Your Wounds Do Not Define You

This article first appeared on DesiringGod.org.

Words and actions are powerful. They can build people up, or tear them down. They can pour out love, or breed hate. They can establish trust, or destroy it. They can soothe deep and powerful wounds. Or they can create them.

Most of us have experienced wound-inflicting words or actions from other people at some point in our lives. The pain creates a burden we feel forced to carry. The lies are easy to believe. The hurt feels inescapable. Freedom seems hopeless as the scars threaten to resurface and bring a cloud of resentment.

Where do we find hope for real healing and the strength to forgive?

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God grieves with us when others harm us. He wants to help us lay down the burden those wounds have caused so that we can step forward in grace and freedom. It does not guarantee complete healing will come right away, but it does mean we can open ourselves to Christ’s work in our hearts, as he carries us through this valley one day at a time.

Two of the greatest burdens of hurtful words or actions are bitterness and guilt. They cause us to suddenly see ourselves differently, with a distorted perspective. Beneath the anger, we’re tempted to believe the negative remarks and question our worth. We blame ourselves for the wrongs others have done to us. After a while, the distortion becomes pervasive, and it can seep into other areas of our life.

Each time we choose to see ourselves through the lens of our wounds, we refuse the opportunity to look at ourselves through God’s eyes. No one else has the authority to define who you are. He created you. He says that you are made in his image (Genesis 1:27), redeemed and restored because of Christ (Galatians 4:4–5), co-heirs along with Christ (Romans 8:17), dearly loved (Romans 5:8), and valued beyond measure (Matthew 10:29–31). Whatever your story, the Lord of heaven and earth longs for you to see yourself in that light.

When we’ve been deeply wounded, we should not walk through these doorways of distortion into isolation. It is not shameful to ask for help from a fellow believer who will speak the truth to us. Allow them to remind you again that the offense against you wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t your fault. No one should have treated you that way. And God can be trusted with this hurt. You can bring every piece of your tattered heart and place it at his feet, knowing he feels the sting of this brokenness, trusting his perfect justice, and believing in his relentless desire to make you whole with his love.

The words people hurl at us are like destructive bricks flying in our direction. We cannot control if they will be thrown, and we cannot control how they will bruise us. But it is our choice to pick up those bricks and carry them with us, allowing them to weigh us down and multiply the harm they caused. Even one can become so overwhelming that it takes up precious space in our hearts that can no longer be filled with God’s fullness.

The wounds are real. The bricks are real. Each one represents a profound hurt that may be difficult to put down. Still, bitterness and guilt do not have to be part of the story any longer. We can choose to leave the bricks on the ground and halt the damage.

At times, carrying around the bricks feels easier because it creates the illusion of justified anger. But our anger will accomplish nothing except for devouring our hearts with a heavy weight that will keep us from experiencing the life and joy Christ desires for us. Faith and forgiveness are the only ways to lay down the burden.

In the beginning, the choice to forgive may only last a few moments before we find ourselves attempting to pick up the brick again. That’s why we have to make a continual commitment to forgive and entrust the situation to God — renewing that commitment each time bitter feelings, anxious thoughts, and ideas of worthlessness or revenge come creeping into our mind.

Wounds don’t heal overnight. Some of them burn off and on for years. Forgiveness is not an easy choice. But it will set us free.

When we’ve been hurt deeply, it’s difficult to see how we might have hurt others with our own words and actions. People who are wounded often lash out at others. We can help end the cycle by being kind and cautious as we interact with others. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Grace.

Our words should be full of grace toward others, even when they have harmed us or treated us wrongly. It’s tempting to sling cutting words right back at those who have hurt us, but grace brings more healing than vengeance. We are called to forgive as we have been forgiven (Ephesians 4:32), continually moving forward, and wishing no harm on others. If we have made that mistake, we should seek repentance and accept the grace given to each of us by Christ.

The road to laying down the burden of deep wounds might seem long and difficult. It may be hard to imagine finally letting go of something that has weighed you down for so long. But Christ longs to exchange our burdens for freedom. He wants to help us step out of the dark and bring healing to our heart.

