Have you ever had the thought, “What if this is the way things will always be?”
So often, especially when we find ourselves in a season of waiting, we start to think things will never change. Like a week of rain and gray skies causes us to forget how a clear, sunny day feels on our skin. Like the way fog settled in over Mount Rushmore just before my friends and I arrived, made us wonder if the carved rock faces actually existed behind all those clouds. Obstructed or incomplete views have a way of causing us to doubt that the picture will ever be whole.
Misplaced hope keeps us thinking that things won’t be better until our circumstances change. Discouragement, if left unchecked, can lead to a paralysis – an inability to look up from the ground we are staring at as we walk. And when we lose both hope and the ability to think about more than what’s directly in front of us, we might think the story is over.
I remember exactly where I was when I saw the Facebook Messenger notification.
Eric and I had just landed in Seattle after leaving Juneau early in the morning, on our way home from the Cru Summer Mission we were staffing this past summer. I was waiting with our luggage outside the bathrooms and checking my phone after having it turned off for the flight. I was startled to see a message notification from an elementary and junior high classmate whom I had not spoken to probably since 2003 or 2004. Moreover, we weren’t necessarily good friends. In a small school, you were “friends” with everyone, but this friendship involved a lot of turmoil and hurt.
Any time I share my story with new friends or with college students, a prominent area in my life where I explain God’s hand at work is my struggle with healthy friendships in my growing up years. I felt very lonely in junior high and high school (due to many circumstances, not just this one relationship), and some dramatic seasons in our junior high class of 20 or so students led to personal struggles with insecurity for the next several years. However, I also share in my story that God used these times of isolation to draw me closer to Him. I felt like I couldn’t depend on the people around me, but I learned that God was constant and loving and faithful. He helped me to develop an identity apart from people, and I learned to fight the thoughts of insecurity. My parents prayed with me all through high school that God would prepare good, spiritually-encouraging friends in college, and He blessed me in incredible ways in this area once I stepped foot onto the University of Arkansas campus.
However, the story is never over.
This friend was contacting me to apologize – something I never would have expected. She shared with me how God had worked in her life over the past several years and how He had kept me on her heart and she felt like she needed to ask for my forgiveness. She worried that she would be opening old wounds by contacting me, but really felt like she needed to reach out to me.
My breath caught in my throat as I read her words. What kind of amazing maturity and life change does it take for someone to apologize almost 15 years later?!
God had worked in me years beforehand to help me let go of the pain and use the story for His glory, to connect to other women who also struggle with friendships and letting go of hurt, so I shared with her how God had used the situation in my own life for development and in others’ lives for His glory. I also apologized for ways I most likely handled it the wrong way, letting jealousy get the best of me — and just like that, I had a new friend.
Now, I have a new facet of my story to share with others: God is always at work in the redemption process.
We can’t always see what is going on in the other side of the story. God was reaching this friend in one way with her bullying and He was reaching me in another way with my insecurity – and, honestly, He was pruning out some self-righteousness as well. He was at work in both of us – but we weren’t at a place to see that yet. Now, though, we both have the joy of seeing a new perspective in God’s faithfulness to use our mistakes for good.
Let this encourage you, friend: Your story isn’t over yet.
Whether you are wrestling with pain from someone close to you, or recovering from the death of a loved one, or walking through discouraging job situation, or waiting for God’s provision in a spouse or a baby – this isn’t the way things will always be.
Not that you will get exactly what you want. Not that life circumstances will change to line up with our plans. But our hope is not in the change in our circumstances but in God’s faithfulness to continually redeem this broken world for His purposes. We can trust that even after 15 years, He can bring clarity to the story and He can open up new understandings in which our only response is to fall at His feet and praise Him for how good He is.
He is still changing you and me, and often His method is to use our life circumstances to refine us. Psalm 66:10-12 says,
For You, God, tested us; You refined us as silver is refined. You lured us into a trap; You placed burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but You brought us out to abundance.
He is at work to bring us into the abundance we experience when our hope is fulfilled in Him. He is perfecting us through each situation (James 1:2-4), and even when it feels like we don’t know where He is or how He could be present in the situation, “He knows the way that I take; when He has tried me, I shall come out as gold” (Job 23:10).
Wherever you are today, don’t give up. Your story isn’t over yet.