marriage letters: the fear of becoming bored

Dear Eric,

I went to bed early last night with a regular headache, and I woke up a little before 1 a.m. with the worst sharp headache that I have ever had. I stumbled into the kitchen to take a couple of Tylenol, and by the time I came back to bed, my head was throbbing.

You woke up and asked if everything was okay, and for the next 30-45 minutes you sat straight up in bed, stroked my hairline, and prayed over me as I tried to fall back asleep. Thankfully, the pain began to come and go, then eventually subsided to a normal headache as I fell back asleep. I don’t remember you laying back down, so I know you were awake longer than I was, praying over me and, I’m sure, trying to not worry.

It was one of the most tender moments in our almost six years of marriage, the way you cared for me and prayed for me. Did you know that, in the midst of miserable middle of the night pain, I fell in love with you a little more?

I used to worry that, if infertility lasted too long, we might get bored. Stagnant.

Not that I wouldn’t still love you, or that we wouldn’t be best friends, but that our marriage would not move forward to the next stage. That we would feel stale together. Every other marriage I observed and many of the couples we talked to described how their relationship changed when they had kids. It pushed them to learn so much more about God and themselves, and I guess I began to see that as the only way to learn those things.

In the past 6-8 months, though, I have started to experience the Lord pushing us to grow and changing us, even without the added factor of kids. Not just because we have had a lot going on in our lives, still adjusting to our move last summer and changes in seasons of work, but because I see that God is changing both of us.

If sanctification is a life-long process, I am realizing that means that we will always be changing, if we are individually walking with the Lord and allowing his Spirit to work in our lives. As we both wrestle with sin in our lives, as we continually allow our minds to be renewed and our lives to be transformed, as we take steps of faith and find ourselves in new circumstances–we will each grow. And we are growing even now as we trust God with where he has us today as well as where he will take us tomorrow.

Keeping our marriage healthy takes so much intentionality. It always has–even in the beginning, it required work on our part. But I think the reason it can almost feel harder now is it’s easier to co-exist without thinking about it, since we know each other so well. We aren’t still learning some of those everyday things that we learned our first few years married: what will unconsciously hurt the other person’s feelings, how to handle conflict, the best way to discuss finances, the need to communicate expectations. Not that we perfectly follow those now, but I typically know why what I said upset you or when to wait on bringing up a to-do list.

Yet I know that I don’t know everything about you–or, at least, I know I should never think that I do. I want to be a student of Eric Barnes. I want to see you as someone who is ever-changing and maturing, and it’s my privilege to walk alongside you and affirm you and call out the growth you may not see in yourself.

IMG_8997

The other night, we sat together in front of our fire pit in the backyard watching flames flicker and dance. In the quiet of the night, I prayed that God would help me to know you more deeply, to take the time to ask those intentional questions and to make space for us to engage each others’ hearts.

I’m excited for this season of our marriage as we continue to grow individually and together, no matter what changes (or lack of changes) are prompting that growth.

You’re my favorite.

Love, me.

 

I started writing marriage letters a couple of years ago to participate with a monthly blog series Amber Haines prompted others to join in with her. Writing these letters spoke affirmation into my marriage, and my prayer is that by still writing them and sharing them every so often, I will also encourage others to pursue intentionality and affirmation in their own marriages.

Advertisements

why I stopped asking why

I’ve stopped asking why.

I used to cling to purpose, to reasons, to analysis and determination that I would do all I was supposed to during an unexpected season that I saw as a detour I simply needed to get around. I was strategic and open to hearing from the Lord but also determined to figure out the why on my own.

But life rarely goes the way we expect it to. After a job loss we weren’t prepared for then numerous job changes for both me and Eric, after a planned move to Louisville for seminary that never happened, after support raising and the decision to end support raising and the 3.5 year job that he never wanted to last more than a year and a move to my hometown and house buying attempts that fell through and both of us struggling to find boundaries with work and another deferred seminary enrollment, not to mention 2.5 years of infertility (and continuing)–I’ve learned that there’s not always a clear why, at least not one that I should be building my life upon.

