Lord, I want to know and love you more. Incline my heart towards your Word; teach me to love what you love and hate what you hate, that I might glorify Your name.
This was the prayer I offered to God over 30 years ago which He has, and continues to answer, though not always in ways I expected! I am deeply thankful that He’s given me a love for His Word and has taught me to set my mind on things above. Still, I had no idea that it would be through many trials, long seasons of waiting, and deep sorrows that God would teach me to know and love Him more.
God takes us where we wouldn’t choose to go to answer prayers we didn’t know to pray. We cry out to Him, feeling confused when His answer is far from what we’d hoped for. It reminds me of the day I walked in on a co-worker after his computer crashed and he’d lost much of his work. Looking up he moaned; “I asked God to work patience in me but this isn’t the way I wanted to learn it!”
God is not unkind as it sometimes seems. Those who put their hope in Him come to realize, in time, that what we feared might destroy us has brought new life. The sorrow we believed would crush us has been replaced with praise for God’s faithfulness.
While God has not always answered prayer in ways I’ve wanted or expected, He has been far from inactive. In response to my prayer that our children would love Christ above all else; God has sometimes led us down roads we never would have chosen! Yet, as I observe my children’s faith walk today, I see how God has used the hard things in life to draw them (and me) to Him. And while I truly hate watching my children suffer, I am learning that God is always working for our good and for HIs glory. In this second part of a three-part series, my daughter Sarah shares her personal testimony of God’s mercies in disguise.
My Life is Not What I Expected…Praise God!
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies, 2 Corinthians 4:7-10.
“As a young athlete, I excelled at playing sports and enjoyed the attention I received from it. As I envisioned my life, I assumed I would play sports through college, get a job, marry, have children, and be the best mom and wife EVER! I would remain active while raising a family much like I’d grown up in. We’d live in the suburbs, drive a mini-van, establish rich traditions, enjoy watching our children excel in sports, and have a Christ-centered home. I was simply expecting the life I assumed most others desire as well. But God had a different plan.
In high school God allowed circumstances that required me to give up sports, which was where I’d found my identity. As everything was stripped away, so was my confidence, joy, and plan for my life. I began to flail, in search for a new identity.
Through the next couple of years I tried to fill myself with whatever would give me a sense of happiness, most of which was slowly destroying me inside. Why would God take away something good that He had given me the ability and love for? Why did I have to travel such a painful road?
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life, is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever, 1John 2:15-17.
After 2 years, I hit bottom. I had fought to live for both God and the world, not wanting to choose, and it nearly killed me. By God’s grace, in my brokenness, I chose Him. But I’ve learned that choosing Him is never a one time thing. It’s a daily, minute by minute decision. I gave Him my life, but would I give Him my day? Would I give Him my unfulfilled expectations, sicknesses, disappointments, and my need to understand why He was allowing so many hard things to happen?
Not much of what I planned has happened.
I got married at age 20 without finishing college or getting a “real job”. I did marry an amazing man, but marriage is still hard work when both people are sinful. I did have children (four to be exact), but our oldest son has special needs that’s led us on a five year medical journey of dashed hopes, tears, financial strain, and unending stress. I have a minivan though, so that’s pretty awesome, since apparently I’ve reached that stage where having a minivan is awesome.
I do live in a home in the suburbs that has plenty of room for our craziness, but I’ve found that with that comes wasted time to clean space I don’t need, a big yard that takes time away from family, and home repairs that never end. While I’m thankful for the house that we’ve been blessed with, it has brought no true satisfaction. For years we worked to save to have more and, when we got more, it made me realize I function better with less. More doesn’t satisfy.
Staying in shape has also been a challenge. Along with four pregnancies; an ankle surgery took away my ability to ever run again. Ongoing health problems and frequent pain leave me with little energy for even doing normal life. Not what I expected. But what I desired was really all backwards. I had hoped for all these “good” things for my family-and to ALSO serve Christ. But Christ wants and deserves to be first, to be my all. I’ve learned that the more I fight for what I want, the unhappier and more anxious I become. But as I increasingly learn to put my faith in Jesus and trust His plan, while life may not go as I think it should, God brings eternal perspective and uses my life for His glory.
As I look back, I’m amazed at all that’s happened since my husband and I married 10 years ago. In that time we’ve had two job changes, three homes, four children, five major surgeries, multiple diet changes, a dozen doctors, barely a penny in our bank account at one point, and a comfortable savings at another. Instead of “living the life” we expected, we’ve been burdened, worn down, and mentally/physically/spiritually/financially drained by pressures that have touched nearly every area of life. Sometimes it feels like too much to bear yet, with confidence, I can say I’m thankful for every moment of it.
Ever so slowly I’m being molded into someone I never could have been had my own plans come to fruition. As I have relinquished my expectations; Christ has met me with something greater, more of Him. As I’ve learned to let go of things I’m gripping so I won’t fall, I’ve realized that God’s been holding me up all along. All my former hopes are being replaced by new hopes based on God’s promises in His Word. He has promised that if I lose my life, I will find it (Matthew 16:25). He promises that I will find true joy and satisfaction in Him alone (James 1:2-3). He promises to bring forth my righteousness like the light (Psalm 37:6). He promises to give me hope for the future and the strength to stand today (Jeremiah 29:11).
I still struggle many days to lay down my life. Every stubborn bone in me wants control and for things to get easier. But by His grace, Christ is gently helping me lay hold of something greater than the empty pleasures the world offers. Sometimes discouragement wins and I give way to fear. I fail constantly, but I’m so thankful for a God who never leaves me in that place. I learn a little more each day what the gospel means to my life; that Jesus Christ lived the perfect life I cannot live, He died the death that I deserve, and He has covered my sin with His blood. While I still fall short of the wife, mom, and woman I desire to be, God is faithfully conforming me to look more like Him.
God has a greater plan for my life than I could have ever written. His Word has told me that it won’t be easy but, one day, when I’m with Him in glory; the life of Jesus will be fully manifested in my body. Until then…I am holding onto Him.”
Next time we will look at some of the good things God purposes for those who, like Sarah, want the something better that God died to give us.
Thanks for letting us share our thoughts with you,
Linda and Sarah