Christ has so much more to offer us than the bricks we carry.

Yet You Are Holy [Guest Post]

I met Courtney when we were young girls, both a part of the homeschool community in our area. It is such a blessing to see what the Lord is doing in her life, and I’m excited to introduce you to her! You can find her blog at The Caroline Farmhouse.
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I was raised in a Christian home. My parents taught me to have a reverence and love for God, and faith is something that comes somewhat naturally to me.

I don’t need to know the “why” for everything. I don’t have all of the answers and that’s okay with me. I trust God’s nature and His goodness.

That being said, I know that that is not the case for everybody and that each of us have been given unique personalities and quirks. We all enjoy different things and have different strengths. Some of us want to know all of the answers because they matter to us.

My husband is one of those people. If it doesn’t add up, he’s not a fan. That’s why he’s such a good engineer (ha).

But even with my personality, I have had my doubts. In times of trial and suffering, I find that these questions of “Why God?” start making their way to the surface.

One of the biggest trials of my life came when I was 20 weeks pregnant with my son, Elijah.

It was meant to be such a joyous day.

My husband, my younger sister and my 9 month old son, Rhett, and I sat in the doctor’s office, eagerly waiting for my name to be called. Today was the day we would find out the gender of the baby. We had all “placed our bets” and we couldn’t wait to see if we were right! I was hoping for another boy, Chris and Carley felt like it was a girl. Rhett was clueless and just wanted to eat whatever he could find on the waiting room floor.

As the technician ran the wand across my belly and all kinds of unfamiliar shapes danced across the screen, we held our breath in anticipation.

“It’s a boy!”

We were all so excited and knew his name already. Elijah. Chris and I looked at each other, eyes welled up with joyful tears. We were so grateful.

The doctor came in to go over the ultrasound pictures with us, and that’s when she told us she was slightly concerned. She pointed to pockets of fluid in my placenta and wanted me to come back the next day for a more in depth ultrasound.

Nothing could have prepared me for what was to come.

The next day, as the doctor and technician went over the ultrasound with us, she told me that my son was not going to live. He had a 1% chance of survival and she said she was honestly surprised he was alive at this point.

I instantly burst into tears.

I had just watched his heartbeat on the screen and saw his movement and felt his kicks. He was going to die?!

She continued speaking.

“I am mainly concerned for your health though.” She told me I had what was called a partial molar pregnancy and that I was at risk for seizures and strokes, blindness, and ultimately death. She said the symptoms could come at any moment and without much notice.

She told me I had cancer in my placenta and the longer I carried Eli it would spread to my liver, lungs, and brain.

She recommended an immediate termination of the pregnancy and for me to start chemotherapy as soon as possible.

The heaviness in that tiny room cannot be described. Chris and I were shattered. It was a serious decision, and one that we didn’t take lightly. We chose life for our son. We wanted him to have a shot at life, and we knew God held his little life in His hands. It was not in our power to end his life, we trusted God to know how long Eli and I should live.

It was in the hours after our diagnosis, as we met with genetic counselors, had tons of blood work done, and were left sitting in a cold, sterile patient room, that my heart began to doubt.

The next morning as I woke up and realized this was not a bad dream but our reality, I remember sobbing in our bed. All of my plans were shattered. I wanted Rhett to have a brother to play with. I had already pictured them wrestling and playing together. I had already washed and folded newborn clothes, awaiting Eli’s arrival. I loved this child. I loved him so much. I didn’t want him to die. I wanted to hold him.

I didn’t want to die. I wanted to be present for Rhett’s first birthday…for his graduation…for his wedding. I wanted to grow old with the love of my life, whom I had only been married to for a year and a half. Our lives had just started!

My feelings towards God were a mixture of anger and intense grief. “Why? Why did this have to happen?!” my soul whispered over and over.

I knew that He was in charge. I knew that He could make this all go away. That this didn’t have to be a part of His plan. And yet it was happening and I was powerless to change it.

Why? Lord, why?

In the past I had always felt like being angry at the Lord or questioning His will was sinful. Good Christians believe and trust, right? Good Christians weather the storms, knowing that God intends only good for His children.

