start pondering the “why” of our own dramas, all forward motion is held hostage.Click To Tweet
'Why' often ferments into 'whine'Click To Tweet

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In word economics, it should be cheap. But when you let it invade your thoughts, infect your heart, and cross your lips, it sets up camp and charges rent. Christians need to understand how this word spelled trouble in Scripture and how it can undermine faith. Click through to read Jesus' words and how God used this question to help his people discern their hearts.

ChristiThe one word I can no longer afford

Comments 65

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  1. Tiffany Keeler

    Sorry, but I disagree with some of the core ideas in this post. God tells us to “come reason together.” There is a big difference between asking God a question without faith and asking one with faith. For example, it is understandable when a couple loses their newborn baby and asks God, “Why did this happen, God? I can’t understand it!” when the heart of the person is not turning from God and faith in Him in the asking. It is part of grief to grapple with the question of Why.

    I have seen a lot of Christians who have not undergone tragedy who have this very simplistic mindset toward the question of Why. However, you are not understanding the dilemma of the adult who now must grapple with the consequences of someone else’s sins in their lives, as a survivor of childhood sexual or physical abuse must. Sooner or later, that person will run straight into the realization that our God is the God of the whole universe who set the cosmos in place and has the ultimate power and authority to change anything He wants about the world. That means God has the power to have stopped what was happening through any number of interventions, or to stop it from beginning, or even to prevent the birth that landed a child in such a devastating situation.

    I have grappled with the question of Why in my own life. I have come to God asking Him why the things in my life that have tripped me up for so long happened. Why He allowed my dad to beat me. Why He put me in a family where my alcoholic mother wouldn’t protect me. Why I was raped. I came to Him openly with raw and gaping wounds because of what was done to me. Do you know what He finally asked me in return?

    “Do you trust Me?”

    God, in His infinite wisdom, never condemned me for asking Why. It is natural to ask. Instead, He asked me to trust that He has a plan and a purpose for my life that was set before the foundations of the world. He asked me to trust Him, even when life doesn’t make sense.

    Corrie Ten Boom, the survivor of the nazi concentration camps who went on to write books (including The Hiding Place) and bring healing words to millions, famously said, “Faith is trusting in God’s character when life has given you a reason not to.” She understood pain, hardship, and suffering. Sometimes life gives us good reasons to ask, “Why, God, why did You, You who rule and reign over all creation and notice even the sparrow’s death, why did You allow this?” And God, from my experience, doesn’t provide a quick and easy answer. Instead, He asks for our faith. He asks us to believe that He is still good, even when life is hard.

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      I am so sorry for your pain. It sounds like God has met you where you needed and for that I praise Him with you. He never fails. Thank you for taking the time to add such thoughtful discussion. Yes, God is good. All the time.

  2. hollythewoo

    Excellent post, yet again, Christi! I love the courageous truthfulness and challenge toward godliness. I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog!

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  3. Lauren English

    Wow, this describes so well m heart during our first year of marriage. When things were hard and confusing, it was so easy to ask God WHY and whine instead of looking to God’s comfort and how I could reach out and comfort others. I’ve had so many conversations since then where God has used our struggles to help me connect to and encourage other people! Love this!

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      Lauren, you are offering up such a beautiful gift to so many on your blog. Thankful for your willingness to be transparent and encouraged by your words over here on my space. Keep shining!

  4. helloredds

    Oh, my!

    Talk about convicting! Have you been hiding somewhere in our home and listening to our conversations?

    I’m going to have to read this post again and again because I like to ask God that word “why.” And, it does so often lead to whine!

    I came over to read this article and found myself so personally impacted.

    Thank you for allowing God to use you in my life and in others’ lives. You are a blessing~

    ~I’m sharing this today on FB – this morning and tonight!

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      Love it when I find friends who resonate with my struggles. Then I know I’m not crazy … or at least there’s two of us who are :) Thanks for your sweet words and for sharing YOUR life with me.