I still want the why. I would love for God to give me a tangible answer: “This is what you are supposed to do since you don’t have kids yet.” I wanted the why throughout all of the unexpected twists and turns in our journey. If I could just know what I need to learn or how I should spend my time, I could perhaps be more content with my detour, right? I could refocus my eyes from where I wanted to be to what I need to do so that I can eventually get where I want to be.

But I can also see how I am looking to a tangible purpose to be an identity or a task to conquer so that I can move forward in my life. I find myself looking for that reason instead of looking for God in the middle of the dark.

I’ve been reading W. Philip Keller’s A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, and through the course of the book my view of God and his care for us has been expanded by recognizing the helplessness and the stupidity of sheep. The humbling descriptions of how sheep act and the attention they require has made me realize the depth of my need for God.

As Keller comments on each part of Psalm 23 and how it relates to his past experience with sheep-herding, I was struck by his description of “He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” He discusses the need for a shepherd to keep his sheep on the move, preventing their wearing out the same paths, both for the sake of the land and the sake of the sheep’s health. Keller then discusses how followers of Christ, instead of trying to make their own paths and go their own way, can move forward onto new ground with God.

Instead of finding fault with life and always asking “Why?” I am willing to accept every circumstance of life in an attitude of gratitude.

Human beings, being what they are, somehow feel entitled to question the reasons for everything that happens to them. In many instances life itself becomes a continuous criticism and dissection of one’s circumstances and acquaintances.

I’ve been pondering how that attitude of gratitude would change my daily life, how I might be able to rest in that perspective instead of the exhausting pursuit of a knowable reason for everything. While I do believe that God has a purpose for each part of our lives, a tapestry woven together to make us more like him and to bring glory to his name, I no longer think it’s my objective to discover the why for every single thing.

In fact, His Word tells us that his ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). We won’t always understand what He is doing, at least not in the moment or perhaps even in our lifetime. When Job asked God what fault he found with him (Job 31), God’s response was not to give an explanation, but to give Job a bigger view of Himself (Job 38-41). Job’s then admits, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Job 42:2-3).

We are but sheep. Our job is not to be the shepherd, or even the Shepherd’s assistant, but to follow the Shepherd where He leads us, trusting His knowledge and His plotted out paths for our nourishment.

But if one really believes his affairs are in God’s hands, every event, no matter whether joyous or tragic, will be taken as part of God’s plan. To know beyond doubt that He does all for our welfare is to be led into a wide area of peace and quietness and strength for every situation. –Keller

He might choose to give us a clear purpose, calling us to something specific or creating circumstances that allow for focused growth. But even if He doesn’t, He is a good shepherd (John 10). As I find rest in who He is, I am less dependent on knowing a reason why and instead seeking to know Him. I am building my life upon Him, as He is the greatest purpose in any season I encounter.

How to Really Rejoice with Those Who Rejoice

I was in a bad mood. I knew it, and I knew why. But instead of dealing with it the way I knew I should (probably going on a walk and listening to a podcast, or journaling and praying to process my feelings), I grouchily laid on the couch, sighed, and pulled out my phone.

I knew better.

We’ve probably almost all been there–scrolling through social media feeds, feeling more discouraged and left out with each swipe, knowing that this addiction to see the next entry is harmful to our hearts yet being unable to put the device down.

And of course, the source of my pain, the thing I was trying to forget, was everywhere my fingers were tapping.

((Click to continue reading over at Upwrite Magazine))

what the dark develops

Spring weather has been in Arkansas for a while now, as our winter was extremely mild and I’ve been wearing short sleeves since February. However, it’s been in the past few weeks that the world has turned lush and green. Trees branches blow slow motion in the wind, heavy with their leaves, and grass is demanding that it be mowed once a week or it threatens to take over the house.

We’ve also seen a lot of rain. And not just rain, but downpours. Flash flood warnings and constantly muddy dog paws and mulch-washing-away type of rain. And while this means that many days are dark skies and puddle-soaked feet, it has also resulted in that abundance of growth and new life.

The contrast of the water-heavy clouds and the verdant fields has been a poignant spiritual picture as I have considered what it means to live in this broken and beautiful world. God uses those clouds hiding the sun to bring up new life, and he has been reminding my heart that he uses the darker seasons to develop new life in my soul.

