By Dena Johnson Martin, Crosswalk.com
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13
Have you ever been in a season of life where things just didn’t seem to be going the way you expected? A season where all of your hopes and dreams just seemed to crumble? A season where it seems as if someone came along and scrambled all the puzzle pieces of your life after years of painstakingly piecing them together?
I know I have been there. I had always imagined growing old with my first husband, the two of us sitting on the front porch of our home reflecting on our lives of ministry and raising kids. Never did I dream I would have a twenty-year period of my life where the one person who knew everything about that time frame was no longer in my life, let alone no longer living. Never did I imagine I would be starting over with a new husband, creating a new family.
When Roy and I got married two years ago, we set about building a family of seven, blending two very different families into one big family. When we began this journey, we never imagined it looking anything like it does today. After a long two years, we find ourselves a family of five instead of seven. Without going into details, I will just say that Roy’s children are not involved with us. Our blended family is more a situation of me and my kids blending Roy into our lives—which has been easy and a blessing.
But I know for Roy, this unexpected situation brings with it a tremendous amount of heartache and sadness and pain.
So the question becomes how do we accept what is instead of dwelling on what we thought and expected would be? How do we find joy and peace and contentment when our hearts ache for what we dreamed of?
Roy is simply amazing. He chooses to simply accept and move forward, trusting God in the midst of his pain. He chooses not to dwell on what he expected and instead to focus on the blessings of today. I also know in the midst of this strength, there’s a lot of pain, that as good as he is at moving forward in spite of the unexpected, he still carries so many unanswered questions and heartache.
As I thought about our circumstances and prayed for his children today, I began to wonder how we accept what is instead of dwelling on what we expected to be, how we move forward instead of sinking in a swamp of despair.
Know that God Cares about Your Pain
Do you remember when Lazarus died? Mary and Martha were devastated that Jesus didn’t come when they called for Him, when they told Him His dear friend Lazarus was sick. They didn’t understand why He delayed His coming until after Lazarus died. They were trying to accept what was instead of what they thought would be.
What did Jesus do? He wept (John 11:35). Why did He cry? I believe it was—at least in part—to remind Mary and Martha that He loved them, that He hurt when they hurt. And I believe He still weeps with us today when our lives are shattered. He didn’t want us to live in a broken world; He created a perfect world until Adam and Eve allowed sin to enter in, allowing heartache and pain to be ushered into our lives.
When we experience heartache and pain, be assured that God is with you, near the broken-hearted (Psalm 34:18), weeping with you over your heartache and pain.
Remember God is Still Good
When life doesn’t go our way, it’s easy to forget God is good. In our humanity, we wonder where He is, why He is allowing this pain in our lives. We doubt His goodness, knowing He has the ability to change our circumstances and yet He has chosen to allow us to suffer heartache and pain.
But it is true that God is good…all the time. He’s not just good when life is going well and things are falling into place. He is good even when our lives are crumbling around us. He is good when we are hurting from betrayal and disappointment. He is good when our loved ones are suffering. He is truly good all the time.
How do I know He is always good? Because it’s his character, it’s who He is. He is always working for our good (Romans 8:28) even when we experience this fallen world in which we live.
Believe God Loves You More than You Know
I know you hear it all the time, but it is true that God loves you. God loves me. He loves us more than we could ever understand.
Sometimes it doesn’t seem like God loves us when we feel our prayers have gone unanswered…or even that God does the exact opposite of what we asked. But His love is far greater than we will ever know! He will stop at nothing to reach you, to pull you back into His loving embrace. He will never stop fighting for you, for your love and affection, to show you how much you are loved.
God tells us we are His chosen possession, His royal priesthood, His adopted children. He tells us we can never understand how wide and high and deep is the love of Christ Jesus. He tells us that He has plans for us that He laid out from the beginning of time.
Galatians 5 tells us the works of the flesh include an impotence to love and be loved (The Message). If we are walking in the flesh, following our own selfish desires, we will never be able to experience the love of God in our lives. We will never have the power to truly love or be loved. At some point, we have to accept the love of God. We have to surrender our hurts and our pains, let go and trust God to use them in our lives. We have to choose to let God love us as only He can.
Ask for God’s Perspective
Whatever the bad thing is happening to you today, it’s not what God wants for you. But because we live in a fallen world, we experience the pain and devastation of life. None of us is immune.
God promises that He will work all things together for our good (Romans 8:28). Is it good when our children walk away? When our loved one dies suddenly? When we suffer excruciating pain and loss? No, it’s not good. God never said all the things would be good, but He promised to bring good through the pain.
My divorce was not good, but God has used it to give me the opportunity to minister to people around the globe. Roy losing his relationship with his children is not good, but he sees the beauty that God placed three children desperate for a dad in his life. My daughter’s epilepsy diagnosis is not good, but she has allowed God to use it to draw her closer to Him.
There’s so much hurt and pain in this life, but God promises to bring beauty out of our brokenness when we trust Him, when we let Him have His way in our lives. As hard as it is, we have to step back and believe that even in the silence, God is at work in the background, working to make beauty out of the ashes. We have to ask Him to change our perspectives, to see life through His eyes, to help us see the good things all around us.
And as we accept God for who He is, believe He is working for our good, we begin to find the contentment and peace that Paul talked about. We learn to be content in all situations, whether we have plenty or are in need, whether life is going the way we expected or if it is crumbling before us.
We learn to accept what is instead of dwelling on what we expected.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/KatarzynaBialasiewicz