Seven Better Questions You Can Ask in the Midst of Adversity

I have several friends who are going through enormous uncertainty right now. Some are out of work. A few others are on the precipice of divorce. Still others have been diagnosed with cancer—one who is pregnant. In these situations, most of us ask, “Why is this happening to me?”

Business People Holding Question Mark Signs in Front of Their Caces - Photo courtesy of ©, Image #11860969

Photo courtesy of ©

Years ago, two months after I became the publisher of one of our book divisions, we lost a major author to a competing company. This had a significant negative impact on our bottom line. At first, I was angry. Then I became discouraged. Finally, I realized I was asking the wrong question.

Instead of asking “Why did this happen?” I started asking, “How can this make us better?” Immediately, I sensed a shift in my spirit. It began energizing me. In retrospect, losing the author was one of the best things that could have happened to my division. We grew from the experience in ways that would have never happened otherwise.

I learned a valuable lesson: the answers we get are often determined by the questions we ask. If we ask bad questions, we will get bad answers. If we ask better questions—empowering questions—we will get better answers.

If you are going through a difficult, uncertain time, here are seven better questions you can ask yourself and your team:

  1. What if this isn’t the end but a new beginning?
  2. What if the answer to my prayer is just over the next hill?
  3. What if this is necessary in order for me to be prepared for the next important chapter in my life?
  4. What if God knows exactly what I need at this particular time?
  5. What if God is speaking to me through means I would not have chosen for a blessing I cannot see?
  6. What does this experience make possible?
  7. What will I be telling my grandchildren that I learned was so valuable in this season of my life?

How is this related to leadership? As I have written numerous times before, leaders must lead themselves first—even when they don’t feel like it. Sometimes it just starts with a better question.

Question: What should you be asking NOW in your situation? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Julieb2903

    After divorce, the loss of my home, my sons going their seperate ways and losing my job I was asking ‘why me? I am a good person, I have a very good heart so why? Then I got the offer of a lifetime, a job in Kuwait, where I have learned to walk tall again, got to know the real me and paid off all my debts. I often ask “what the hell am I doing here in this god awful place” but I know its just the next step in my life. I am 50 next week and cannot wait for the next chapter, hopefully back home with my boys in the UK…my next half century…bring it on.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Winston Churchill once referred to himself as “a second act man.” In other words, everything he became famous for happened in the second half of his life, after he turned 50!

      • Karl Mealor

        Makes me think of Andy Stanley’s comment (paraphrase): At some point, we stop thinking about how old we are and start thinking about how much time we have left.

      • Karl Mealor

        Makes me think of Andy Stanley’s comment (paraphrase): At some point, we stop thinking about how old we are and start thinking about how much time we have left.

      • Karl Mealor

        Makes me think of Andy Stanley’s comment (paraphrase): At some point, we stop thinking about how old we are and start thinking about how much time we have left.

      • Ben Tune

        That’s encouraging. It kind-of reminds me of Moses. He had and lost everything, but God built him up to be a great leader when he was 80. Think about all the struggles Joseph faced on his path to leadership, too.

      • TNeal

        Very encouraging to read at 56.

      • Jeff Randleman

        I’m pushing 40 this year, and I never thought it wold bother me as muc as it does. Most of my friends are 10 years younger than me, and I’m finding it increasingly difficult to keep up. I’m deserately trying to find the strength to say “bring it on”.

        The Churchill comment was gold for me. Thanks.

      • Robert Ewoldt

        There are some times when I feel like, even in my late 20s, that I’ve already set my life on the path that it’s going to end on, but that’s not true at all!

    • Joe Lalonde

      That’s a great way to have turned your bad situation into a great situation!

  • Patricia Zell

    I ask God my question, “What is Your knowledge, Your understanding, and Your wisdom?” By turning to Him, I move my focus from my circumstances to His faithfulness. And, quite frankly, I don’t trust my perceptions of the ins and outs of what is happening in my life and in the world–He’s the only one that really knows what is going on and He is the only one who is good.

    • Kerry Palmer

      He sees the big picture while we get wrapped up in the daily details.

  • Cyberquill

    What if I sold everything and bought a bike and a backpack?

    • Michael Hyatt

      What if you did? Life would be much simpler!

    • Joe Lalonde

      Sounds like a great adventure could await you!

      • Cyberquill

        Yeah, most likely in the form of a grizzly who’ll have me for supper.

        • Brandon


        • Greg Berry

          Yeah, but think how happy that grizzly would be. You would really make a difference in his day. Can I have the bike since you won’t be needing it?

          I like your sense of humour Cyrberquill…

          • Cyberquill

            Fraidy-cat that I am, I never embarked on my bike tour, opting for exile instead. So for now, all I can offer you is an indefinite rain check on that bike.

    • Jeff Miles

      that’s awesome!

    • beth

      You could start a blog and I would read it and weep! What if all of us decided to follow our dreams and just go for it?

      • Cyberquill

        Chaos would rule, as most jobs wouldn’t get done. 

        • Anne-Marie Gosser

          Or possibly chaos would lessen because the things that matter would get done instead of all the meaningless things that get done now.

          • Cyberquill

            If everyone followed their dreams, I doubt that public trash bins would ever get emptied, to name but one example. Nobody dreams of driving a garbage truck.

  • Leah Adams

    What wonderful questions!!!! Truly, they do help you make a perspective shift. Asking these questions can be part of what I call in my Bible study, a HINGE moment. That moment in time when you realize that you need to do something different than what you have been doing in order to bring about a differen,t and hopefully better, outcome. I’m passing these questions on to some friends. Happy St. Patricks Day!!

  • Uma Maheswaran S

    What a sheer timing Mike! Just yesterday, I completed reading the book “The Blessing of Adversity” by ‘Barry C. Black’. I got some great insights from the author. Today, there is another post on adversity from you.

    Let us take your personal example in the post – “Years ago, two months after I became the publisher of one of our book divisions, we lost a major author to a competing company. This had a significant negative impact on our bottom line. At first, I was angry. Then I became discouraged.”