And yet here I was, raw before my Heavenly Father, wondering why He was letting this all happen. I didn’t feel like a victim, I just felt let down. I knew the Christian life wasn’t meant to be one of ease and prosperity. I knew we were called to suffer. But this just felt over the top.

I decided to be honest with the Lord about how I was feeling. I asked my “why” questions. I told Him that I was angry and confused. I wrestled with Him. I sobbed when the words wouldn’t come.

And I found peace. Even if for a moment.

These were daily, sometimes hourly, conversations about my doubts. I would read His word, cry out to him in prayer, and feel peace. Then we’d do it all over again.

I felt like for the first time I could relate to David in Psalm 22:

“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning. O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; and by night but I have no rest.

Yet You are holy…”

I love that so many of David’s psalms are words of pain and doubt mingled with what he knows the be true of God. So I decided to follow his example.

I would be honest with the Lord about how I was feeling, but not leave it there. I would repeat what I knew was true. Even when my heart wasn’t sure if I could believe it in that moment.

“You are good and do good…” (Ps. 119:68)

“The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds.” (Ps. 145:17)

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11)

“…yet You are holy…”

Personally going through a season of doubt like this made me realize how isolating it can feel. The word “doubt” sometimes feels taboo in Christian circles.

What if we as Christians didn’t shy away from the questions? From the doubts? We tend to draw lines in the sand whenever bad things happen to us or people we love.

“A loving God would never let this happen.”

“How can God be good when there is so much suffering in the world?”

“I could never follow a God who would let innocent people die.”

It either has to be all good and go our way, or we call it quits.

But what if instead we wrestle through these hard things? We tell God exactly what we are feeling – the good, the bad, and the ugly. And talk it out with Him.

Let it all out. Hold nothing back. He knows the deepest, darkest thoughts of our heart anyway. We aren’t going to shock Him, right?

Then, when we have spoken our peace, go back to the truth of His word. State the facts about God. Remind ourselves that He is the only good, pure, and holy thing in this world.

We are the sinners. Our very breath is all grace upon grace. We made this world wicked and cruel. We chose this over God in the garden of Eden.

Yet He is good. He made a way for us to have fellowship with Him through Christ His Son. He. Is. Good.

Let us run into Him when the storm comes. Let us not bristle against Him when we feel the sting of sickness, grief, and death.

Don’t walk this alone. Talk to someone, whether it be a pastor or a friend, and don’t keep it inside.

And if you know someone who is walking through a season of doubt, don’t gasp at their questions. Let them know that they aren’t weird or sacrilegious for having doubts. You don’t have to have the answers for them. It’s okay to say “I don’t know.” Just let them share and be honest about what they’re going through. Having a listening ear in a time like this is so beneficial, and so rare.

We need to change the conversation about doubt, and realize that yes, God is good and does good. But that doesn’t mean that sometimes we aren’t confused by the ways in which He brings that about.

It’s Okay to Be Disappointed on Valentine’s Day

…May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God. – Ephesians 3:17-19

This is my Valentine’s Day prayer for all of us.

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It’s okay to struggle through this holiday.

It’s okay to feel like you’re out of place.

It’s okay to be a little disappointed.

It’s okay to have hopes and desires.

And it’s okay to find that another year has gone by without the love you’ve been waiting for. Despair is not the end of the story.

The disappointment is not wrong. God is not upset with you. I know without a doubt that He does not want His love to be second-best in your life. But He knows and sees and understands the longings in your heart, and He wants to shape them into Christ-honoring desires.

Still, He wants those desires to be second to the desire for more of Him.

So as we stumble through Valentine’s Day a little lonely and a little unsure of where we’re supposed to be —

Don’t let your past haunt you. Don’t let your future scare you.

Christ loves us so much that He has set a plan in motion specifically for your good. He WILL redeem your past and He WILL make sure your future goes exactly as planned. Nothing can interfere. He has you here, in this place, for a specific reason. It isn’t a punishment or the result of your mistakes. He is bigger than the wrongs you’ve done. Even though there are consequences for our actions, there is also grace. We don’t deserve it, but He wants to give it to us. There is nothing we can do to thwart the plan that is unfolding in our life.

