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The right question to ask when something goes wrong

November 19, 2012

When something goes wrong you will naturally want to ask “why”. However, leaders learn to focus on a better question. When something goes wrong, the question you focus on can be the difference between effectively moving forward and becoming paralyzed.

Ever watched an athlete argue with the referee during a play despite the action continuing around them? As a fan, it’s almost comical to watch the athlete become completely distracted while the play unfolds behind them making themselves temporarily “useless”.

I’ve been guilty of this in my own life. Several years ago, after experiencing a significant ministry hurt, for too long I focused on trying to discover “why” it happened.

When something goes wrong in your life, you’re tempted to get overly-focused on asking God “why”. Like the athlete arguing the call in the middle of the play, our attention is on the wrong thing.

I’ve learned that there’s a much better question to ask.

This week I read the story of Andy Stanley starting North Point Community Church. It started on the heels of a church split, alleged betrayal, a high profile divorce, and extremly high family tension. You can read about it HERE.

Here’s what struck me. Despite all of the hurt, neither man became overly-focused on the “why” question. Instead, they were able to move forward because they focused on a better question. They focused on “what” they should do next.

I’ve heard Andy share how emotionally difficult this season of life was for him and his family. Yet somehow, he and Dr. Stanley focused more on “what” they should do instead of “why” difficult things were happening.

Today, Charles Stanley continues to lead a mega-church and a global ministry while Andy Stanley’s North Point averages 33,000 in weekly attendance and even more in weekly small groups.

Twenty years ago they were tempted to ask “why” but they focused on “what”. That’s what leaders do. Leaders focus less on “why” something bad happened and more on “what” they should do next.

Which question has your attention?

Maybe you’ve been chopped-blocked, illegally held, or blocked in the back. You’re frustrated that the “referee” seems to have missed an obvious call. You’ve asked “why” but you haven’t received an answer.

At this point, arguing the call makes you “useless” for the current play.

Since you believe that God has an eternal plan and that it’s good, focus on the “what”. Accept the reality of today. Then ask yourself, “What can I do next?” Then do that. In fact, put all of your energy into doing that.

“Why” focuses on the past. “What” focuses on the present/future. “Why” is mostly negative. “What” is mostly positive.

Today, focus on the “what” instead of the “why”.


From → Leadership, Ministry

  1. Chuck Grace permalink

    Thank you for this. In a success driven society I have to step back occasionly and really take a look at what God is doing in my life through those seemingly dry times in my life. I have found that those times were the ones that left me broken and dependent on Him. At those times it is crystal clear that He does not need me, it is I that need Him.

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