    My hunch is that God MIGHT HAVE used this situation to make you understand that you need to be dependent on God rather than the authors (and the human beings). That success comes from Him and not the authors. Often, we place the confidence on men rather than God in our life. True, you had a significant negative impact on your bottom line but I believe that the experience would have taught you many lessons which you wouldn’t have learnt otherwise.

    We may be facing adversity for no fault of ours. It can be for several reasons. But, how we counter the adversity matters. In order to ask the right questions, we need to have a right attitude and right perspective. And, this is possible when we have close connection and intimate relationship with God.

    Thanks for the post Mike! I am blessed by it!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Uma. Excellent advice. What you articulated was one of the main things I learned: God is my source, not man.

  • Benjamin Lichtenwalner

    1. What does God want me to learn from this experience?

    There are so many people hurting or struggling in this economy that this and the perspectives you offer are critical. A negative attitude will only deteriorate performance and results further. Which brings me to my second question.

    2. How can I praise God through the pain?

    I realized in the past that I never tried to praise God in moments of trial or pain. While it may not be easy at these times, chances are, you still have a great deal to be thankful for. There is a great song by Mandissa on this, called “Broken Hallelujah”.

    Great and timely advice. Thank you Michael!

    • Michael Hyatt

      These are great questions, been. I especially like the second one. I always return to Philippians 4:6–7 in times of fear:

      “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

      Paul commands us not to be anxious (meaning it is possible), but he also tells us how: prayer and, especially, thanksgiving. The thanksgiving part is, I think, the key. If we can give thanks in the midst of fear, we begin to see things from God’s perspective. Then we can experience that only He can give.

      Thanks for your comments.

      • Karl Mealor

        I think I’ll go read the book of Philippians today. These verses, along with your article, meant a lot to me this morning. Thanks so much.

      • Karl Mealor

        I think I’ll go read the book of Philippians today. These verses, along with your article, meant a lot to me this morning. Thanks so much.

      • Karl Mealor

        I think I’ll go read the book of Philippians today. These verses, along with your article, meant a lot to me this morning. Thanks so much.

        • Jeff Randleman


      • Brandon

        This is good!

  • Pingback: Seven Better Questions You Can Ask in the Face of Adversity | Allen Bible Resources()

  • Cheryl

    These are wonderful questions. I will certainly use them and pass them on. One of the things I ask myself in the dark times of difficulty is, how can I become a blessing to others? Not to minimize my circumstance . . . it seems to helps me recalibrate.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, and it gets the focus off you and onto others. This is huge! Thanks.

      • Kerry Palmer

        It seems we are at our best when we focus on others.

  • Charlbron

    That I think all of the above makes great sense and should be put to good use ….

  • Paul Steinbrueck

    Thanks Mike. I needed that this morning. :)

  • Kerry Palmer

    Last summer, my wife lost her job, and I was diagnosed with a staph infection. We spent the entire summer consumed with those two situations.

    My infection finally had to be handled with surgery and multiple rounds of heavy antibiotics. I clearly remember the day that I shifted my focus from one of complaining to God, to giving him praise despite my troubles. I really began to grow when I gave him praise FOR my problems.

    We both persevered, and things are great now. I am fully healed, and my wife started a job in the fall making significantly more than she was earning in the old one.

    There is value in our difficulties, and we do come through on the other side!

    I appreciate your encouragement!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thank you for sharing this great story. I find these kind so inspiring.

    • Joe Lalonde

      Great story Kerry. It’s great when we learn to stop complaining to God and start praising him despite our troubles. So often we forget how blessed we really are.

  • Cassandra Frear

    I could give you a long list of things that have happened, as I’m sure many other readers could. But honestly, it makes me tired to recount it all. So let me just say that where I’m standing, these questions are doorways to a vibrant life. #6 is my favorite.

    • Pam Portland

      So how do you find a door that isn’t locked?

  • John Richardson

    Great questions, Michael. One of the questions I ask myself is, “Am I ready for success?”

    What would happen if someone called with an amazing job offer? Would I be willing to give up the status quo, move thousands of miles away, and go for it?

    What if a publisher called and wanted to me to go on the road and promote a new book. Would I be willing to do it?

    What if a blog post went viral, and I’m on the cover of Newsweek (remember the Mentos and Diet Coke guys). How would I handle that?

    So many times in life we long for what we don’t have, yet we aren’t prepared to take on the challenge when it comes. I think that is why God leads us through adversity and brings problems we don’t understand. Adversity helps us grow and truly helps us be ready when success (in whatever form) comes our way.

    I think of the story of Todd Burpo and the horrific struggles the family went through with his little boy. Yet God used that situation to bring on something so amazing that no one could have imagined it. All throughout the bible, God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. We just need to ask ourselves… Are we ready for the challenge?

    • Michael Hyatt

      As always, John, you have hit the proverbial nail on the head. GREAT question. Thanks.

    • Kerry Palmer

      Wow – I love your take on this!

    • Brandon

      Awesome examples!

    • Jeff Randleman

      Great input! Thanks!

    • Uma Maheswaran S

      John! When you say — “So many times in life we long for what we don’t have, yet we aren’t prepared to take on the challenge when it comes”, I am totally awestruck. That’s a great perspective. Thanks for your thoughts

  • Carla

    In my work we often say, “Heal the parent, heal the child.” This reminds us that as we provide healing services the parent must find physical, emotional and spiritual healing and much of the healing can begin with the child even when we are not directly treating the child.
    When I broke my back almost a year ago I began asking the wrong questions. Shortly I was reminded of several of the questions you have suggested in this blog. As I began seeking those answers I began to heal and so did my child who lives thousands of miles away.
    As I became better able to see how God was working and to receive even the challenge as part of His love and work I could ask questions that taught me to Look Ahead.
    This has changed my perspective.
    Then this year as I was about to celebrate the great progress, I became ill with a major life threatening infection. I will have to “fight it” or let God fight it for a long time to come.
    What questions am I asking that can move me FORWARD?
    The very ones you are suggesting. The joy has come in seeing that God is always at work even when there is “a bad day” or “week” or “prognosis” there is still a God and He IS.
    Then as you ask, “what can this make possible?”
    I have found all sorts of interesting, exciting, challenging and motivating answers for my life.
    I would encourage readers to write these questions out on a card (the old fashioned 3 x 5 cards) and keep it where you can see it frequently. It can change everything!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thank you for this very specific example. I especially like you encouragement to write the questions on a card. This is a great way to remind ourselves of the right questions.

