Twenty-six years ago, I found myself in the ER with a ruptured appendix, which is scary in and of itself. But what was more alarming was that the ER doctor didn’t know that my appendix had ruptured. He wanted to send me home. He didn’t know why I was screaming in pain (even speculated that I was hiding a secret pregnancy). When my primary-care doctor said, “No, keep her,” the surgeon on call–one of the best in the city–took a scalpel to me, unsure of what he’d find. The last few years have brought more health issues regarding various organs and hormones and numerous doctors (with few answers) and I often wonder who knows what’s going on besides God.
Sometimes our tests and research don’t yield the definitive answers we’d hoped for. After all, so many variables play with the outcome. So many other people and circumstances and unknowns remind us that we are finite in our understanding and frail in our scope of vision.
Sometimes our disappointments make us question the presence of good in the world. What is going on and why is this happening? I have friends right now dealing with anxiety and depression, a suicidal child, an alcoholic husband, a broken marriage, an unforgiving heart, a lost dream, a frustrated job, a physically-handicapped child… and the heartache goes on and on.
Sometimes we don’t have answers for the brokenness of our world. We know that sin exists and our human frailty and finite understanding reminds us that we won’t “get it” this side of Heaven, but we were made for something better, something whole and beautiful.
“Humans are very attached to outcomes. We say we trust God but behind the scenes we work our fingers to the bone and our emotions into a tangled fray trying to control our outcomes. We praise God when our normal looks like what we thought it would. We question God when it doesn’t. And walk away from Him when we have a sinking suspicion that God is the one who set fire to the hope that was holding us together. ..These seasons of suffering are not for nothing. They will grow you. They will shape you. They will soften you. They will allow you to experience God’s comfort and compassion. But you will find life-giving purpose and meaning when you allow God to take your painful experiences and comfort others. You will be able to share a unique hope because you know exactly what it feels like to be them.” Lysa Terkeurst, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way
What if our human failings, our disappointments, and our dashed dreams are not detours but divine opportunities to reroute us to God’s heart?
Imagine if we were never disappointed in this world and its promises? Imagine if our children were perfect? Our health never declined? Our jobs always fulfilled and our possessions never faded? Imagine if our friendships met every need? Imagine if this world between gardens was idyllic? Would we see the destruction at the end? Would we see the hollowness of our idols? Would we understand our fate and desperate need for a Savior? Would we long for something–and Someone–more? Probably not.
Sometimes the American Dream, the privilege and comfort of this country, is not the blessing we think it is.
Year after year, we see the millionaire celebrity lose himself in drug abuse and isolation. We see the acclaimed athlete’s body break down. We see the successful actor commit suicide. We scratch our heads and ask, “How could that happen? He had it all.” Did he?
When you get to the end of the rainbow and realize how tarnished the pot of gold is, you have two options: to look elsewhere (to the True Source of joy and hope and fulfillment) or to despair that all the idols have toppled and there’s nothing left but hopelessness.
Jesus told us this world’s walk would not be easy: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). But peace is still possible IN HIM. Keeping Christ ever before us and our eternal vision in sight, hope and perspective overcome the momentary suffering of this life. (2 Cor. 4:17). We have HOPE in HIM.
“The human heart was created in the context of the perfection of the garden of Eden. But we don’t live there now.
This is why our instincts keep firing off the lie that perfection is possible. We have pictures of perfection etched into the very DNA of our souls.
We chase it. We angle our cameras trying to catch it. We take twenty shots hoping to find it. And then even our good photos have to be color corrected, filtered, and cropped.
We do our very best to make others think this posted picture is the real deal. But we all know the truth. We all see the charade. We all know the emperor is naked. But there we are, clapping on the sidelines, following along, playing the game. Trying to believe that maybe, just maybe, if we get close to something that looks like perfection it will help us snag a little of its shine for ourselves.
But we know even the shiniest of things is headed in the direction of becoming dull. New will always eventually become old. Followers unfollow. People who lift us up will let us down. The most tightly knit aspects of life snag, unravel, and disintegrate before our very eyes.
And we are epically disappointed.
But we aren’t talking about it.” Lysa Terkeurst, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way, Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered