On Valentine’s Day, we received news that the mission agency we’ve been in the application process with for the past three years denied our acceptance due to my current health situation. This was definitely one of the top three most disappointing moments in the life of our marriage. The sinking sensation that accompanied the news was the same sort of feeling we experienced when we found out we would likely never have biological children and then a year later when the phone call came telling us our attempted domestic adoption fell through due to the birth mother changing her mind. Karate kick. In the gut.The past two months of sorting through this realization has been perplexing for us, to say the least. We never had a “Plan B” when it came to our career path as a couple. For the past 13 years, living overseas in order to share the Gospel with the unreached is all my husband or I have ever wanted to do with our lives. Over a decade of preparation, schooling, and plans seemed to crash into a wall of a million whys during those early weeks of coming to grips with the reality that our lives and ministries will be looking vastly different than we ever imagined.
I think what has been the hardest thing about this disappointment is the long-term reality of my health situation. I know I’m not in a good place right now, and we are beginning to realize that it’s really not wise to consider moving overseas with any agency or company until I can get to a place where I’m able to consistently manage my pain. We have spent the past year begging the Lord for healing so that we can pursue career missions. I have been anointed with oil, and prayed over by our pastors. Countless friends and family have stood beside us to pray for healing in order that we may be sent out to areas where there is little Gospel witness. I’ve tried multiple traditional and non-traditional methods to attack my condition from all angles. We know God can heal and does heal but right now He has chosen not to for some profound reason. He may heal me tomorrow. Or He may never. The reality that our long-term missions plans is taking a turn in a different direction has been a painful shift in our thinking.
God is kind to have given us time in the school of disappointment prior to this news. Memories have flooded me over the past two months back to lessons formerly learned. I can remember the spring of 2009 driving home from Nashville sobbing beside my hubby with an empty car seat safely secured behind us as we grieved our failed adoption. After breaking down the nursery and attempting to return the baby items we had purchased for the little guy we thought we were bringing home, we had to get away. Like, far away where our cell phones didn’t have reception. So we did what any sensible person would do in such situations and ran for the border- to Canada :) Standing on the “Maid in the Midst” boat underneath the roar of Niagara Falls, God did something profound in my heart in the midst of that deep pain and disappointment. He spoke peace, and comfort, and assurance from
Psalm 93:3-4:“The seas have lifted up, O LORD, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea- the LORD on high is mighty.”
And as I have remembered that time, I am reminded that once again God on high is mightier than this current storm in our souls and that He is with us. He is walking beside us in our disappointment with a comfort and peace that surpasses understanding.
Another glimpse into past lessons learned reminds me that through the disappointment of infertility God did something far more beautiful in the life of our family than I could ever have dreamed. Adoption wasn’t plan “B” for us. It was... always... in the heart of God. His good and perfect plan for our family. As I contemplate that, I’m reminded that this current loss of a career missions dream is no different. This wasn’t plan “B” for us. He is sovereignly working out something beautiful for our future that we just can’t understand right now just as He worked infertility for our good by allowing us to adopt our two beautiful children from Ethiopia.
Ihave to confess the past two months have been pretty up and down emotionally. One day we’re thrilled for what God has next and excited to see what doors He opens up. The next moment, we are so deeply saddened and burdened to not be able to be on the front lines of ministry that we just want to cry. Other days there’s just numbness to the whole thing and a desire to just block out the pain and not even think about it. There is a proper time to grieve, and to be sad over lost dreams. We don’t have to walk around with a stiff upper lip to the sorrows that beset us in life. We can pour out our hearts to God and others by keeping it real. And He promises to comfort. And then- you gotta move on. To a place where you live out hope on the steadfast promises of God even when your circumstances confound you.
My heart WANTS to hold to His promises when my emotions and the world and Satan tell me to despair. I long to fight the fears that lie ahead and the doubts inside that say nothing good can come from this. I want to be steadfast in hope in the midst of disappointment even when my weepy heart just wants to eat chocolate and wallow in sadness. God is not ripping us off. So when I get those feelings, Lord, help me to remember....
#1-God is good. He is absolutely, unequivocally working on behalf of the good of His children. ALWAYS.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
#2- God is wise. He sees the end from the beginning and there is no telling what He is protecting us (and you!) from when he says “no” to the things we so deeply desire.
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” Romans 11:33
#3- God is sovereign. He gives, and He takes away. He opens the womb and He closes it. He appoints men to ministry positions and He denies them. He opens doors for jobs and He shuts them. He sustains life and He takes it. He lets adoptions go through and He allows others to fail. And all of this stems from His amazing love for us.
“John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.” John 3:27
#4- God is our Redeemer. When we look at Scripture and the ways He has on countless occasions turned painful situations for the good of His children (ie: Abraham, Joseph, Daniel, Moses, Paul), how can we not trust He will do likewise in our own lives? Our little Ethiopian miracles remind me everyday that He is a redeeming God. I don’t understand how He’s going to work my physical trials and our loss of dreams for our good but I’m banking my hope that He will redeem this sorrow because He says He will.
“O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” Psalm 130:7-8
#5- God is our Refiner. He loves us too much to leave us as we are. He knows exactly what it will take to bring His children to deeper places of trust and reliance on Him. He uses all of our disappointments in life to bring out what is truly deep in our hearts. The good, the bad, and the ugly. He wants to purify us, and our holiness is His pursuit far above our physical happiness.
“Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.” Hebrews 12:10
#6- Christ is our identity. On days when my body aches and I physically can’t do all that I long to, this truth brings me so much hope. I could never do enough good to outweigh my bad. Never. I was a slave to sin and separated from God because of my rebellion. Christ took all of my sin and shame on the cross, so that I can have a right relationship with Him forever. So that I can love Him and commune with Him, and be near Him for all eternity. My identity is not in the titles I do or do not hold such as “mother”, “wife”, “missionary”, or “teacher” but in my ultimate standing as “child of God”!
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” 1 John 3:1
#7- God is our hope. I’m sure this will not be the last time in life that we will walk through seasons of grief and disappointment. If all of our hope was placed on our dreams we would be sorely disappointed. Over, and over again. Material possessions, and plans, and dreams cannot be the source of our joy, satisfaction, and trust. Our relationship with Christ and the knowledge of His true and steadfast character is THE only thing in this fallen world that will give us lasting hope. All other cisterns will run dry and disappoint.
“O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.” Psalm 130:7
Thank you Lord that you indeed are a good, wise, sovereign, redeeming, refining God of hope in whom we can place all of our trust. Thank you that indeed goodness and mercy are following us as your children all the days of our lives even when our circumstances confound us (Psalm 23:6). Thank you that though we walk dimly here on earth in the midst of a thousand perplexing “whys” you will one day make all wrong right and reveal to us your infinite wisdom in how you shaped our circumstances to protect us and to make us more like You. Thank you that you are a good God; worthy of our trust and of our very lives. Help us to honor you in this new season of change, Lord and to bank all of our hopes on You.