So move forward in freedom, precious one.

God is merciful, and there is a reason why these desires did not come to fruition before now, and there is a reason if He does not place them in your hands until much later in the future.

There is grace and mercy and beauty and lavishness even when He chooses never to give us these things.

It will not be because you aren’t good enough. It will not be because your past is too messy. It will not be because no one could ever love you. That is the enemy talking. We may not fully understand why God does not always allow us to have things we want, but we can know without a doubt that He is good and He gives us good things.

You are not defined by your season in life or your circumstances. He has marvelous things planned specifically for you. They’re not only on their way, some things are already here. Today is here and it was always part of the plan. He will be faithful to continue what He started.

Don’t give up. Keep trusting in His love. Keep searching for it, finding it, and believing it.

The Lord Will Fight For You [Two Years Later]

Two years ago today, I hung up the phone after talking to a friend about the many thoughts and feelings running through my mind. A couple months before, the Lord put on my heart that He would be taking me on a journey to do something new in my life. I thought I knew what that meant. But just as I stepped out in faith, it led to closed doors.

I was hurt, but I couldn’t deny the glimmer of excitement in my heart. Because I knew He was up to something I just couldn’t yet see.

So I dusted off my blog and began writing again. I never really stopped, but I had just allowed myself to become so busy that I mostly only wrote for myself, and very little ever made it to my blog. But my heart overflowed – with simultaneous excitement and confusion about where He would lead – and once words hit the page, I knew I wanted to share what the Lord was doing in my life and my heart.

Minutes after I hung up the phone, a song came on the radio. I had never heard it before, and I’ve never heard it since. To Those Who Wait by Bethany Dillon. I looked it up and played it over and over on my phone. Now, looking back, the words were prophetic in preparing me for what was ahead.

I had no idea four months later I would get sick. I had no idea ten months later I would be waiting to hear that I did not have a tumor. I had no idea thirteen months later I would need surgery.

I had no idea He would take the words I wrote down as I processed it all and He would carry them to new places.

I had no idea I would need to be reminded over and over that the Lord was fighting for me in my waiting to see what He was doing.

I had no idea stepping out would lead to disappointment, and it would also be the beginning of something new.

I had no idea that despite the bruises and the wounds which were coming, the fear and the struggling, He would come closer and give me more of Himself.

I had no idea THIS was the journey. But I’m really thankful it’s what He had in mind, and my ideas were not His plans.

Two years ago I wrote a post about Exodus 14:14 right after that conversation with my friend, and I wanted to share it with you today. To remind us that He is working; that He is fighting for us; that in the waiting, He will accomplish exactly what He set out to do in our lives.

Whatever journey you are on, the Lord is near. He isn’t finished yet. And He is fighting these battles for you.
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This morning I stumbled upon one of my favorite verses while I was reading through the story of Moses, when he brought the people of Israel out of Egypt. As they were fleeing, Pharaoh was right behind them, coming after them.  The Israelites must have felt like their situation was turning into a disaster; they were probably scared and confused. God had promised to rescue them, but here they were, surely about to be killed.

And you know what they said? It would’ve been better to have stayed in Egypt.

In those moments of terror, their enslavement sounded better than following the Lord’s plan. Because the Lord’s plan was scary.

How many times must I have had this same mentality? How many times have I been on the path the Lord was directing me towards, talking back to Him to say it would have been better to go a different direction?

Sometimes we feel trapped. We’re stuck in the middle of waiting for something to change – lost in a cloud of uncertainty, unable to get away when we see trouble looming – and we’re surrounded by all the things that hurt us most. We want to escape and go anywhere but here.

When life gets complicated, when it doesn’t turn out the way I expect, my mind immediately goes to all the other possibilities of what could have happened if I had taken a different direction. I think it would have been better to do this or that, because anything would be better than where I am now.