    • Ben Tune

      I prayed for you today. I have a friend from church who has been fighting illness since 2007. His wife regularly blogs about their experience and how God sustains them daily. I think her blog might be an encouragement to you.

  • Kamsin

    I’m in Tokyo right now, asking how I can stay calm, how can I stop myself losing heart, how can I help my friends get reliable information and be encouraged that everything is going to be alright. Also how can I pray for people in other parts of the country who have been much less fortunate than me.

    Thanks for posting this today, it has helped give me courage for another day.

  • Teresa Bakker

    A question I ask is: God what are you trying to teach me? Usually it is one of two things, patience and/or trust.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I know. Evidently, I need a lot of training in these areas. I am certainly getting a lot of education!

  • Tod Shuttleworth

    What great perspective. One of your best blogs ever! Thanks.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Wow! Thanks, Tod.

  • omoth

    after messing up with people i should have not and believed it was unpardonable and couldn’t forgive myself for doing this i asked what was i thinking when i got myself into all this mess? after sharing with some of my friends what i was going through and listened to their side of the story today i ask who will i believe have forgiven me when i still find it hard even to nforgive myself?

    • Vicki Small

      Years ago, when I was still living with the shame of a former relationship–knowing full well that God had long-since forgiven me, I asked Him, one day, “Lord, how long is it going to take me to forgive myself, when I know you already did?”

      He replied, “When you fail to forgive yourself, you say that I died in vain.”

      Stopped me cold. And yet, Satan continued, from time to time, to bring up that old shame and fan the flames. One day, while reading a book on Hebrews (When You Run Out of Fantastic, Persevere!), I read again those words from Hebrews 12:1-3; the portion that really jumped out at me were these, from v.2: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith….” Since that day, whenever I encounter “everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,”–any kind of challenge that threatens to overwhelm me–I look to Jesus. I talk to Him. I ask Him to carry the load for me.

      He always does; He already has.

  • Joe Lalonde

    I love the questions you ask! They see the hope and possibilities of things to come. It also reminds me of the question to ask yourself before taking a step out in a new venture or when you’re afraid of something: “What’s the worse that could happen and how can I minimize the chances of that happening?”

    • Michael Hyatt

      I like this question, too. It reduces your ambiguous fear to specifics. Once I do that, I often say, “Is that all? That’s not such a big deal!”

  • Dr. Laurie Johnson

    Fantastic advice, especially since the devistation in Japan has occurred. I try to remind myself and clients, “We can’t presume to know whether something is good or bad” and remind them of the fable of the emperor’s son. Perhaps this part of human nature harkens back to Eden, when the alure of having the power to distinguish good from evil led us to bite the apple. That’s my theory! Great article and resources. I will gladly promote your work, Michael.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks so much, Laurie. Japan has been much on my mind this week. I can’t imagine what it must be like.

  • Jeremy@confessionsofalegalist

    I like how you point out that maybe God knows exactly what he is doing. This is a good definition of faith. Believing without seeing. Trusting God and believing that this is intentional and for our good because he loves us, even if it hard to understand. Great words, but easier said than done.

  • Jennifer

    These are great questions Michael! I am going through some uncertainty right now and I am going to take these questions and some time to really evaluate what is going on with me. Thanks for posting this!

  • Jim Whitaker

    I don’t think that we would be human without a little Job factor creeping into our lives where we wonder if God is dumping on us and making it difficult for us. I think that too often we get caught up in the things that we cannot control that we spend too little time on the things that we can control. In the work that I do I deal with high pressured difficult situations every day. It used to wear on me and I would often times carry my burdens home to my wife and kids. I found myself asking the say types of questions you raise, why this, why that, and so forth. Two things helped me. One was reading Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning. His ground breaking concept of stimulus and response was a light in the darkness to me. My paraphrase of that is between stimulus and response we have the freedom to choose. Therefore we can choose how we are going to react to that stimulus. The second thing that helps was recognizing that I can only change me. There are things that I cannot control and if I cannot control them, then I should not focus time and effort worrying about what I cannot control. So I gave this up to God. I let the Lord take care of these burdens that I could not deal with and many of the questions I started to ask are similar to the “seven better questions” you list here for us. I really do agree with you that it is context and the questions you ask that make a situation better. You might not like the answer you get, but there is hope for the start of something new and better in your life with a simple change of focus. Thanks for the posting today. It is a healthy reminder for all of us.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I read Viktor Frankl’s book, too. It was huge for me. His insights from living in a German concentration camp are worth their weight in gold. Highly recommended!

      • Jim Whitaker

        I agree. If you ever feel sorry for yourself or thinking that like is unfair read that book and you will soon realize that you have nothing to complain about.

    • Uma Maheswaran S

      Thanks for the book Whitakerous! I will be looking for it. (Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning)

  • Smoochagator

    Thank you for this post, Michael. It is exactly what I needed to hear today. God bless you.

  • Francarona

    After going through severe financial difficulties, a marriage on the bring, and a clinical depression, I finally began asking myself the right questions. I ended up going to school at 48 and going all the way for a Ph.d. Today I am a Clinical Psychologist, my marriage is better than ever, and I am a happy, blessed woman. i would never have gotten to this point without going through the crisis! I always value your posts!
    Fran Carona

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Fran. Great story. Very inspiring.

    • Uma Maheswaran S

      That’s inspiring Francarona! Thanks for sharing with us

  • Dylan Dodson

    The questions we ask in adversity are very important. I find the real “why me” question to be why Jesus would die for me (or anyone) so that we could experience true life. When I get discouraged, I must remember how truly blessed I truly am by God’s undeserved grace.

  • Alicha

    Great post, Michael!

