Editor's note: This is the first of a three-part series on Overcoming Life's Hurts.

If you've ever found yourself saying "This wasn't supposed to happen" I know how you feel. 

I, too, found myself saying that at 19 years old when my father's alcoholism was revealed and my parents divorced. I was raised in the church so that was the last thing I expected to happen in my family. Everything I found security in seemed to crumble beneath me. I found myself wondering why God didn't hold my family together. Why didn't He prevent the brokenness from happening? Why did He seem to be sitting it out? 

My comfort came -- and the questions were stilled -- when I stumbled upon these verses in the Bible:  

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9).

It was as if God was saying "I know what is going on here, Cindi, and although you don't understand it, you must trust Me through it." I realized then that it wasn't so important for me to understand why I was hurting, but it was essential that I trust the One who, in love, was allowing the hurt to happen. 

I chose to trust God that day, rather than question Him. And I can honestly tell you that today, almost 30 years later, God has worked that entire situation for good in my life (by working a deeper trust in me and showing me how to be compassionate toward those who hurt), in the life of my father, who is now 30 years sober and ministering to countless other alcoholics, and in the lives of my other family members. Did God cause those hurtful situations in my family? No. But He was able to work through them to bring some purpose out of our pain. 

Our lives often don't go as planned, but don't think for a minute that anything that has happened in your life took God by surprise. 

After 30 years of ministering to women, as well as experiencing pain in my own life (a little of which I mentioned above), I can assure you God has a reason and He knows what He's doing in allowing whatever  breaks your heart, slows you down, or gives you  grief. 

In my book, When a Woman Overcomes Life's Hurts,  I offer ten steps toward healing and wholeness. The first step is to realize there's a reason and a purpose behind your pain. I know that's easier said than done so let me give you three practical ways to start trusting this loving, all-knowing God on a daily basis -- even when you're hurting:  

1.  Thank God in the midst of your pain 

Scripture says "Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:18, emphasis added). To be able to say "Thank you, God, even though I don't understand this" is not only an act of obedience in which you live out God's will for your life, but it is an act of faith. (And Hebrews 11:6 says "without faith it is impossible to please Him...). Can you practice this crucial step of faith and obedience  right now by  thanking Him for each painful memory you have, not because you feel thankful, but because you're commanded to be thankful...and because you desire to please His heart?  

2. Tell God You're Ready to Grow

Hurtful times are opportunities to grow closer to God. Tell Him you're ready to see what He wants you to see and to know Him in the way that He desires. By doing this you are placing yourself  in the position where He can teach you what He wants you to learn. Jeremiah 29:13 says "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." To say "God, I'm ready to grow" is another way of seeking Him and His refining work in your life. 

3. Trust the Process 

Even if you can't see anything good coming out of your pain,  trust the process God is allowing you to go through which will prepare you for something greater later.  He really does, in all things, work "for the good of those who love him...." (Romans 8:28).  And the very next verse tells us how God works all things together for our good: "For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son..." (Romans 8:29, emphasis added). So if you're going through heartache and you don't understand it, trust that He is working on your character to make you more like Christ. That is reason enough, when we think of what Christ endured for us so that we could someday be with Him. 

So start trusting today that the One who loves you and won't let anything touch your life that hasn't first gone through His loving hands has a reason for what He's allowing. He wants you to be more like Him. 

Can you take that huge step of trusting He has a reason for the pain in your life? 

Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and author of eleven books, including When Women Walk Alone (more than 100,000 copies sold), Women on the Edge, and When a Woman Overcomes Life's Hurts. For more on her ministry and for free resources to help strengthen your soul, see her website or contact her at www.StrengthForTheSoul.com

Publication date: August 10, 2012