There’s always a contrasting shade present in our sunny world, a dark shadow to remind us that sin taints it all. And I believe that, when we recognize the disappointments and unmet desires instead of hiding or trying to “get over” them, we become more aware of our spiritual reality. In this way, infertility has been a sanctifying grace in my life.

Infertility has helped me more fully understand the Christian life, here on this earth and the hope we have for the future.

Romans 8:18-25 dives into a comparison of present sufferings and future glory–or, rather, it says they aren’t even worth being compared. Paul acknowledges the frustration that creation experiences, and even more so ourselves, in the waiting for the coming redemption. The relief from bondage is not something that can be achieved by us; it’s based on the coming of Christ.

As Paul personifies creation as being subjected to futility, commentators Sanday and Headlam note that this description “is appropriately used of the disappointing character of present existence, which nowhere reaches the perfection of which it is capable.” Commentator Everett F. Harrison says that the creation is “being pictured as not willingly enduring the subjection yet having hope for something better, i.e., liberation from its ‘bondage to decay.’”

The fact that we experience grief and loss is an affirmation of this idea that life is not “reaching the perfection of which it is capable.” There’s something in us that seems to say, This just doesn’t seem right. Shouldn’t there be something better? With infertility specifically, I see that my body isn’t working the way it was designed to. For friends in the wait for adoption, it doesn’t make sense that something so needed, something good, something that paints such a unique picture of our relationship with God, can be a heart-breaking, difficult, unending process. Any who have experienced miscarriage or infant loss understand that something is terribly, terribly wrong with the way things unfolded.

Suffering affects us all in different ways, none worth comparing with another to see which is worse. Pain is pain, no matter your circumstances, and for each person, it’s an evidence that we live in a fallen world.

In this passage, Paul personifies this suffering, this futility in our world, as a woman in labor, which evokes a depth to the suffering. The beauty of this metaphor is that the pain and the groaning are producing something that will be worth it. The pain is inescapable, but the expectation of what’s coming is the motivation for the woman in labor to not give up–and this then produces hope in the midst of despair.

“For in this hope we were saved. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:24-25)

“As [Paul] sees the dark tunnel of death ahead of him, he is confident that beyond it the road leads on to his destination, though it remains unseen.” –Everett F. Harrison

This passage in Romans connects to Paul’s message in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, which also echoes that the present sufferings are not able to be compared to an “eternal weight of glory.”

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

In regard to this passage, commentator Murray J. Harris states, “Matching the progressive weakening of [Paul’s] physical powers was the daily renewal of his spiritual powers. It was as though the more he expended himself for the gospel’s sake, the greater his spiritual resilience.”

Infertility has brought a new dimension to my relationship with God. The longer I walk through it, the deeper my dependence on God. Intimacy has formed when things are hard, and my need for hope is even more evident when things feel like they are falling apart.

This ongoing struggle has become a “normal” in my life. Some days this means that it’s hard to think about hope, and it seems like it will never end. But other days, it means that I have settled into a rest despite uncertainty, a confidence that this broken world is not all there is. My eyes are more quick to fix on a coming redemption, a hope for a Savior who will make all things right.

Because we have struggled to start a family, I have a deeper understanding of the tension we all live in, of expectation, of the already and the not yet, of God’s presence with us but not in its fullest form. I am continually reminded of my need for God in a situation I can’t control and must trust to his hand. And I am forced to set my hope in him as I wait with patience for the fulfillment not just of my desires, but of the whole world’s groaning.

As Mother’s Day approaches, for those with a similar story, or as you consider any holiday or mark in time that reminds you of your own loss, I pray that you will find rest in his sovereignty and comfort in his presence, even in the midst of suffering–trusting that your suffering is producing a hope toward eternity. May you more deeply understand the spiritual reality we live in as you walk through a beautifully broken world.

Last year, I wrote a piece entitled “When Mother’s Day Is Painful,” and I would love for you to share it with anyone you know who might be anticipating next Sunday with a little bit of hesitation or hurt. 

the head and the heart of reading the Bible

I’ve been a Christian for the majority of my life. I was the kid who “prayed the prayer” at six, was baptized at seven, participated in every VBS and summer camp, memorized Scripture through Awanas, and devoured her Bible classes at her Christian school.