    I remember a similar moment~ dark time in my life~ shaking and bewildered, I said to my mentor, “I just have so many questions, I don’t know where to start.” She said, “Like ‘Why me?’.”
    I looked at her in shock, realizing it was the first time not only was that not on the tip of my tongue, but it hadn’t even made my list! I actually gave a little laugh as hope bubbled up.

    Later, I realized the hope stemmed from Philippians 1:6. His promise was being worked out in my heart…even in the momentary falling away of that needling, nasty, self-focused question.
    (Now just need that question to fall away in the day to day stuff, like “Why isn’t my baby girl getting this potty training thing! She is a year old now! Why me? ” (Tongue in cheek ;)

    Have a great day!

  • Paulmiklautsch

    Michael – Thanks for the note of encouragement, it was timely for me. I just found out this morning that my mom was diagnosis with lymphoma. It has been a roller coaster of a week and these questions will help. Again, thanks for your leadership and encouragement.

  • Ben Tune

    I think God uses the tough times to pour more grace into my life. I’m not just speaking from the point that God gives me the grace I need (2 Corinthians 12:9), but also from the way I view other people. I think I have more empathy and more understanding after God has lead me through some deep water.

  • Ladyaimee06

    I have had my dark days for sure these past two years. My husband has been out of work for two years, living with his family and I had major surgery on top of it all. No money and no aid has made me ask some very hard questions. Not even having money to buy perscriptions makes you wonder why? I too, asked the wrong questions wondering, why am I not getting the answers that I seek? I have found that the littlest things mean so much more to me.

    I know this for a fact. God has walked with me if not carried me most of the time through the darkest days. I am reminded of the poem “Footprints In The Sand.” My all time favorites. I read that at my own grandfather’s funeral. Little did I know at the time the words would sustain me through the hardest period of my life. Faith! We are confronted with angry people, hurt people, negative and destructive people daily. We can choose to let them affect us or, learn from them along the way. Most of us as humans get caught up in life and forget to just let go and turn it over to God. I know I do. I struggle with that on a daily basis. I wonder as I know many do “Why Me?” Well why not me? Maybe the questions should be what can I be learning from this so I can move on from here?

    Your words inspired me today and I feel were a gift from God himself. I thank you. Remember it is the little things. Right now my husband is at a job interview and we are praying that he gets this job. It means moving out of his mom’s home and on our own. It means not worrying about food on the table, and gas to drive to the doctor’s. It means a sense of security. I know God is with him and he is not doing this alone. That in it self gives me peace.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for sharing this. I am praying for your husband. May the Lord continue to direct and encourage you.

      • Ladyaimee06

        Thank you Michael that means a lot to me.

  • Lindsey Nobles

    Mike, This is so good. You have taught me to dwell on “what does this make possible?” but these other questions are helping me to rekindle my hope.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Good, Lindsey. I am so glad. God intends only the very best for you.

  • Mike Van Hoozer

    Michael –

    Thanks for posting this! Great questions for all of us to ponder! I have several friends who are going through difficult times right now and the only question they can muster is “Why?” When we consider more productive questions as you have mentioned, we are able to move forward in our lives and allow God to reveal what is on the other side of this “valley moment.” Another question I encourage people to consider is: God, what do You want to do in and through me in the middle of this interruption?

  • Ken

    Mike, Thank you for this timely post. Not only were the 7 questions dead on, but the life examples you used and reading some of the comments made me realize how I sometimes elevate rather insignificant obstacles in my life to a level of control they don’t deserve. Thanks to u and those who commented for the renewed perspective.

    • Michael Hyatt

      You are welcome, Ken. I mostly write what I myself need to hear!

  • Gina Burgess

    90% of what we fear never happens anyway so worry is a waste of time. Dale Carnegie said in his book, “How Not To Worry”, to figure out the absolute worst case scenario, make a plan of action if that worst thing ever happened and then forget about it. Then if the worst happens, you’ve already got a plan to follow.

    I lost everything when I was divorced by my husband. I had given up so much when I married him and moved across four states. Then everything crashed and I was driving across four states with everything I had left–a car, a computer, some clothes. But, God put His hand on me when I cried into my pillow that night and I knew everything would be all right. Two months later we found out my dad had cancer and then I knew my mission was to be my legally blind mom’s caregiver. I’ve had such blessings this past decade and now my mom is my best friend.

    When I lost my job 2 years ago, I thought it would be a simple matter of finding a new job, and it would have been if I didn’t need to keep my mom safe and secure. Today, I’ve got a book published and am marketing it. I’ve got another book almost ready for publishing. When God works, He really gets the job done.

    The question I ask myself now is: “How can I bring You glory today, Lord?”

    • Brandon

      I what you said in your first sentence: 90% of what we fear never happens anyway so worry is a waste of time

      • Gina Burgess

        :) Brandon, I figured that out years ago and then Dale Carnegie affirmed it in his book. Understanding the principle doesn’t make “Not Worrying” easier to do, though.

        • Brandon

          Exactly! It’s something you have to always keep in mind in order to practice…

    • Uma Maheswaran S

      That’s great insight Gina!

      • Gina Burgess

        Thank you, Uma :)

  • JD Eddins

    What a great list of questions. The first one is one that I have been asking a lot recently as our company shifts from paper files to electronic. When the shift is complete it will free me up to do some other things that will be much more enjoyable and help our company in tremendous ways, but right now, in the middle of the transition we are hitting snags that have brought me to the point of wanting to give up. I have to constantly remind myself that the end of this will bring about a new beginning.

  • MaDonna Maurer

    We are coming out of an “unknown” period. This past year, God has given us a brand new jigsaw puzzle to put together but he didn’t give us all the pieces. Nor did he give us the top section with the picture so we could see what this new season of life was going to look like. My husband’s job will end in a few months. We’ve been given more and more pieces to the puzzle, but not all of them, like what exactly his “job”/ministry will be. It’s been an interesting year, one that I’ve learned a lot about security and where my security lies. But, I’m at a point where I’m excited about our future. The pieces God has given to us are fitting together…and the other ones will come at just the right time. His timing has always been perfect and I believe it still is.
    Thanks for your post today, it really just solidified more what God has been teaching me personally through this change.