But what I cannot see is the road ahead. I can’t see the end result. I have to wait to find out what the Lord is doing, because He’s the only one who knows where He’s taking me. He knows best and His ways are good – even when the waiting looks like impending doom.

It will feel scary, it will be uncomfortable, it will seem like the world is about to end right in front of me while there will not be a thing I can do about it. It will be in the moments where I feel like I cannot move that I will start to look around for a way out. It will be in my helplessness that I will wish I had turned around. It will be in the panic and chaos where I will say, surely I should have stayed where I was and not have followed You into this place.

Yet, He will remind me exactly what Moses reminded the people of Israel:  The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still (Exodus 14:14).

When the road ahead looks frightening, He will fight for me. When I’m waiting, wondering where we’re going, He will fight for me. When I want to go back, He will fight for me. When fear and insecurity threaten to take over, He will fight for me. When the world comes knocking at my door with their insults and their weapons, meant to do me harm and to crush my heart, He will fight for meI only need to be still – to know that He is God and He will defend me.

He will hear me when I call and He will not need to come to my rescue because He will already be there by my side. He desires good for me. He desires His best for me. But He cannot bring me to that place until I surrender myself to the journey. I must take His hand and follow the sound of His voice, even when I can’t see, and even still when what I do see makes me want to run the other direction.

Because when He is with me, nothing can harm me. Nothing can get in the way of His perfect plan for my life.

If only we could trust in those moments instead of turning the other way.

The magnificent thing about grace is that even when we try to run the other direction, He still turns us back around. I wonder how many times I’ve almost ruined what He wanted to do in my life by trying to go a different direction. But He will have none of that. Even in my stubbornness and fear, He calls me gently in the way I should go. Because He knows better than I, and He will have His way. I’m so thankful He will have His way. I know He is up to something and it makes me want to get up and try again.

So I’ll put one foot in front of the other.
Knowing nothing will happen unless it is His will.
Trusting He is fighting the battles I can’t even see.
Making the way clear an inch at a time.
And walking with me every step of the way.

Moving Beyond Regret

It was 5 AM. I had been awake all night.

There’s something about a quiet, dark room. It makes all of the thoughts inside your head unbearably loud.

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It was a sinking feeling; the type of feeling that causes you to believe you made the biggest mistake of your life and there was no going back.

The thing about regret is, once unleashed inside your mind, it seems impossible to push it back. There is no more little voice in the back of your mind lingering only when you find yourself unoccupied. It’s now in the forefront, blaring and blazing across your eyes to remind you of what was once in front of you and what you didn’t do. I tossed and turned, whispering the words, is there any hope? There didn’t seem to be. I felt destined to a life of “what if” and “what could have been.”

I couldn’t help but feel like I had really messed up. I lost something very important to me and I was sure it was my own fault.

It had been years, but it never got any easier. The feelings of regret kept accumulating.

Whispers in the dark turned into bold prayers. How many times had I asked God to fix it? More than I can count. I knew the only reason why I felt the way I did was because the door had closed and my greatest hope was that it’d someday open again. Those were the feelings I thought needed to be taken away. Surely if I could move forward, this hurt would melt away. But somehow weeks turned into months, months turned into years, and I couldn’t change. Regret only grew the harder I tried to let it go.

Perhaps I had prayed for the wrong thing all those years.

I was trying so hard to just make the whole mess go away. I thought I could close my eyes, pray a few words, and wake up the next morning like the past had only been a dream. I wanted Him to take care of this my way, on my time. Instead of handing my mess back to God and seeing what He would do, my heart broke every day He didn’t change everything to the way I wanted it to be. I thought I had caused destruction beyond repair.

The beautiful thing about grace is that we can mess up over and over again, but it doesn’t mean we miss out on God’s blessings. Yes, there are consequences we must face for our actions when we go against Him. We have to take responsibility and seek to remedy wrongs we’ve done. But God does not withhold good things from us as punishment when we mess up or foolishly try to do things on our own. I had been trying so hard to get it right, trying to fix what I thought I had surely damaged, not realizing God can work in spite of me and my mistakes.

He will not let us miss out on His best.

