Sometimes Completeness Looks Like Suffering

I’ve been waiting 365 days for today.

I’ve also been dreading it.

It has officially been one year since I had surgery to address the mysterious internal bleeding that started almost a year before. The doctors said it would take one year for my body to adjust to the changes, which would hopefully eliminate my symptoms. I had hoped to have a great story about how #MLgetswell is finally a reality today, but that’s not exactly how it turned out.

I am better than I was. And the surgery was “successful” in that it eliminated the possibility for future, more serious problems. It’s just that my body is having trouble adjusting. Going into it, my doctor prepared me for the possibility that I wouldn’t ever fully adjust. And that creates more things I have to keep track of, more shuffling of priorities, and more figuring out how to manage it all without allowing anything to fall to the ground. If it does, I get a brutal reminder of what life was like pre-surgery – and that I’m still not better yet.

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It’s disappointing that there’s a significant gap between where I am now and where I hoped I would be. I remember surgery day like it were yesterday, and I remember thinking how the long year would surely go by quickly and as I waited to be “normal” again. I pictured this day. But it doesn’t look anything like I thought it would.

I’ve been thinking a lot about James 1 and Romans 5 the last few weeks as I’ve been both anticipating and dreading today. I love reading these passages together. James reminds us that suffering has its purpose – to make us mature, complete, and not lacking in anything.

Not lacking in anything. That’s a huge, yet ambiguous, promise. It draws me right to Romans, as Paul defines what it means through describing what suffering produces.

Perseverance.

Character.

Hope.

Or, from the other perspective, if we were to never experience suffering, we would be lacking – lacking perseverance, character, and a deeper capacity to hope in the promises for what is so much better and greater than what we see. The pain we feel from being a part of this world is a startling indication that we were created for more.

This persevering, building character, clinging to hope is a cycle we move through continuously. In this life, we’ll never arrive to a place where we can say we’ve totally achieved the goal.  Instead, when the challenges crash over us like waves, we re-learn all over again what it takes to put one foot in front of the other. We learn to persevere. We re-learn what it looks like to allow our perspective to be informed by what we truly believe. Do we trust that God is enough? Do we trust that He knows best? Do we trust that He has a plan, even for this? We build our identity – our character – around Truth. And as we stand affirmed in His goodness, we cling to hope. But not just any hope. Assured hope. Hope that does not disappoint.

The last 21 months have been full of so much hoping, which has mostly been met by disappointment. Almost every day I’ve woken up thinking THIS would be the day it would all just go away. But that day never came. Maybe it will later. Maybe it won’t.

Still, this hope will not disappoint.

The hope in earthly healing will likely lead to disappoint. Our bodies are broken, and even if we find temporary healing, we have no guarantee of health on this earth. Even still, we so often hold onto promises we were never given and believe God will always give the things we have declared “good.” But we forget everything outside of Christ, even things that seem good, are not guaranteed. If they are given to us, they are given for a time, for a purpose. Only our hope in Christ is promised to not run out and disappoint, because it is eternal. Nothing will thwart His faithfulness.

He is faithful, even when we’re not.

It’s an important reminder. Our past disappointments seem to continually open the door for fear to creep into our outlook on the future. We can somehow be more eager to invalidate hope than keep hope in the perspective of eternal versus temporary. It’s an inadvertent attempt to disprove His faithfulness with our list of things He didn’t do, justifying our efforts to try to take control.

We’ve been hurt in the past. And, sometimes, it’s easier to not expect anything than to be forced to reconcile the sting of unfulfilled hopes and faith that seems to be met with silence.  But the greatest tragedy is when our hearts turn cold, saying that He surely will not ever come through because He chose something different than what we wanted for ourselves.

Different doesn’t mean we have been forgotten.

Different means we have been chosen. We have been chosen by God. He sees us, knows us, and desires nothing but good for us. He knows the greatest good can only be achieved through knowing Him more. And He does not want us to lack anything that He wants to give us – for our good.

I’m still learning to keep that temporary hope second to hope in Christ and the promise of complete and unending healing in the future. But I do know there’s a reason why I’m in this place, even if I cannot figure it out. These trials, the disappointments, are not in vain.

If I’m ever given the choice, of choosing the easy path over the one that will give abundantly the things that matter, so that I’m not lacking in any good thing the Lord desires to cultivate in my life, I hope I’ll always hold out my hands to receive instead of closing them in stubbornness and pride. Too often I think I know best, when I really have no idea the great things He has planned. If there’s more of Him to seek, more of His blessings to be given, and more of His plan to experience, I don’t want to reject it for temporary and fleeting things.

I don’t want to reach the end of my life and see that I missed it; missed the opportunity to go where He led, be what He called me to be, do what He wanted me to do, and know Him like He wanted me to.

I want to fall to me knees, hold out my hands, and ask Him to make complete what I lack.

What Is Love?

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What is love? Keeping God’s commandments.

All around us we are bombarded with messages from the world about how we should love others, as people who follow Christ. Their voices have become overwhelming, and we’ve lost sight of turning to the true authority. We’ve sought the world’s approval by following their call to conformity.

But this love does not satisfy. It leads to emptiness. It carries us to destruction. The Lord is the only one who has given us the perfect example in Himself of what it means to love.

Christ teaches us to love by loving us perfectly. And, because He loves, He calls us out of the comfortableness of sin to draw us closer to Himself. He sets our world on fire, burning away everything that is not of Him, so that only He remains. He sees us where we are, but He never approves of the ways we have clung to this world. His call is radical: leave behind our old selves, follow Him, and be transformed.

In this, we’ve also been given an invitation not just to follow, but to love God. How do we, as imperfect people, go deeper than gratitude to truly love? Christ told us that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments.

1 John 5 explains it in an undeniable way. To love God means to follow His commandments, which are designed for our good. But it does not stop there. If we love God’s children, we will follow His commandments. We are able to show love to our brothers and sisters in Christ by pursuing how God has called us to live, and spurring each other on to do the same. Not only this, but it is how we will KNOW, how we show the world, that we truly love those around us. It perfectly mirror’s Christ’s love for us: drawing us away from our old selves so that we can be transformed through Christ.

If we want to love others well, we must love God and follow His commandments – no matter how uncomfortable, inconvenient, or counter-cultural it may be.

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.