I love to learn, so studying the Bible comes somewhat easily for me. If I am not careful, though, the academic side of my faith overshadows the personal relationship. I can spend an hour in the morning drawing conclusions as I connect different passages and recognize God’s consistent character throughout Scripture. I can even conclude what these words should look like lived out in real life, and I can communicate that to someone else. However, when it comes to my heart, there is at times a disconnect. My head might be full, but my heart is in pain, and for some reason, knowing the truth has not always brought healing and joy when I know that it should.

I want to be satisfied in the Lord. I want his Word to be my delight, my refuge, my joy–not simply another textbook that I can quote and discuss. I want the perspective that David has in Psalm 119. And trials have been the unorthodox classroom in which I have learned how to change this academic perspective on the Bible into a personal one.

While there have been many moments I have told God that I wouldn’t have chosen to be where he has me, the past few weeks have perhaps been the most difficult, at least in a long time. Nothing particularly new or devastating––it’s simply the weight of everything catching up with me. Yet as I process through what’s in front of me, I keep coming back Scripture as my only sure footing when all else feels shaky.

There are three things I have specifically learned to help me not just know the truth of the Bible in my head, but absorb it into my life and my circumstances, and I have seen that I need these truths not only when I am walking through a trial, but every day as I open this Book.

  1. The Word sustains you when you read it for yourself, not for teaching it to others.

I typically find myself with this ulterior reading motive when I want to have some truth about my current struggle. If someone asks me how I am doing, I want to be able to say something spiritual and profound. While I will encounter truth as I read the Bible, because every word is God-breathed, I don’t necessarily encounter the truth the Spirit is wanting to speak to me, the truth that he knows I need to hear and understand. I shut the book once I find something, anything, and maybe miss out on something deeper and richer.

Apart from trials, this can also be an ongoing challenge when you work in ministry or lead small groups or mentor younger believers. I certainly experience this working in college ministry. I want to be prepared to pour out as well as to share personal stories of what God is teaching me, but sometimes I get caught up in trying to figure out what I can share, and I miss out on the personal relationship and the prayer as I reduce my reading to some sort of spiritual lesson.

You can’t read the Bible simply for what it will allow you to share with someone else. Your perspective when you sit down to read the Word should begin with asking the Holy Spirit to remove distractions and premeditations so that you can come in with a humble and willing heart to hear what he has to say to you.

  1. The Word satisfies you when you aren’t looking for answers or yourself, but when you are looking for God.

We too often look for what Scripture says about us–who we are, how we should live, what decision we should make (or how we should go about making the decision). We open our Bibles almost selfishly: Okay, God, what do you have to teach me now?

This is easily one of the major reasons people stop reading the Word­­–they say that it doesn’t seem to help. As if its purpose is to give us that perfect quote so that all of life makes sense and we can live happily ever after.

The Bible is about God, from start to finish. When he talks about us, he is talking about the people he created to fulfill his purpose of his glory. Yes, we are fearfully and wonderfully made, but he is the Creator who made us fearfully and wonderfully.

I have this tendency to go to the Word looking for a quick fix. I want that perfect verse that makes me feel better or takes away all of my doubts. I open my Bible looking for what it has to offer me, and very rarely is there this magical moment where a verse is leaping off the page telling me that everything is going to be alright.

If we approach Scripture just looking to find ourselves and find what it means for our lives, without spending time to first identify who God is, we are never going to be satisfied. Our satisfaction is found in who he is, his constant character, no matter what is going on in our circumstances. If you can recognize what’s true about his character in the pages of the Bible, you can know who he is in the daily moments of your life.

  1. The Word nourishes you when you allow it to occupy more than just that first little bit of your day.

Eugene Petersen talks about how we should “Eat this book. Not merely Read your Bible but Eat this book.” Think on it, absorb it, meditate, memorize, keep bringing it back to your focus. Many of us are prone to just snack on it in the morning and hope it keeps us going throughout the day.

Petersen goes on to write, “Eating a book takes it all in, assimilating it into the tissues of our lives. Readers become what they read. If Holy Scripture is to be something other than mere gossip about God, it must be internalized.”