Christ came to give me a life of freedom by His grace alone, not when I seem to get it “right” or when I try to clean up my own messes. He has given me freewill, yet He still directs my path and holds it all in His hands. He works all things together for good; even my mistakes. He has great things planned for you and me, and thankfully, He longs to give us His blessings as we walk with Him, and even still when we stumble off the path. He’s there to pick us up and place us back by His side.

Slowly my prayers turned into a cry for transformation – for God to work in me and through the circumstances, not magically take them away.

It took a while for me to realize that even if a closed door came from something I did or didn’t do, God still has the power to redeem the situation and turn it any direction He wants. If it stays closed, it’s because that was His plan. If it opens again, it’s only because of His grace and sovereignty. He has called me to surrender this illusion of control and these feelings of blame to instead allow Him to work. I know nothing is impossible for Him.

So even though I sometimes feel helpless, I will remember He is powerful, and He can allow peace to enter my restless heart whether or not something changes. No matter what, God is still the same. His plan for my life has not changed, and I continually submit to where He takes me. He has not called me to a life of regret, but one in the assurance of His footsteps. His plan and His timing is perfect, and I will choose to accept this as His will for my life.

Being in this place is not a mistake.

The Enemy Wants to Break You with Disappointment

Going into this year, I had planned to put the topic of waiting aside for a while. From my perspective, most of the things that had been weighing on my heart for the last couple of years had reached a dead end – for now, at least. I was ready to get down to business of wading through disappointment while cultivating new dreams. I know the Lord’s plans are good, and if they don’t include placing in my hands things I thought He would, I know what He will give me is exactly what I need.

But something keeps pulling on my heart. I’m beginning to wonder if I was a little premature in declaring this a season of disappointment and a year of embracing the emptiness these hands feel.

Look again.

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I’m not sure if this is temptation lurking, enticing my attention so I can be hurled back into the confusion. Surely the only thing looking back would accomplish is putting a megaphone to that little voice in the back of my head that says, “Look at what you wanted, and look at what God didn’t do for you.” That’s not His voice. I only want to hear His, not the voice of the enemy.

Still, what if this is a call to look back and see things I had refused to acknowledge before? To see ways He worked and things He provided; prayers He answered that I maybe didn’t even realize my heart was whispering?

I’m not quite ready to look back. But I can work my way there. And maybe He’s beginning to provide the assurance I need to grow confidence to pick up these broken pieces and see how they are being made whole right in front of me. He will redeem.

So I take a few glances. What I see is slowly softening my heart. Doors were opened. Provision was given. There was strength and courage to walk through situations I never thought I could. Protection was granted. Hope was planted. Dreams have and are unfolding, even if they don’t look exactly like I thought they would. I’ve stared at these full hands and declared them empty, only because they’re not full of the things that I want at this very moment.

But that’s how Satan works. He twists our perspective so we cannot see the blessings. He wants us to see barrenness where there is abundance.

Abundance of grace. Abundance of goodness. Abundance of unshakable promises.

And my heart still wants to scream, But if not, He is still good! at the sight of waiting, because I’m really just afraid of disappointment. I want to prepare my heart for it so it won’t hurt as much when it inevitably comes. I expect it. I think He gives this in plenty, and convince myself He’s stingy with the stuff that I think will make me happy.

Satan says, “Look at these unanswered prayers. Look at these blurry promises. Look at these disappointments. Look at these empty hands that will never hold anything more than thorns and broken things. Look at these things and just try to keep going with all those breaks of the heart that are surely still up ahead.”

The enemy wants you to believe you can’t do it. He wants you to believe there is nothing beautiful waiting for you up ahead. He wants to break you.

God’s voice says, “I’m not finished yet.

This is something I think we both need to hear: Sometimes the story does end in tragedy. Sometimes there are things we cannot explain. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes we will have unfulfilled hopes. Sometimes the thing we want more than anything else will never happen. Nothing on this earth is guaranteed.

But what is guaranteed is this brokenness will not last forever. At times I wonder how anyone could still have hope and joy when their circumstance on earth appears to be nothing but suffering.

That’s where I have found the promises I continually cling to.