    • Michael Hyatt

      You might also find this post helpful where you are right now: Life Is Like a Tapestry.

      • MaDonna Maurer

        Sorry, but the link didn’t work. Could you possible resend it to me? I am interested in reading it. Thanks so much!

        • Michael Hyatt

          I think I fixed it. Can you try again? Sorry.

          • MaDonna Maurer

            Mr. Hyatt, thank you so much for taking the time to fix the link. I did get to read it. Thanks for more words of wisdom. I like that metaphor as well. It reminded to not look at the “knots and frays” on the back, but to be excited about what the front will look like. God is good, and will continue to be.

  • Cynthia Herron

    Years ago, one of our children was diagnosed with a disabling chronic illness. At first, we too, were angry. There are no words that can sufficiently describe it…Living in hospitals, monthly regimens of 300+ pills each month, blood transfusions, surgeries, etc. Even though we were Christians, the experience challenged us. Today, praise God, we are able to look upon that time as “seasoning,” a time of growth in Christ. We are stronger in our relationship with Him because of what our family endured together. While we don’t relish those years past by any means, it was a journey that increased our faith and our desire to walk closer with the Lord. So, I suppose the questions we should ask ourselves when face with daunting circumstances are: How is God going to use this for His glory? Will the bigger picture change us for the better?

    • TNeal

      Encouraging, hope-filled words. How many times have we gone through experiences we wouldn’t want to repeat but, on the other hand, we wouldn’t want to hit the delete button on either? God does amazing things under difficult circumstances.

    • Uma Maheswaran S

      That was touching Cynthia! I am praying for your family.

  • Anonymous

    You made me think, Michael. Good but dangerous. . .in a Chuck Norris kinda way.

    I like your question BEFORE the seven: “How can this make us {Thomas Nelson} better?” As one who used to pity-party when discouraged, this question assumes a positive outcome. Cool.

  • Anonymous

    Very timely post for me. I made a decision a few months back and I was unclear if it was the right decision. Over the past 2 months things have come to light that make me think it was the right decision. I’m still unsure. It is difficult to go through the storm with unanswered questions.

    You are so right about asking right questions. Early in my career I found I asked a lot of wrong questions. The answers I got feed into the assumptions that my race or sex was holding me back. I finally got sick of it and started asking different questions. After I came to Christ, I found another level of questions we have to ask (like the ones you shared).

    thanks for this post.

  • Anonymous

    I recently read a great book by Jan Silvious, Same Life, New Story. We can sit and wallow in things gone wrong, or we can look for solutions. We can write a new story. Thanks for sharing.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Your next to the last sentence. Is powerful. Yes, we can write a new story. In fact, this is the message behind Donald Miller’s amazing book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

      • Anonymous

        Yes. I’ve been wanting to read that book.

  • Melissa

    Shifting our perspective reveals new open doors that the Lord has placed before us! It’s such a refreshing revelation when we begin to elevate our focus and CHOOSE to see life:) Thank you for sharing these wisdom keys with the world!

  • Steven Cribbs

    I am working on some blog posts with similar themes – whether it is a difficult time in life, a failure, or simply an embarassing moment, our response to it is what makes the difference. In reading Hebrews recently, I was reminded that God can make something out of nothing. Even in our most despairing moments, God can make something incredible out of it. So, are we willing to seek God in those times to see what He will do instead of just settling for what we see?

  • Deaster

    I just brought a message to our church called “Asking the Right Questions” I did so because I had to inform them I had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and would be undergoing surgery. Like your list reveals, you must move from the “why” to the “what” questions to get unstuck from a victim mentality. The “what” questions can be deeply relational conversations that remind you that you are God’s child and he when answers aren’t as forthcoming as you might like His presence is.

    • Brandon

      True. God is always in control!

  • Jacob Musselman

    Great post! A fantastic approach to tackling such a difficult subject. I’m going to start asking, “What does this experience make possible?”

    Another question that I have been asking comes from my reading of Donald Miller’s “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” (thanks for publishing that) is “How can I make this a better story?”

  • Rsr777

    …love this positive way looking at life’s difficulties. It inspires HOPE and FUTURE!!! WHY NOT…GOD IS BIG…He sees the beginning and the end…AND the end as a NEW BEGINNING….I BELIEVE!!!

  • TNeal


    This such a powerful article I want to interact with it as I read and comment on each powerful thought you ignite.

    First of all, cancer and pregnant are two powerful images that increase their potency when coupled together. “You had me at ‘hello.'” Well you had me hooked from your opening paragraph.

    Secondly, your posing of the right question definitely is on target. “How can this make us better?”

    I think every author worth his or her salt has had a black moment (moment? shoot, most have had black days, months, years…). I know mine came when an experienced writer friend told me the truth about my manuscript. That difficult period pushed me into getting better and it’s the worst-news-best-thing that ever happened to me.–Tom

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Tom. Winston Churchill talked about struggling with “the black dog.” He used this as a reference to the depression he fought for most his life. Yet he accomplished amazing things. We have no idea what forces people must confront and conquer to succeed.

  • Sean

    It ain’t a party til something gets broken. My world is filled with tremendous uncertainty right now but I’m confident it will only make me stronger in the end. When you keep in faith, setbacks always build better foundations. It’s when things are going well I can stray from my path.

  • TNeal

    Question 5: What if God is speaking to me through means I would not have chosen for a blessing I cannot see?

    Great phrasing of a powerful question and idea. I read an SI article about an NHL player who ended up in prison. His take on the experience was going to prison was the best thing that could have happened to him. It didn’t seem so at first but it changed the downward spiral of his life.

  • TNeal

    Question 6: What does this experience make possible?

    Again the sharpness of the question wows me. My wife and I worked in a local factory several years ago when workers, including us, were laid off. Folks grumbled and worried about their futures.

    What did the layoff experience make possible for some? One ended up in med school. Another went through CPA courses. Things they never would have attempted if the company hadn’t laid them off.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I think sometimes God has to give us a little nudge (sometimes a BIG nudge) to take us to the next level.

