Trusting God in the Midst of Tragedy

By Steve Austin | Best of Messy Grace

Feb 08

I had no idea that the most important lesson I could ever learn is that I can trust God in the midst of great tragedy.

i don't want to do all things

I was raised in the Charismatic Movement, taught to believe we could believe it and receive it, name it and claim it.

Because I believed in God’s plan to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me a hope and a future, I knew that all things were possible if I just believed in God. In those days, I wrote Scripture on index cards and carried it with me until I had the verse memorized.

After growing up in the church, I got my first taste of freedom during my freshman year of college, and I quickly burned out on the church game. Like many kids that age, I grew jaded and bitter. I questioned everything and doubted everyone. I hung out with the party crowd and dared anyone to question my choices.

Yet I still tried everything to find my purpose, which I expected to be magnificent. I was accustomed to excelling, and didn’t God promise me a hope and a future? But after being President of my Freshman class, making the Dean’s list, and dating a couple of cute girls, I still wasn’t satisfied.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Today, I no longer want to do “all things”. Instead, I want to do a few things well. #graceismessy” quote=”Today, I no longer want to do “all things”. Instead, I want to do a few things well.” theme=”style3″]

So, at the ripe old age of nineteen, I did the next most logical thing I could think of, and walked away from a four-year scholarship. I joined a ministry internship program at my home church, because church was a place I could be anonymous, as long as I performed like the rest of the crowd. It wasn’t nearly as fun as my previous year of drinking and partying, but it was respectable and a place I knew I could excel. I’ll never forget my Dad’s words, “In ten years, you’ll look back and realize this was the biggest mistake you’ve ever made.” Dad wasn’t right. I’ve made bigger mistakes.

Trusting God in the Midst of Great Tragedy

I served as a youth pastor and worship leader off and on for the better part of the next decade, believing I could change the world and change the church. Around the age of 26, the shiny things lost their appeal and I began to wear myself out. Trying do everything extraordinary, I lost myself. I almost lost my family. For a time, I even lost my will to live.

I am no longer the boy who intentionally memorizes Scripture, and I haven’t been the President of anything in more than a decade. I work a part-time job, live paycheck-to-paycheck, and will likely never be hired by another church.

So what about that hope and future God promised me? And what about this one:

I can do all things through Christ Who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

I don’t think this verse is our promise from God that we can do anything we put our minds to. I think it is actually a verse of comfort from a guy who wrote it while chained in prison, encouraging the rest of us who are stuck in dire circumstances to keep trusting. I think this verse actually drives home the very crux of the Gospel of Grace: we can face all sorts of things and persevere through them, as long as we keep trusting in a faithful, changeless God.

I have always called this verse and Jeremiah 29:11 “the graduation verses” because that seems to be when they are most used. We want to tell our kids they can do anything. What we mean is, they can graduate with honors, get the job, get the girl, and have the life they want. But I believe this verse goes much deeper than the superficial spin we have put on it. I think Paul was actually saying when we don’t get the job, or the girl, or the life we wanted, but instead lose our house, or our baby, or our will to go on, we can still do all things. Christ’s strength replaces our human weaknesses.

When Lindsey experienced the hell of postpartum depression following our first child’s birth, it was the scariest time of my life. No young guy ever dreams of having his wife placed in a psych ward. I would have rather died. When she was rolled away on that stretcher, I couldn’t imagine anything worse.

A year later, Lindsey got the call no wife wants to get. “We found your husband’s body. He’s been transported to ICU.” In both situations, we faced our darkest days, but we trusted in God in the face of great adversity and uncertainty and He walked with us through every experience.

[clickToTweet tweet=”I can trust God, even in the midst of great adversity. #graceismessy” quote=”I can trust God, even in the midst of great adversity.” theme=”style3″]

And most recently, we were convinced we had been called to Alaska, and God was going to use us there. When the job fell through and we were left with a hefty rent and the nearest family members were 4,000 miles away, we wondered what on earth God was doing.

When I am weak, He is strong.

Today, I no longer want to do “all things”. Instead, I want to do a few things well. My hope is in raising my kids to know their value and in loving my wife in such a way that she never questions where she belongs. My future has never looked better, because I am convinced that I can truly do all things, as long as I trust in God. And so far, His track record is stellar.

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About the Author

Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.

  • Sandy Perry says:

    This. All of this. This is where I am. I’ve been the good Bible study girl. The one who leads worship. The one who faithfully goes to choir even though she hates it. I don’t want to do all things either. The good news is that we don’t have to. 🙂

  • rtodd50 says:

    Hi, Steve, you have done a awesome job on your website. I was going to say that I was raised a baptist, was known as the good guy at church, was there every chance I could get, and was in every activity, maybe not as a leader. My home life and family was a nightmare. I have a battle with wanting to do more in the church and not knowing where I fit into in the church body. Like you say, to find contentment where we are at with seemingly the small things in God’s grace. A internet ministry is a big thing in the eyes of God, having a family and raising a family is a big deal…being a husband and a dad is a calling in themselves. I have also struggled with a mental illness. I admire you, and pray blessings upon your family!

    • Steve Austin says:

      Richard,Thanks so much for sharing your story with me. I am so blessed by your openness to join the conversation. I love what Brene’ Brown says about the power of “me too”.

      I am glad you are finding grace in the midst of it all, too.

      Please don’t be a stranger!


  • I love the rawness of your posts. You are writing what most of us are feeling and can’t or are afraid to admit. Blessings to you and your family!

    • Steve Austin says:

      Thank you, my friend. The power of vulnerability has radically changed my life. I credit so much to good counseling and the work of Brene’ Brown. She’s a genius.
      Blessings right back to you and yours! 🙂

  • I really enjoyed your post and I too believe this scripture goes deeper than simply getting the life you want. Purpose is something I deeply believe in and most people think about purpose or God’s plan for their life in the wrong way. It isn’t to be famous or rich or any of the other things we see promoted; but true God inspired purpose and calling is about living the life you were meant to live, even if it doesn’t live up to the “dream”. You’re right, the apostle Paul had it rough, yet he considered himself to have the ability to “make it through”. Often our purpose and calling is displayed most powerfully when we find ourselves in a place we thought we’d never be, under terrible circumstances, yet we still persevere.

    • Steve Austin says:

      Larry,Thank you! I was in an interview with Troy at ProjectPastor.com the other day and he made a statement that will stick with me a long time, “God is only looking for faithfulness.” It’s true. God isn’t going to meet us at the Pearly Gates one day and say “Well done, my good and wealthy servant” or successful, or famous, etc. God desires for us to be faithful, more than anything.

      Thanks again,

  • divoran09 says:

    Me too, been there, done that. I’m glad for all the great teaching and training and I’m happy to be pretty familiar with the word of God, but I am “doing my own thing,” now and loving it. I’m almost to the point of being glad I went through all that. It is the small things that matter with God, to God, and to me.

    • Steve Austin says:

      I’m almost to that point, too! 🙂 Almost. I am thankful for the journey, though. I’m an expert in The School of Hard Knocks. Grateful for every ounce of His grace. Full to the brim!! 🙂
      Please don’t be a stranger. I always appreciate the interaction.

  • […] I Don’t Want to do All Things […]

  • […] past year was exhausting for Lindsey and me. We needed some space to breathe. In the words of the old song, we felt broken and spilled out, and the last thing we needed to do […]

  • Jamie says:

    A fitting read for mothers like myself who often feel we have to be all things to all people. “Chill and Trust” could replace my current catch phrase, “Pray and Go.”

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