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  5. Ruthie Gray

    Ecclesiastes 7:10 is going in the books. I cannot afford to forget that verse!!!
    Thanks for pointing us to the fact that God also asks why (even though He knows the answer). “Exposing toxic thoughts that were thwarting the process”.
    The whole noose, scars, and limp thing – so full of truth and balm for the soul. I once heard Beth Moore speak about the limp. She said that when others see you limping, it gives them hope that maybe they can do this too. I’ve never forgotten that, even though I sat on my calling for two more years out of the very fear that she was addressing in that conference.
    I’ve a friend who lost her husband a little over a year ago. Maybe I told you about her. We had coffee last night. She’s still struggling some days to make sense of it all, with three boys left to raise and no spouse for support. I falteringly gave her a few words of wisdom, but I’m sharing this with her today.
    Thanks, Tex, for once again pointing us to the Way.
    You are so very talented and wise! :)

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      I already told you this, but you are a master commenter! Thanks for that priceless affirmation that this might be a tender touch for someone who has experienced such heartache as your friend. Love that I call you that myself!
      I haven’t heard Beth’s talk about the limp but I would LOVE to find where she did and hear it.

  6. Kristin Hill Taylor

    “Once we start pondering the “why” of our own dramas, all other healthy thoughts and forward motion are held hostage.” — Oh, that’s good. I’ve been reading through the Old Testament in our Seamless Bible study and heard the Israelites grumbling, again, so this post resonated with me on different levels. What a good reminder to focus on the only One who is in control.

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      I want to hear your thoughts on that Bible Study! My daughter is working through the teen version trying to decide if it is the right fit to lead a group of girls this fall. Thanks for the encouragement, btw … and for the gift of getting to know you!

  7. Dawn Boyer

    I continually find myself enriched and nourish when I visit you Christi. First of all, the way you weave the style of rhetoric in your writing always stands out to me, I love it. Mostly, you lead me to think… like bringing me to the deep waters and showing me how to drink fully.(Ps 42:7, Is 1:18) Reasoning through the study of His Word is a paradox in and of itself, I think. Every single time I think I have it, another ‘Aha’ moment happens. It is refreshing to see you passing through those valleys as you learn more of His grace in your every day.
    The million dollar question, “Why?” It is a Pandora’s box isn’t it? Or is it? I think you pointed us to a beautiful view of how the same things can be both to our advantage and also our disadvantage. The Why reminds me of my kids and their constant questions and how I need to remember that they are asking because they are processing the world around them.
    When we process the world around us, we too fall deeply into the dialectic stage of logic. However using our limited wisdom to understand the Ancient of Days always comes up short, doesn’t it? I don’t mind the why so much anymore, because I know that it is the path that leads to understanding. I don’t think the Lord minds the Why in that context either. It is different, though, when it leads to the whine, as you mentioned. Then faith has become excavated from the need to know and we are just pursuing a selfish end.

    You certainly piqued my thoughts this morning! Thanks for leading us to worship the One who meets us faithfully each and every time.

    Blessings to you!

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      Dawn, I had to read and reread the meaty encouragement and thoughtful additions you left here. First, I am sincerely out of words that would describe what your encouragement meant to me on this day. And next, I love how you made me think about how you aren’t bothered by this word later in life and the analogy of your kids. Great point!

      So blessed by you today. In ways and on levels you may not know this side of heaven. We must plan a coffee date when we get there … if we are ever able to get off our knees from worship!

  8. BlessingCounterDeb

    Christi, I love where you talk about why turning into whine. It’s so true! How quickly we can turn a day (or longer) into a pity party. Thanks for sharing these great insights. Moving forward this morning in love! Blessings!

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      Thank you Deb. Seeing your name always brings a smile before I ever read your words. I have been so guilty of pity parties and would love to be over this struggle. Hoping that by writing about it, I will hold myself accountable!

  9. joanneviola

    Christi, a wonderful post filled with much to think on. May we be so careful when our questions lead us to grumbling as it will so deprive us of God’s best for us. Grateful to have been here this morning. Blessings!

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  10. Groundbreakers

    “The noose that once threatened to take your last breath transforms into a lifeline for someone else.” That is beautifully magnificent, Christi! Your message is so wonderfully summed up in a phrase you used in this post – In God’s economy, nothing is wasted. That has long been one of my favorite phrases. So glad I found your site today! Visiting at Coffee for Your Heart. You have truly blessed me this morning!

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      Thank you for this sweet encouragement! It’s fun to find friends who resonate with the same words and phrases. I say that about God’s economy all the time. Looking forward to knowing you better through YOUR words!

  11. Jenny

    This is great. Sometimes I think the words “what if” should be removed from my vocabulary. I’m always struggling with not wondering what if I had done this or. What if…..

