Christian Living,  Life Stories/Lessons,  Parenting,  Wrestling Through Series

Wrestling Through: The Inconvenient Timing of the Hard, Painful Things

Photo by José Pinto on Unsplash

By Marnie Hammar

I sat there, my hands tucked under my thighs with restraint, as my preschooler studied the three colorful story cards in front of us. Each card depicted a simple scene, and his task was to put them in the correct order:

An apple tree with red apples ready to pick.

A boy in overalls picking a red apple.

A boy sitting down to eat a red apple.

I coached him. Which would happen first? Can the boy eat the apple before he picks it? Then what’s next? What comes last?

Though it’s been years, I can still feel that ridiculous internal battle to not help him as he worked to place them in sequence. I just wanted to move the cards for him.

Truth be told, not much has changed, all these years later. I’m over here, still trying to arrange the cards, but now it’s the cards to my own story. Every time I see my story unfolding differently than I envisioned, I tell God what order the story needs to be in: No, God, this needs to happen before that happens, okay? This way will be less [work/painful] and far [easier/convenient].

I don’t want to wait for the apple to grow.

I don’t even want to go pick the apple (unless it’s a lovely, crisp fall day, then maybe).

I just want to eat the apple.

All the while, my Lord is just as focused on growing the apple as he is on the actual fruit.

Photo by Jony Ariadi on Unsplash

Unexpected Heartache

In January, in those early-in-the-new-year weeks of lofty goal setting and planning all the wonderful ways we’ll be productive this year, unexpected heartache in a significant relationship landed squarely in between me and my waiting checklists. All the ways I’d imagined the story cards, all the juicy, satisfying fruit I’d pictured now cast aside to make space for confusion and pain. As I worked to process what happened, to understand my part in the broken and press into what He was teaching me through it, my grand visions for all the other things sat untouched.

I needed healing far more than I needed checked boxes.

As winter turned to spring, and spring to summer, and summer to fall, I began to see that with this brokenness came an opportunity for freedom. If I didn’t invite Him in, to heal it now, this pain would seep into the coming winters and springs and summers. Redemption waited in its surfacing. Freedom sat on the other side of surrender.

Choosing to trust Him as I wrestled through the pain, and inviting Him into it, allowed Him to work. He began to detach my heart from unhealthy ties and beliefs connected to the pain, and instead, attach my heart to Him in new, healthy, deeper ways.

In January, this pain felt like an interruption from what I thought God wanted to accomplish this year. But as the year lumbered along, I began to understand that though my boxes sat quietly unchecked, He was doing much. He was doing more. Those months spent at His feet, asking Him questions and inviting His answers, were reshaping my heart and rewiring my mind.

No, I certainly didn’t choose that these wounds would surface this year — but I see now that He allowed it because He wants to free me.

More than my own list or goals, this freedom that He wants for me IS the achievement.

This healing that I’m holding fast to is unfolding even as that relationship remains unchanged. I pray for healing there, but without repentance, I can’t expect it. So instead, He is teaching me new ways of thinking, new boundaries for being, and new understanding of who I am to Him first, before any other relationship.

He is guiding me to live free in my heart. Because His priority is always my heart.

Sometimes the hardest things are His very best plan for me, even when they hurt. Even when they’re not in the sequence I would prefer. Though I would rather skip over these story cards with the wounds and the pain, the healing I’m finding is worth far more for my heart than any checked box ever could be.

His purposes are the fruit worth waiting for.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose,”.

Romans 8:28
To receive free resources to help you hold tight to hope in the midst of hard and inconvenient things, click here!


Marnie encourages women that freedom isn’t found in perfectly completed checklists, but in knowing God deeper and hearing Him louder. A writer and speaker, Marnie is also the curator for the Hear Him Louder Essay Series, and a member of both the Devotion Team and the Blog Contributor Team for The Joyful Life Magazine. Wife for 25 years and boy mama (16, 13, & 10), Marnie’s non-writing life revolves around taming the stinky, scraping off the sticky, and distributing boys to the places they go in suburban Cincinnati.

You can find Marnie at, where you can subscribe to receive a FREE five-day devotional, called “Closer: Five Days to Hearing Him Louder.” Each of the five days describes a heart posture that moves us closer to God, to help us know Him deeper and hear Him louder. You can also find Marnie at Instagram (@marniehammar) or Facebook (marniehammarwriter).

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