A few weeks ago I wrote a post about being surprised when God’s goodness shows up in our lives. This post was about a relatively small matter…a stolen check that was miraculously found and returned to the bank.
Over the past few weeks this idea of expectation, desire and disappointment has become a running theme in my life. Sometimes I think God uses ‘small matters’ like the check to plant seeds in our hearts that are eventually nurtured and grown when big matters come along.
Since writing the post about the check and God’s goodness, two significant disappointments have been leveled at my husband and me. Two things we hoped for, wanted, desired, two things that seemed sure, and real, and true, were taken from us.
I know we’re not alone. Every day someone is always losing something. We lose jobs, homes, health, fortunes, marriage vows, babies and loved ones.
And we gain things too. We gain weight, debt, addictions, diseases, stress, burdens and piles of empty treasures.
When life doesn’t turn out the way I thought it would. When big disappointments happen. When dreams vanish, hope is deferred and desire is left unfulfilled, I always experience a temptation to doubt God’s goodness, a tendency to guard my heart and protect it from pain.
There are verses in scripture that tell us to guard our hearts, and I know many people think it is okay, and right, and wise to guard our hearts from pain. But the more I experience desire and disappointment, the more I find God telling me to do just the opposite.
Instead of guarding my heart, He tells me to embrace my desires. He tells me to embrace the pain. He tells me to embrace Him.
Believe me, this is NOT what I want to do when something I hoped for, prayed for, believed in, is gone. In that moment when I’m on my knees fighting hard to believe God still exists, let alone believe I can trust Him, it doesn’t feel right, or good, or logical to leave my broken heart open, exposed.
But for there to be life? For there to be hope and deep, deep healing, I’m convinced this is the only way.
In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis there is a story about a boy named Eustace who is transformed into a dragon. Towards the end of the story Aslan finds Eustace and frees him from his dragon body by painfully removing his scales.
Coming face to face with our desires, bringing them before God and trusting Him with our hearts is a lot like this process. It’s an incredibly vulnerable act. It hurts in our deepest places. It strips away everything we’ve used to hide and protect ourselves from hurt until all we have left is who we are, what we love, and a God who promises life.
And though it doesn’t always seem so, or feel so, in this process there is freedom. Though we’re vulnerable, and aching, and teeming with longing, we are free from our striving to make life happen. We are free from our constant attempts to do this, or be that, or figure this out. We are free from the running, the hiding, and the exhausting work of building walls that block out pain but kill our hearts.
Instead of trying (and failing) to be everyone and do everything, we are free to be who we are.
Instead of figuring everything out, we are free to figure God in.
Instead of running and hiding from pain, we are free to run and hide in Him.
Because that’s what the temptation to doubt God and the tendency to guard our hearts is really all about. I see that now. It’s about trusting in that thing I desire more than I trust in God. It’s about trusting my abilities, my resources, my plans, my timing, my feelings and never really trusting Him.
It’s the difference between relying on myself and relying on Him. It is the choice to handle life on my own, to shut out desire, to avoid pain or let the desire and the pain lead me closer to Him so that He alone is life.
“I do not fear what my future holds. I can’t. I can’t spend the energy anticipating the next horrible event. I am choosing to anticipate the next great provision, whatever provision that may be. I am choosing to believe that no matter what, even if God calls me home tonight in my sleep, He never stepped off His throne. He simply brought me closer to it.” (Grace for the Good Girl, pg 201)
In the midst of my recent disappointment this is what God is teaching me, and this is what I’m learning to do.
Does it still hurt? Absolutely. Like scales pulled from flesh.
Am I still waiting? You bet. And I might be waiting a while.
But I don’t have to hurt and I don’t have to wait by myself. All I really have to do is keep being me, desire and all, and let God keep being God.
There is no guarantee that the things I desire will be fulfilled the way I want. But there is a guarantee that I will never be alone, my needs will be met in abundance, and I will always be loved.
And just like that check that mysteriously appeared when all hope seemed lost, this is truth I can take to the bank.
Truth you can bank your life on.