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      Jenny, that’s a GREAT thought! Makes me think of doing a followup post to this one on those two little words :) I feel your pain, sister! Thanks for stopping by!

  12. Karen Brown

    Christi- This is such a convicting, yet encouraging message! These words pack quiet a punch for me: “Once we start pondering the “why” of our own dramas, all other healthy thoughts and forward motion are held hostage.” And I love your “other” questions, especially the “How can I make this count…” We all need to wonder more about how we can glorify God… instead of seeking glory for ourselves. Eliminating our demand to know why, is a pursuit of humility and a step toward God. Thanks for these words! Beautifully written!

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  13. Brenda

    Wow, Christi, lots of truth packed into this post. Love it. Thanks for sharing.
    I especially love when you said: “Your scars become calling cards that open doors to speak truth to others who recognize them as credentials. And as you limp, you will lead others toward the light — many who never would have followed if you were sprinting ahead of them.” So profoundly true.
    So happy to have found you today through the #TellHisStory linkup. ~ blessings ~

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  14. Karen Del Tatto

    Christi, You have such a gift with words!! Once such example was when you said,

    “It’s during those times when the background is crashing around us, the actors aren’t delivering their lines as planned, and our role as director and producer of our lives is being challenged that this prima donna of a word enters stage right onto the scene.”

    The word pictures you draw, like the one above, brought me conviction and cause to reflect on my own Why’s.

    Your insights into the Israelites and the connections you made to the word “why” were very thought-provoking.

    Thank you for spurring me on in the Lord!

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      Karen, your thought-felt affirmation means the world. I’m sure you know from experience that there are times when we wonder if what we are doing is worth it and if we should continue. So thankful for fellow travelers who speak words of life along this journey. I appreciate you!

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  15. Shannon @ Of The Hearth

    This is very insightful. I think I may need to read it a couple of times to really soak it all in! I’ve struggled many times with this question. I never noticed how Scripture describes how others struggled with it, too.
    I’m eager to meditate in the coming days on some of the verses you shared.

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      What beautiful words to me ~ that anything I strung together would so point to The Word that you would soak and meditate on God’s truths. This is one of my favorite comments and blesses my soul in ways you can’t imagine. Thank you for taking the time to tell me these things. I pray for you this morning that wherever the Spirit takes your meditation, you will become more aware of God’s working in your life.

      I hope we continue to see each other around. Thank you again for visiting!

  16. Rebekah

    Well I was just pondering my reply for the past few minutes, going back through your post. I had a few sentences in mind, and then I looked at Tiffany’s comment up above. LOL – that was exactly how I was going to start my comment… Oh my goodness! This is an excellent piece, and really provides a fresh perspective to so much of the things I’ve been struggling through the past year or so. Yes, “why” holds everything else hostage. I’m going to be coming back here and digesting slowly because you’ve really driven home some important thoughts for me. Wow, THANK YOU for sharing this with us at Grace & Truth!!

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      Well, Rebekah, if Tiffany started the lump in my throat, you may have just finished it off.

      So humbled by your comments and amazed by God’s grace that he would redeem my last year in this way. Thank you for being an encourager and ending my day with this honey for my scratchy heart.

      So blessed to have found you and your precious, transparent, genuine community.

  17. sandraj2015

    There is so much truth and wisdom in this post, I am so glad I am your neighbor at Faith Filled Fridays. Why – ‘this word rarely comes up when life is behaving according to our script.’ How true and your points on the answers (‘the truth’) are wonderful.

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      Thank you for such an meaningful comment about truth and wisdom.
      What an encourager you are!

      I am going to do my own visiting later this weekend and will have to come learn from you!

      Thank you for blessing me with the gift of your words and your time.

  18. Tiffany

    Oh my goodness! I found you linked up at Grace and Truth and I am so glad I did! This has got to be the best article I’ve read in forever, I think you must have been writing it straight to my heart. I wanted to quote some of the lines that just changed my life, but if I did, I would have copied your entire post, ha! Thank you so much for writing and sharing this. If you don’t mind, I would love to print it out so I can keep reflecting on the truth here over the next few days. I will surely be sharing this! And I’m bookmarking your site so I can be sure to come back when I have more time and check out some of your other work. Blessings, Tiffany

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      I’m a little overwhelmed at your comment and fighting back a lump in my throat as I think of how much I’ve prayed that God would take the brokenness of my last year and use it for His glory and someone else’s encouragement.
      Your sweet, heartfelt, enthusiasm for this tells me He just said, “Yes.”
      If you think it’s worth sharing or quoting, please feel free to do so.
      I just strung the words together.
      Any message that comes through is not of me.

