Often there are periods in our life that are filled with hard and challenging experiences. Periods where people may say: “If I didn’t have bad luck, I would have no luck at all” or “What else can possibly go wrong?” Lately there have been numerous situations like this; so many, in fact, that I had to step back and look at the whole picture.

I have had many challenging times in 34 years. In that time and through those hardships, I have learned this too shall pass. I have learned that there are some questions that are not mine to ask. I have learned to look at all the good that surrounds me. I have learned that there are positives that can be pulled from my hard times. But, most of all, I have learned that I have never, ever walked alone.

Some questions are often asked during a difficult experience: Why me? Why now? Or just the simple Why? Are those questions really worth asking? Is there any explanation that will ever suffice? After my husband Duane was diagnosed with brain cancer, I asked these questions. After it looked like he might not make it, and later when he died, I asked again. But shortly after his death, I soon started to look at the situation differently. Were there answers to these questions? (Any answers I was happy with at the time?) Probably not. So, I decided this question was not mine to ask.

Learning this helped me with the next great hardship I went through. I remarried after Duane’s death: a loving, caring, and compassionate man who loves me and my daughter so much. Eric was certainly brought into my life in perfect timing. One month after our engagement, Eric was diagnosed with colon cancer. One would soon jump to the Why? question right away. But, having been down that road before, I remembered that it didn’t help to get stuck there. Instead, I leaned on my experiences with Duane’s cancer and found strength in the positives.

During all hard times, there is good that surrounds us. There is good that can come from these challenges, and we can learn from what we have been through and pass on our experience on to others to help in their times of need. Yes, I did lose Duane to brain cancer, but I was blessed with eight years with that amazing man. I have a beautiful little girl from Duane. I learned so much about healthier living. My relationship with the Lord grew in leaps and bounds. I learned how strong I really am. I learned to appreciate the small things, and that every day we have is a gift. Most of all, I found that I don’t need to try to do it all, and that when things feel out of control, I can rest knowing the Lord has things under control.

Each experience or challenging time opens new doors. It may not be the plan WE intended or the direction we had planned to go – but do things ever really go according to OUR plans? Not often. The sooner we step back and know that God’s plan is the best, the sooner we can recover from our hard times.

There are two verses that continue to help me: Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”

The second verse it brings me to the most recent lesson I have learned. I have never, ever walked alone. The support of friends and family is a great strength. Knowing I have people to lean on during hard times is wonderful. But my greatest strength is my relationship with the Lord. The peace His love brings truly does surpass all understanding. I lean on Him all the time.

There are a few things that I have learned from my walk that have been of great help. First – As much as I love Duane and Eric, I know that God loves them more. So that alone should help me trust in Him. Secondly – death is not goodbye. For those who love the Lord, death is a see you soon. This life on earth is a blink of an eye in the big picture of existence. Finally, take a second and close your eyes. Imagine the most beautiful place, surrounded by love, peace, and everything great! Happiness and joy are all that exist. No sadness or anger. Pure bliss! Now, know that heaven is a million times better than that! Our loved ones are experiencing that now. Right now. And soon we will be reunited with them. There isn’t room for sadness in a thought that great!

So yes, bad things do happen. We are all faced with struggles, and some more than others. But it is our choice how we want to respond. Despite all that has happened, I can honestly say that Eric and I are truly blessed. I am going to choose to find the GOOD in everything, because dwelling on the negative hurts my heart. When the tunnel seems very dark, I still know there is light. When I felt like I didn’t know how to cope with what was in front of me, the Lord gave me the strength. His love alone can bring hope to any situation.