Nothing on this earth, joy or suffering, could ever compare to what’s still ahead. Not what is ahead on this earth, but our glorious hope for eternity, where we will be reunited with Christ. It is assured. Every longing from this earth will cease and we will not have to keep running from the nightmare of disappointment.

No more longing to escape fear. No more longing to grasp temporary things. No more longing and failing to let go of things we do not need. No more longing to run away from the pain. No more longing for unrealized desires. No more longing to mend a broken heart.

We will be made whole. And all our desires will fade away into the reality of completeness we will find in the presence of our Savior.

I speak this over my heart again and again. These longings may be strong now, the disappointment of never having them may be overwhelming, but it is not the end of the story.

And I think we both need to hear this, too –

The Lord does not want you to live in disappointment. That doesn’t mean He doesn’t want us to feel sorrow and hurt and all the flood of emotions we feel. He just doesn’t want us to be controlled by them, or allow them to inform our view of Him. He wants us to live in joy and confidence that His plans are good. They are so good that they are beyond our comprehension. We literally could not wrap our mind around them even if we tried. They may not always feel good in the moment, but He is always working everything together for our ultimate good.

He cares about the desires of our heart. Our requests do reach His ears. And He may give many of these things to us. I find we often are quick to label something as a lost cause because we’re really just impatient and frustrated He isn’t working within our ideal timeframe. But even more than He wants to give us good earthly things, He wants to give us Himself. He wants us to desire His dreams for our life.

What do I want in this life? My dreams are to serve the Lord – and, in the future, I really hope marriage, family, adoption, ministry work, and a few books on the shelf with my name on the byline are part of that plan. These are my long-term desires. There are some other things I’ve been processing over the last few years, too. And as I make that list, I’m also tempted to quickly declare if not, He is still good.

It’s true. He is. But instead of being quick to make this declaration, maybe my heart is being drawn to remember that He has not yet finished what He started. Just because it is not here now, it does not mean His will not give later.

I’m going to stick my neck out here for a moment.

Whatever you’re waiting for, please don’t give up. Please do not be quick to declare emptiness when the answers to our prayers may be growing under the surface, where we cannot see, taking root in a foundation that cannot be thwarted by anything of this world.

Freshly planted seeds may seem like barrenness. But they are full of promise of abundance, when it is the Lord who will allow them to grow and flourish.

I don’t know if He really will fulfill all the dreams on your heart. But isn’t the risk of disappointment worth the chance to say I believed, I held firm, and He was and is and always will be faithful?

We can say that whether or not those dreams are fulfilled. But what keeps me up at night is the overwhelming excitement over the thought of having the opportunity to declare on this earth that He did what felt to me like the impossible. I want to be able to say faith became sight here and now, not just when I get to Heaven. I want to be able to stand in front of the world years from now and say, look at what He did when all hope seemed lost!

Still, impatience gets the better of me and I want to see it now and have it now and know now for sure that He will give me these things. But I’m not meant to know right now. The thing about faith is that sight makes it pointless. We have to have a moment of not seeing in front of us what we believe is to come, in order to cultivate the faith to which we’ve been called. Anyone can believe after they’ve seen. Faith is precious. Take hold of it. Grow it. Cling to it.

There are only two months left until a final verdict is declared on how well the surgery resolved this year and a half long struggle. After ten months, all hope seems lost to me. But time has not run out. He can do more in these two months than I could ever do in a hundred. He isn’t finished yet.

I think I’ll always wrestle with this struggle of waiting and hope, and both real and perceived disappointment. I know I won’t figure it out. In the meantime, I will remember that our hope in Christ is real and eternal. Disappointment is temporary. And everything is ultimately designed to draw us back to the promises He has given us in His Word, which can never be shaken. They will never lead to disappointment – that is for sure.

It was on its way, it came, and it is enough. [End of the Year 2016]

My theme for last year was “it is on its way,” based on Habakkuk. As I entered 2016, the Lord had prompted my heart to believe He would work in many of the things that were undone – things I had been called to step into in faith the year before.

end-of-year

I’ve written a lot about hope, faith, and trust this year. I’ve talked about waiting and believing God would finish the things He has started in my life. I’ve felt the anxiousness of nothing seemingly moving and I’ve surrendered all these things before Him countless times.

