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  • Writer's pictureMarnie Hammar

On Releasing the Goodness in Our Hard Stories

By Joy Marker

Hear Him Louder Essay Series: Joy’s Story

Tears flowed freely down my cheeks while I sat in my rocking chair in the tiny solarium of our small 1950s style home. I felt like I was walking a journey I had previously navigated, longing for an answered prayer and hearing only silence, my tears now asking God, "Why?"


Why, God, do I find myself in this familiar place of longing and waiting? What did I not learn the first time that I still need to know? What do I need to confess that I have yet to confess?


At that moment, it was as if God reached down and slapped the back of my head, saying, "Joy, it is not always about you. Have you ever considered that in your waiting, someone else is watching and learning? Or how you might be waiting because, in my greater plan, the timing impacts more than just you. It is not always about what you have to learn; perhaps it is about how I might be revealed in and through you in this situation."


His words brought this verse to mind: "For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose," (Philippians 2:13, NIV).


It is so easy, when traveling on unexpected journeys or when stuck waiting, to focus inward. Did you notice how all the questions I cried out to God were "I" questions? Never once did I consider the impact of my journey on others or that how I choose to travel might matter for God's greater plan.

I didn't think about how this path He was taking me on could be turned outward instead of inward. Could my story be like we read in Matthew?

"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven," (Matthew 5:14-16, NIV).


Being introspective is not wrong; I never want to fail to consider what I might be able to learn in every situation. There are times when the "I" questions are still very relevant. However, that encounter with God helped me to understand that the story of our lives goes beyond us. It is important to consider how our stories interact and impact the world around us.


In 2019, almost ten years after that conversation with God, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Being relatively healthy and physically in good shape, this diagnosis took us entirely by surprise. The first day the prognosis of MS was introduced, I hung up the phone with my doctor and sat with tears streaming down my face. God gently whispered,"I have prepared you for this." And instead of asking all the why questions I once would have asked, I found myself responding,"Ok, God, if this is the journey I am being called to travel, let's make it count."

I do not believe God wills us to walk these challenging journeys. Rather, they come to us because we live in a fallen and broken world. God is sovereign, and while he can step in and prevent us from having to walk through these challenges, he sometimes chooses to instead walk with us so that his glory might be revealed in and through us.


Living this journey with a chronic illness has been far from easy. It is not a journey I ever wanted or would wish for someone else.

But, looking at it from the perspective of a greater story being told, it has become an opportunity. A chance to co-create with God, turning the ugly reality into a beautiful story of God's faithfulness, bringing beauty into the dark places.


Our stories matter; they often matter far more than we dare to imagine. May we recognize the greater impact of allowing God to work in and through our challenging stories, allowing light to shine in dark places.

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it," (John 1:5 NIV).



The Hear Him Louder Essay Series is a guest essay series where God's daughters share their stories of hearing God’s whispers in their every day. It’s meant to serve as an encouragement for the times when God feels far and seems quiet. May this series be an invitation for us to listen for His voice together.

Don't miss any posts in this series! Subscribe to receive each new essay in your inbox, posted every other Thursday. When you subscribe, you'll receive a FREE download of a Prayer Planning Worksheet, a resource to help you prepare your heart to listen for His voice in prayer.

New to this series? Check out the rest of the series!

Interested in contributing to the Hear Him Louder Essay Series? The call for submissions opens twice a year. To submit an essay outside of those windows, contact me.


About Joy

After being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in early 2019, Joy felt called to begin sharing the words hidden in the pages of her journals out loud. While her writing is not explicitly related to chronic illness, her journey with chronic illness is woven throughout her words.

She is an introvert passionate about gathering people in authentic community, preferably around a table. Reading, watercolor painting, cooking, baking sourdough bread, and getting her hands dirty in the garden feeds her soul.


Inspired by the beauty of the world around us, she seeks to notice and cultivate beauty in every season. In addition to regular Instagram posts, random blog posts, and writing the occasional guest post, she publishes a monthly newsletter titled Throughout the Seasons on Substack. You can find Joy at her website , on Substack and Instagram.


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