  • TNeal

    I think the third question hits me where I live right now. “What if this is necessary in order for me to be prepared for the next important chapter in my life?”

    Tough times hone a person’s character and values. Over the past few years, I’ve had plenty of honing time–not the you’ve-got-a-month-to-live-cancer hard times but, for me, God’s sharpening in areas that challenge me.

  • Barbara

    Though I don’t comment often, I love your blog, and look forward to reading its awesome content each day. Your questions are compelling and so important to ask. Recently, our world was shaken when my dear husband had a health scare. Thank God he is doing just fine, but the experience was powerful enough to re-focus my priorities, and his. I was overcome with fear, and clung to prayers and Psalm 91 to allay anxiety. Trusting God took on new dimensions. Through it all, God taught me lessons about love and life, and blessed us in the midst of the storm. I am so grateful.
    God bless you for your wise words.

  • Anonymous

    This is a very timely message. I ask myself that sometimes and GOD always shines through. I know i need to trust him more. Thanks Michael.

  • Joey O’Connor

    Great questions! Easy to say, but we grow far more through adversity than we do in our successes. It reminds me of John 15. We are either going to be cut or pruned. Both will be painful, but one has a much higher purpose.

  • Jeff Miles

    Thank you so much for posting this. We (as a company of my wife and I) are going through a particularly tough time because of some decisions out of our control. We had earlier this week been encouraged by friends and family members along these lines and to see it reinforced here is awesome. These are exactly the questions we need to be asking right now.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Great. I am so glad you got this confirmation.

  • Anonymous

    Our family recently went through a difficult time: after battling health issues throughout a tough pregnancy, I (along with my husband) experienced the “scare” of our newborn son being diagnosed with “failure to thrive”. For five miserable months, I cried myself silly and asked “why?”. God chose that set of circumstances to teach me many things, chiefly that HE is in control and does not “owe” me a thing. I got an up close and honest look at myself; I didn’t like what I saw.

    Our son is now nearly 8 months old and is thriving beautifully. Every day, as I look into his chubby little face, I’m reminded that health is a GIFT, not something that I (or my children) necessarily “deserve”. The past year has taught me much about life and about God… and my attitude toward both.

    You’re absolutely right… when you ask the wrong questions, you get the wrong answers every time. That’s a recipe for bitterness. I chose trust.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for sharing this heart-felt story. When I hear stories like yours, I realize: I have nothing to complain about!

    • Uma Maheswaran S

      That was touching Kristy! Thanks for sharing such powerful incidents with us.

    • TNeal

      Uma’s comment brought me back to your story, Kristy. This is an example of how our words and our stories continue to linger in the air (cyberspace). You remind us all of the humility it takes to say, “Lord, only thou knowest.” Borrowing from “The Traveler’s Gift,” the strongest steel is forged in the hottest fires. I am certain both your character and your faith have been hardened through these circumstances, unlike Pharaoh who simply hardened his heart. Wonderful, precious, and encouraging story.

  • Brian Mabin

    Great perspective! We so often become caught up in the wrong side of the BUT, and then we neglect to stretch beyond to the other side where God resides and is waiting for us. Thank you for these great questions!

  • TNeal

    I usually don’t read every comment (although I know you do, Michael) but so many have shared their own encouraging stories and sound advice that I kept reading and reading and reading. If I had replied to every comment that touched my heart or helped me with greater insight, I’d be laboring into the late night.

    Thank you and your readership for your shared experiences and good advice.

    • Michael Hyatt

      They really touch me, too, Tom. I think the comments are the best part.

    • Michael Hyatt

      They really touch me, too, Tom. I think the comments are the best part.

  • DJ Hughes

    When our church went through a difficult transition in senior leadership, church members responded in a myriad of ways. Some were glad, some were mad, and some were just sad. As a result, a lot of speculation and misinformation and gossip penetrated the conversations of many.

    My mom, who lives hundreds of miles away, asked me a question during a phone conversation that anchored me through this time:

    “When all of this is over, what do you want to be true of you?”

    As I thought, and prayed, about this question, I knew what I wanted to be true of me. After this season passed, I didn’t want anyone to ever say that they heard me participating in the negative talk going around.

    I’m so thankful for this question that my mom posed as it got me to look beyond the immediate circumstances and consider a long-term perspective.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Man, I love your mom’s quote. Very powerful.

  • Dustin W. Stout

    Great post Michael! I was just getting ready to write a new blog post about the times when God says ‘No’ – He usually has something way better in mind. I will be using the greatest example of this, my wife! ;) I will definitely be referencing this post in mine. Thanks!

  • Mike Freestone

    I should be asking: How can I use this to grow in my walk with God. Not how could this happen to me.

  • Colleen Coble

    I really needed to hear this today, Mike! Thanks so much.

  • Stewart

    I am going to use an angle on this in my sermon on Sunday. Thanks for thoughtful posts.

  • Dan

    Great thoughts. I really enjoyed the 7 questions a person can ask themselves. I think in my situation I need to know that the answer might just be over the next hill and not to give up.

  • Stan

    God DOES know exactly what I need–I just need to have Faith & carry on; learning that a lot lately…
    yes, I want to be a Winston Churchill…

  • Iamblessed

    Thanks Michael for this. I have been going through a difficult time and my wife sent this quote to me to start my day : “God will not permit any troubles to come upon us, unless He has a specific plan by which great blessing can come out of the difficulty.” Then I get home and have your blog and 7 Qs to end my day. Great reminders that the “whys” are not as important as the “whats” and the “Who” of our lives. Thanks Michael and everyone who have shared – you have all been a blessing!

  • misty

    The question I keep asking myself right now: Why do not I not trust God has a plan and will take care of me through this? He always has…and He will yet again! Trust. Have faith.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Just to tweak this a bit: “Why can I be confident that God has a plan and will take care of me through this?” and “How has God delivered me in the past?”

  • Jordan

    Wow this is great advice. I’m bookmarking this. Maybe I’ll make it my homepage or a while!