I stopped expecting He would resolve everything this year. I knew He would not work on my timetable. That resolve also led to more hope. The more time still left on the clock, the more opportunity for Him to work and do really big things.

But what I didn’t expect was that He would resolve most of the things that had been left hanging in my life over the last couple of years.

It is on its way.

Apparently, it really was.

And it brought me to a place of disappointment.

Rejection, “no”, closed doors, death, loss, and a whole lot of adjusting.

Many of these things I was forced into. But some of it was my choice to step out of the boat, believing somehow God would use it for good.

I cannot deny that the Lord has done many good and wonderful things this year. But can I just be honest for a moment and say 2016 was really hard? And I wouldn’t want to repeat it? And I’m ready to be rid of it?

There have been many times where I just wanted to hide away and spend endless hours with my journal, deciphering all the disappointment.

Still, I wanted to show up because I wanted to believe He wasn’t finished yet. I wanted to believe He would still come in at the last minute to save the day and turn it all around.

But some of these things have reached their end. It’s time to put them away and move on.

I’m coming up on a year post-surgery and I’m mostly the same as nine months ago. The difference is that my doctors have been able to piece some things together to help alleviate symptoms so I can function more normally. But they’re non-permanent solutions to what now appears to be a persistent problem, and we’ll have to continue to be innovative in navigating this new normal I’ve been so afraid of. It’s not that the surgery didn’t work, it just didn’t do all that we hoped it would. It will prevent future problems, and it did eliminate some of the current problems, but not all of them.

I’ve been rereading my journal entries from over a year ago, when God seemed to speak so clearly and told me this would only be temporary. I would be better, “in time,” is all He said.

There are other things now finding closure in disappointment, too; but this has been on the forefront of my heart lately.

So I’m trying to figure out where that leaves me – when God says He will do something and now somehow it seems He probably won’t. I know I likely won’t ever understand how He works or why things sometimes turn out this way.

We can approach it logically and say some of the things He says might not mean what we think it means. We may misinterpret His voice. We might not understand what He’s really trying to say. We could just not be in a position to see how He really did fulfill or resolve it.

But I cannot pretend I did not believe with 100% confidence He would do certain things in my life, and now those doors seem to be closed.

And that makes me feel a little lost. It makes me question some of the decisions I’ve made or the moves I’ve taken. I wonder if I’ve made wrong choices all long because I’ve worked from the perspective some things would happen that now will not.

At the same time, though, I have to remind myself I have not lost anything.

From here, there are only two options: Either the Lord will place something in my hands so much better than what I thought He would before, or He will still work in these situations. He is not limited by the days on the calendar, and time never runs out until He says it’s the end. He isn’t finished yet. He will redeem.

He does not leave us empty-handed.

When we have nothing else tangible to be placed in our hands at this moment, He fills our hands with more of Himself.

And that is enough.

So this will be my theme and prayer for 2017…

What He has given me is enough.

What He hasn’t given me is nothing I need.

If all He gives me is more of Himself and not anything else, it will be more than enough.

It is enough.

One popular verse often misinterpreted is Philippians 4:13, when Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Many people quote this verse when they’re trying to do something that feels impossible, or they’re expecting God to give them something.

But in the previous verse, Paul talks about cultivating contentment in all situations – whether in want or in plenty. He knew he could, no matter his circumstances, because Christ gave him strength.

All of this made me think of that passage.

This cannot be about an expectation for something more. It’s about trusting that even though my hands feel empty in this place, He will help me do this.

He will help me live out this path He has put me on.

I have to believe Christ will give me the strength to keep moving forward. He will continue to provide everything I need. He will work in all the decisions I’ve made to ultimately make them what He wants them to be. He will continue pointing me in the direction of His good gifts, even if I cannot see them yet or I cannot identify them in this moment.

The journey won’t be easy. But He has placed me here and I believe it is good – it is good now and it will lead to good.

It will be enough.