“This isn’t the life I planned on.” A lament uttered by a friend recently. Truth be told, it’s a thought that almost all of us have had at some point. And it surprises us, puzzles us. Leaves us wondering, “how did I get here?”.
Youth tends to see the world definitively, in shades of black and white. Youth is certain that life will unfold a certain way, that dreams will unfold in a particular timing, that things will be as they are expected to be. It’s the hopeful and passionate launching ground from which we set out in life. And there is great comfort in believing that there is a straight and linear march toward our hearts’ desires. But life isn’t straight and the paths before us often appear more like tangled knots and Rubik’s cubes. Even more astonishing, we find along the way that perhaps we don’t know ourselves as well as we thought, both for better and worse.
So what do we do when we find our souls in this lament? When the marriage we longed for never appeared, or did appear but has now ended in painful divorce. When finances fail, jobs are ripped out from under us, health is assaulted, relationships fracture, infertility strikes, abuse occurs.
The answer is not one simple thing, but rather a collection of necessary responses on our part.
1. Grieving what has not yet been (and perhaps will never be). This may mean facing a legitimate sense of regret and loss.
2. Grieving what has occurred that was outside what we had hoped for our lives. This too may involve regret over our part in choices/behavior that have derailed or detoured us from the truth of our hearts and the best for our lives.
3. Finding comfort in God’s ability and intention to turn “all things for good for those who love Him and who are called according to His purposes”. Trust the great Redeemer, the powerful Restorer who delights in healing what is broken and who will direct our steps back toward health and wholeness.
Allow that our “broken road” may actually have been designed, at least in part, by God. Please hear clearly that I am NOT saying that God authors disaster or heartbreak or that He approved awful things that may have happened to you or those you love. I am, however, saying that we often lack clarity about what we need and about the process of growing into maturity of character and identity. God sometimes leads us a different way than what we anticipated, or even wanted. But He does it FOR OUR GOOD. Always, for our good, for our welfare, and not our calamity.
Ultimately, these things must lead to a basic bottom line. We must come to a place where we know Father so well that we are able to trust that He is good and He is for us. We must trust that He is able, and perhaps more importantly, willing, to throw the force of Heaven into action on our behalf.