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  • Tom Moucka

    Excellent advice Mike. I too have found that I tend to focus on less-than-satisfying outcomes and fail to ask the questions that will lead to better outcomes in the future. One thing that I have found helps in the process is to bring others in on the constructive questioning. Thanks!

    Tom Moucka

    • jason bourne

      Thanks for the input midget

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  • Brandon

    This was a great post! Really something to think about!

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  • Alice

    Long time reader, first time poster…

    This was a powerful post that I read at a moment when I actually needed it, so thank you for writing it. I also thought you might be interested to know that an avowed athiest reads and enjoys even your posts with Christian sentiments. I can appreciate the spiritual aspects of posts like this, and take or leave the God references while still getting meaning that applies to me and helps me. So while I may not ask what God’s plan is for me, I can use the same principles to explore the situation in a more positive light. I hope this makes sense; I just wanted to share it. :-)

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thank you, Alice. That is very encouraging to me. It also says a lot about your maturity that you can sift through my musing and still find value.

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  • Jeff Randleman

    This is so timely for me right now. We are facing some car repairs that are rather urgent. We’ve faced this on one car or the other for foour years in a row. Fortunately (read, God), this has happened every year at tax return time. So we always have the money to cover it, but never get to use the money to pay off debt or do some home improvements that we need to do. I keep asking those types of questions, “Why this? Why again? Why me?” Thanks for the reminder to aske better questions!

  • Karla Akins

    I needed this. Can’t say why. Just did and do. Thanks.

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  • Ruth

    I think I may have worked for the author that you lost two years ago, (smiling) and I ended up asking the same questions. As a result of that changed, I found myself without a job because the competing publishing company had their own editorial team! But over the last two years, I have come to realize that God never makes mistakes. He always has a plan and that plan always leads to something special because He is involved. I have a new sense of freedom, a new job, and a new list of book clients. I had to trust the detour that God placed in front of me. And while there have been many challenges, I have yet to be disappointed. Thanks for this article and for your transparency.

  • Mark Martin

    Those are great questions! Thank you for sharing!

    It has been mentioned, but let me echo the “What is God trying to teach me?” question.

  • Robert Ewoldt

    So many people become bitter when trials and uncertainty come their way. James 1 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of every kind, because the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” Some might say that the events in my life currently are trials–having to work 2 jobs in order to make ends meet to raise 3 1/2 kids. But I love what I do, and I can see the way forward (partially thanks to you, Michael).

  • John (15:16)

    Thank you!

    Are these the questions I was afraid to ask? Indirectly, or in part, yes.

    Some, I, (the “natural” man) wouldn’t even like to consider.

    But, for me, a few years ago, when I simply began to ask, “Where is the ‘good’ , Lord?” (as in Romans 8:28) it had such a wonderfully positive effect on my spirit, my life and my “world view”.

    It became almost like a game, or an exercise. As soon as I began to find myself bawking, or saying “Oh, NO!”.. I would stop and say, “OK, Lord, where is the “good” in this?”.. and only THEN did I begin to SEE it.

    These questions carry it to “another level” and are very direct and going deeper into the soul.

    But if we don’t “seek” we won’t “find”; if we won’t “knock” it will probably NOT “be opened”.

    God does NOT own a “brick bat” to “clobber”! But sometimes His “nudges” can send us on an apparent zig-zag course, like a hockey puck, on it’s way to the goal.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Great question. Thanks!

    • TNeal

      Wonderful insight. I like your question and where it leads a person’s thinking. We find what we’re looking for.

    • Uma Maheswaran S

      I like your perspective John

  • Rogertonsberg


  • Anonymous


  • Mrs.Riyaz

     Brother just came across your site when searching for something,God bless you.We are blessed with a guide(Our Holy Book) for humanity that addresses everyone,which
    contains for eg,the following verses

    The cry of Prophet Job, upon him be peace, to God: Truly
    distress (disease, tribulation) has seized me. But You are the Most
    Compassionate of the Compassionate (21:83)
    and the groaning of Prophet Jacob, upon him be peace: I only complain
    of my anguish and my sorrow unto God (12:86)
    are supplications or entreaties for God’s pity and compassion. God Almighty
    praised Job, upon him be peace, for being an excellent servant distinguished
    with patience and supplications: We found
    him patient; how excellent a servant! Truly he was ever turning (to God) with
    supplications (38:44).


    155. “And We will surely test you (all) with something of fear and
    hunger and loss of property, lives and fruits; but give glad tidings to the
    (steadfast) patient.”

    156. “Who, when a calamity befalls them, (by showing perseverance),
    say: ‘ Verily we belong to Allah, and certainly unto Him shall we

    157. ” Those are they on whom are blessings and Mercy from their
    Lord, and they are the ones that are guided (aright).”

    Our Prophet (peace be upon him) said”How remarkable a believer’s
    affair is, for it is always to his advantage, and such a condition is only for
    a believer. If something good happens to him he thanks God, which is to his
    advantage; if something bad happens to him he endures it, which is also to his



  • Matt Powell

    this is great… not only does it collide with a season of my life when I have constantly been asking “WHY?” but I also gave a sermon on the subject this morning.  I spoke from 1 Peter 4:12-19.  We are all either amidst difficulty/struggle, emerging from it, or quickly approaching it… this is such a relevant and applicable post, Michael. 

    in reference to your question #5, God has definitely been speaking.  he is teaching me that his work is not dependent upon my effort.

    thank you!

  • Diane Yuhas

    I recently spent money I shouldn’t have, ruining my otherwise workable budget, putting me behind by a couple of months, and leaving no money for several necessities.  After confessing and repenting, I sought God’s mercy and grace, asking Him to provide what I needed to get through until next payday.  God did not provide, which confused me greatly.  I didn’t ask for help because is was all my own fault.  I had asked all sorts of questions, but not the right ones – until now.  Now I see that it was pride that prevented me from asking other people to help.  Had God provided, I would never have made the connection between my pride and my unwillingness to reveal my weakness and sins before others.  And this has far-reaching consequences.  Asking different questions has turned a discouraging situation into an opportunity for faith and hope to shine.

