I never expected our honeymoon would end in separation.
After five days in Jamaica, Paige and I landed in Texas. We were just a layover away from starting our new lives together in Birmingham, Alabama. One moment we were walking through passport control, the next we were separated as I was escorted to a back room.
“I’m afraid we’re sending you back to South Africa.”
Those words hit me like a ton of bricks. My new wife waited outside patiently, completely unaware of how much our lives were about to change.
I sat down and contemplated what was about to happen. Our perfect picture of life together was shattered in an instant. And then it started… right on time.
Why does this always happen to me?
Why does this never happen to anyone else?
Why do I always mess things up?
Why am I so irresponsible?
What’s wrong with me?
Why am I so stupid?
Why did I think this would just work out?
With each pressing question, my spirit sank. My head dropped. My breathing became shallow. I felt utterly disappointed, demotivated, and defeated. My world of possibility had just been ripped right out of my hands.
At the time, I was unaware of the subconscious questions I asked myself. But the more I asked myself these questions, the more limited my thinking became. And the more limited my thinking became, the harsher my questions got.
Have you ever felt this way? Have you ever asked yourself similar questions?
The truth is, we all have questions we ask ourselves in the midst of chaos or confusion. When something doesn’t go according to plan, we naturally want to focus on our shortcomings.
Maybe you miss a deadline at work, someone gets promoted over you, or you snap at your kids out of exhaustion. Maybe you’re watching the success of everyone around you while you can’t seem to get a single win.
We naturally try to understand why what happened, happened. So we question the situation. And because our minds have a negativity bias, these events are normally followed by a series of negative questions. Questions like…
Why do I always fail?
Why don’t they show me respect?
Why doesn’t he notice me?
Why isn’t business going the way it used to?
Why do they always get picked before me?
Why am I still alone?
Let me explain what I learned in that room.
You ALWAYS answer your questions.
When I asked, “Why does this always happen to me?” my brain, attempting to be helpful, immediately offered up several reasons.
Because you are careless.
Because you are stupid.
Because you don’t listen.
Because you are prideful.
On and on and on.
Within a few seconds, I had declared these answers over my life and labeled myself with limiting beliefs… I’m careless, stupid, and prideful.
It was in that moment I felt the Holy Spirit convict me.
Change your question.
As I sat there, I realized I was focusing on my shortcomings instead of God’s strength. Those words helped me learn a lesson I won’t soon forget.
Fix your focus and change your question.
Instead of focusing on the situation, I focused on the truth of God’s sovereignty. Instead of saying, my life is out of control, I said, my God is in control. As I focused on this belief, I started asking some new questions.
Did God know this would happen? Yes.
Can He still be God in this situation? Yes.
If so, what could He be directing me to do in this season?
I continued brainstorming:
If this is the reality, what do I want out of this season?
What could I do in this season that wouldn’t be possible before?
How could this season strengthen my relationship with Paige?
I started asking some empowering questions. And the crazy thing is, I got some empowering answers.
My entire perspective went from limited to limitless.
In fact, the website and blog post you’re reading right now is an answer to one of the empowering questions I asked in that room. These new questions gave me a new perspective. I now see this season of waiting as an opportunity to learn, write, invest in my new marriage, and add value to others.
Not bad for “ruined” plans.
The questions you ask determine the reality you experience.
The Bible says in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”
This is an easy truth to understand but a hard one to execute. Learning to direct your thinking is key to changing your outlook. We have to develop a habit of finding the redemptive purpose for everything that happens in our lives.
Our perspective and focus have everything to do with the life we experience.
And one of the ways you can control these two things is with questions.
If you can change your question, you can change your life.
As you start to test this for yourself, I think you’ll find this to be true too…
Now it’s your turn. What questions have you been asking yourself that you need to change? Replace those disempowering questions with empowering ones.
Below are some of the areas I’ve seen people struggle with asking the wrong questions. Take a minute to read some of the right questions you should start asking yourself.
If you’re struggling with purpose and feeling directionless…
What do I believe God has put within me?
What are some of the skills and talents I do have?
What am I passionate about? What could I become passionate about?
What do I really enjoy doing?
How can I most effectively add value to others?
What is the legacy I want to leave?
Who do I want to help? How do I want to help them?
How can I start taking steps towards that today?
If you’re struggling with anger, fear, bitterness, or disappointment…
One of the key antidotes to all these feelings is gratitude. As you ask these questions, allow yourself to feel gratitude, excitement, and love.
What am I grateful for?
What could I be grateful for?
What am I proud of?
What could I be proud of?
What am I excited about?
What could I be excited about?
Who do I love?
Who loves me?
If you’re struggling in a situation and feel defeated…
How could God be glorified in this situation?
What do I ultimately want out of this situation?
What could I learn from this situation?
What systems can I put in place to ensure this doesn’t happen again?
How can this situation strengthen me?
How could this situation be worked for good?
This process is something I still struggle with too. So I developed a habit of waking up every morning and thanking God for the day. I start asking myself questions that help me feel grateful, and remember why I’m about to do what I’m about to do today. This helps me keep a thankful heart and keep the “why” in front of me every day. It also serves as a great daily reminder of the power of questions.
How have you seen this truth in your own life? What are some of your empowering questions in moments of apparent defeat? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.