      I hope you’ll find me on the other channels so we can grow a friendship.
      When I get time this weekend, I’ll look for you if you haven’t found me already.
      FB: TheCheerioTrail
      Twitter: @ChristiLGee

      Blessings back! Christi

  19. Angie

    Before I became a wife/mom, I was a social worker. When questions start with “why” the responder automatically goes into defensive mode, which is in the frontal lobe – emotional, reflex – part of the brain. This is not the part of the brain responsible for rational thought. To get a person to think through a decision or circumstance, questions have to be open ended – like you pointed out with, “How do I make this count?”

    I enjoyed stopping by today (though I’ve managed to let my own cup of coffee get cold this morning). Thank you for sharing these thoughts on the link up today!

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      Wow, Angie! I love knowing the science behind things like this.
      Thank you for stopping by and encouraging me with your thoughts.
      I have to smile at your cold cup of coffee…I have gotten lost in so many good reads in this community lately ~ where I was drinking from the fire hydrant of inspiration that I forgot to takes sips of my own coffee :-)

      I really look forward to seeing you around!

  20. Dawn Boyer

    So much in this post had me saying, “Yes!”. I loved spending time with you in this today. These are relevant and relational and leading us to more of His grace in our journeys.
    Thank you, Christi!

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      Thank you Dawn!
      “Loved spending ‘time’ with you in this today.” Wow, that is so touching.
      I have felt just as you say that stopping by others’ virtual homes is like dropping by for a cup of coffee.
      I’m looking forward to getting to know more about you and spending time with you in your words.
      I’ll stop by later this weekend.

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      Hi Elizabeth! Thank you for stopping by. Excited to find out more about you through what you choose to share.
      ~Your partner in overcoming comfortable!

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  21. sarahgirl3

    I will probably never know why I had to lose my Mom in my early 20’s, but I do know what others are going through when it happens to them. It is great being able to help in a small way.
    You have so much truth here!

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      Sarah, I am so honored to meet you.
      My mom lost her mom when I was very young and I often think about how different things would be if that happened to me.
      Just recently when I told her how much of an encourager she was to me, she commented that she never had an example of how to mother older adult kids. Wow.

      So to hear words of affirmation from you is a real blessing to me today.
      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment and connect.
      I look forward to getting to know more about you.

  22. rmclellan1949

    I’ve been so guilty of saying the words “why.” And sometimes I get an answer but more often I’m left to just trust with faith that all God is doing is in my favor. Thanks for the reminder. Visiting from Holley Gerth Link Up.

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      Thanks for visiting and letting me know it resonated with you also ;) We need reminded that we aren’t crazy as we do battle. I believe one of the great lies of the enemy is “You’re the only one struggling with this.”

  23. Dana H.

    Great post! I really needed to read this today. I need to stop asking why and just “go forward” and do what God wants me to do. Visiting from Coffee for your Heart link-up.

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      Thanks for taking the time, Dana! Easier said than done, right :). Looking forward to connecting more via these link-ups. There is so much inspiration out there to be absorbed by those who are trying to do life God’s way!

  24. Tania Vaughan (@TaniaJVaughan)

    Such a great post and reminder that ‘Why’ is often a stumbling block and was the cause of the Israelites taking so long to get into the promised land. It does indeed make us stand still when God is trying ot move us forward. A good deal to ponder here – thank you for sharing on the #RaRaLinkup

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      Thank you so much for that encouragement. I have to admit I roll my eyes much less when I teach about the Israelites than I did in my 20s. I’ve discovered just how much I need to view their story with a mirror instead of a magnifying glass! I’m off to go discover what wisdom you’ve left for others to find. Thanks again for stopping by!

  25. Tasha

    Wow…loved this. Thank you so much for sharing! I look forward to getting to “know” you as I follow your posts…Have a fantastic weekend!

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      Thanks! Went to find you and left you a message on your blog. Love how technology shrinks our world so that we connect with other believers and are assured “we are not alone” in this great big world.

  26. Dana

    I enjoyed this. We shouldn’t feel like we have a right to ask WHY when things don’t go our way. We need to trust God and move forward!!
    Thank you!

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