    • Jonathan

      I find myself often with an unexpected expense or broken car part. When I do I tell God I’ll spend as much of His money as he wants on the matter. It maybe more than I wanted, but it has been what was needed.

  • Marcia

    Interesting how God gives you the same kind of message over and over again. I’m part of the Big C Club now – about to have chemo. These are good questions. Thanks, Michael. If you have a moment you might enjoy my husband’s sermon from this morning – the audio and text are here –

  • Jonathan

    Leaders have to lead even when they don’t want to, brilliant. I don’t know how anyone can do it without praying.

  • Tim

    Being a coach and educator for investors, these questions are so relevant for investors concerned about retirement, the next bubble or lack of confidence in the markets.
    I often reference a quote by Confucius; “When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” 
    Thanks for the insight and inspiration.

  • Angie Kinsey

    I like many others deal with adversity almost daily. I have Lupus and it makes ordinary things a little more difficult. These questions (and others like them) allow me to really LIVE my life. For instance, I just went on vacation with my 12 year old to Orlando. Sun is a no-no for what I have so I had to seek shade – and met some very interesting people. I had to pay for my time playing (swollen joints, etc) but my son witnessed me being persistent, patient, and saw me put on a strong face for the sake of the group. He was proud of me and in the process learned valuable lessons!

  • Yvonne Green

    WOW!  I was reading the notes I took from your Speech that you agave at Liberty University again this morning.  There is always something in that Speech that I need for the day.  Today was “Only YOU can take yourself out.” So don’t let Satan take you out.

    This article went along with several of the Key points in that Speech.  Great article    

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  • shall

    I do not have money for school! I am raising my children, and my daughter father keeps taking me to court to get custody of her and we have a parent coordinator who is bias and disrespects me! Lord I still trust you and I know that you are working in the mist of my trouble!!! Lord I trust you!!!

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  • Guest

    I am trying to figure out what on earth possible good could come from my brother going missing 3-1/2 years ago, in addition to many other severe trials that I have had to bear since then. 

    • Michael Hyatt

      I don’t know. That’s a tough one.

  • Barbaragabogrecan

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  • Kim

    My dausteelghter has been involved with a cult for about five years. I havetried to keep the lines of communication open and stayed close so I could see my grandkids. I followed them to Texas. Now she has moved to Nebraska, where the “prophet” lives, and has cut off communication with me because I do not believe the “prophet’s” letters. I have clung to Jesus, who has shown me He is in contol and is doing amazing things in my life. We are to cling to Him, not people, for they can be taken away in a literal heartbeat. I have been using this time to listen and pray fervently. I know He will make something good of my tears. kY M

  • Jo Lynn

    I don’t know!  I have asked everything I can think of both positive & negative!  I have been in chronic pain with me knee for 2 months.  Barely able to get around.  I just don’t understand why the Lord won’t heal me.  Any suggestions?  I’ve repent, I’ve rebuked, I’ve prayed, I don’t know what else to do!

  • Mike

    Very encouraging. Thank you

  • Steve Brogan

    At the ripe young age of 65+, my wife and I are starting over. We have taken a financial disaster of losing 55% of value in our former home and owing more than the house was worth to selling it and starting over, buying a house that way within our current price range – in Vegas. NV. We started out as East Coasters and are ending up South Westerners. It was all from asking the right questions instead of asking “How can this happen to me”!  Thanks for sharing.

  • Trudy Metzger

    Life changing questions! Excellent post!

  • Gloria Avyer

    I was just writing about the same subject with a different twist:

    Will today’s tragedy be tomorrow’s treasure?

  • L Zimmerman

    My God does not give you cancer to teach or prepare you for anything. God allows horrible things to happen. Part of the answer of why… we will never know. Man has added to suit himself. God must laugh, Jesus said remember these two things above all else. Man has lived, interpreted and belived  so far from these.

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  • Heath Rost

    Thank you for putting content like this out there, thank you on behalf of all 7 billion of us.

  • Joy

    The timing of this topic is absolutely perfect. My father married secretly, without bothering to tell us. Not even our relatives told us. We discovered this through our neighbor.Unfortunately, we are viewing the motive with malice (sorry but I am just being honest here after feeling betrayed).

    You are spot on when you said ask bad questions receives bad answers – good questions leads to more right answers if not action on how to overcome this. I am now at the point of taking that challenge of trying to understand why he or the relatives did this to us. Thank you.

  • Diane Yuhas

    GREAT questions. #6 is fabulous.

  • JennyRain

    SO glad you do archive re-posts because this was just in time for me! On 7/27 of this year (2013) I felt God say in my spirit “Ask a different question” — I penned it in my journal but I’ve been pondering since then… what is the question that I NEED to be asking? I haven’t – as yet – been able to answer that. I’m going to copy your list of questions into my journal and see how they help me reframe things. Thanks so much Michael!

  • KevinIvey

    Excellent. A number of years ago the Lord spoke to me once (yeah, I know) as my mother slipped away from this life into the next and, I, alone in the dark hospital room still holding her hand began to onload on God for the unfairness of my Mom’s life-the struggles, the disappointments, etc…And, thru the hot tears, when I finally became quiet, as clear as a bell, God spoke to me and one of the things He said was: ‘I have your Mother in the palm of my hand, she’s alright and, I have you in the palm of my hand, you’re ok.’ Never, never the same. Thanks for posting

  • DNaug

    Tim Mcgraw said it best “I think I’ll take a moment, celebrate my age,The ending of an era and the turning of a page, Now it’s time to focus in on where I go from here, Lord have mercy on my next thirty years” After losing a job and being devastated I felt sorry for myself. Then I realized its not the fall but the bounce that counts.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I love your last sentence!

      • DNaug

        Wow, start a new job, work 3 get paid for 5 (as opposed to me last retail gig) and get a compliment from Michael Hyatt. This is my week!

  • Mark Cleghorn

    A different perspective would be to ask “Why not me?”

  • Emily Gayle Aitken

    My Mom was part of the emergency first responders group at the church when I was growing up. Their first question was “What kind of casserole would you like?” There was a freezer full at the church.