I need to be memorizing and meditating. We don’t eat one small meal at the beginning of the day and expect it to last us 24 hours. And when we exercise, we actually need to eat more. Trials are like exercising–we need to take in more fuel than usual.

 

Going back to walking through trials–my heart is beginning to agree along with my head that he is enough. He satisfies me. He is my joy.

As I eat this book, I see this more and more. David found satisfaction in God, even in pain or loneliness or confusion. Paul saw God as worth more than all of the hardship and surrender he was facing. Prophets like Jeremiah and Hosea were willing to face continual rejection as they faithfully followed God’s call. Habakkuk found himself rejoicing even when all else in life was uncertain and falling apart.

The process of accepting and absorbing this is ongoing, but my personal prayers are beginning to align with Psalm 119:28, 37, 50: “My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.” May we find life in God’s words, even when (especially when) our day to day feels like it is draining life from us.

what love looks like for us these days

The first time I said, “I love you,” the words felt foreign on my lips.

Eric had just asked me to marry him while we were standing on the overlook of Yellow Rock Trail at sunset. Candles flickered in Mason jars and my shirt clung to my skin in the sticky July air as I clung to the man putting a ring on my finger.

Even as I said those words, the moment felt surreal. While I had known for several months that I loved Eric, we had decided to wait to say that phrase until we were engaged. Of course, he had come up with other sneaky ways of expressing his affection for me. We must have watched the Princess Bride together (I don’t quite remember), but at some point he started responding to me with the phrase As you wish.

As we started planning a wedding and saying those words more often, it almost felt like some sort of made-up language. I knew that love was more than a strong attraction or a sexual desire. I was pretty sure part of love was the promise to stick by each other no matter what, but for as often as I said it, I didn’t fully grasp what it meant.

After five years of marriage–which has included job losses, single income seasons, support raising, two house purchases, rotten jobs, moving to a new city, and infertility–I now more confidently know what love is.

I might venture to say that even after just the past year, my understanding of love has deepened. We know that love is patient, kind, and unselfish. It is not proud or rude or a competitive scorekeeper. But what does that look like played out in everyday life?

As I looked across the table at Eric last night over dinner, my heart melted. It’s been seven years since we first met, and I still find him so handsome and attractive. However, the sensation under my skin was prompted by more than just his appearance. I had this rare instant of a flooding back of all that we have been through together over the past year. The test results, the interviews, the decision to move, the house selling and house hunting and house buying, the new friends, the doctor appointments, the financial uncertainty, the adjusting to newness–it all combined into this deep exhale in recognition of the life we have made together.

And, in that moment, I knew that our love for each other is stronger than it has ever been, because we now know how to love not just in a mental and emotional state, but as a way of life.

Love is choosing to listen and encourage, even when the complaining words coming out of someone’s mouth are the exact same words they have been saying for the past three weeks–or months.

Love is allowing yourself to be a mess in front of someone else, finding that they, too, are a mess; there’s no pressure to get it together and get over it.

Love is the ability to simply know what someone is thinking in a moment, because you have walked through pain together often enough to know each others’ triggers and hurts and needs.

Love is choosing to ask the questions that you know will be answered with what you don’t want to hear, but asking them anyway because the other person needs to feel known.

Love is holding hands and not phones, making the conscious decision to take a break from the influence of the world and focus on the person in front of you.

Love is being willing to walk away from something you treasure because you treasure that person more than your own personal gain.

Love is recognizing that despite the uncertainty of the future, you are certain about who you want by your side.

I’m not going to lie, the past year has been difficult for Eric and I individually. It has been exhausting for our marriage. But it has also been sweet as we have continued to grow together; trials and challenges have been the glue that cements us together. And as much as my understanding of love has grown in these early years of marriage, I am confident I will know it even more deeply in another five years.

disappointment as an act of love

It was 2004, just a couple of weeks after my sixteenth birthday. I had been playing in a volleyball tournament out of town, and a teammate’s mom was dropping me off at home. We pulled into the driveway and saw my grandpa’s car parked to the side. Grandpa Cecil lived in a rural town a little over an hour away, and he would often stop by unplanned. He drove a couple of different vehicles, but this was the 1985 silvery-blue Ford Thunderbird that was my grandmother’s primary driver before she passed away. I walked in the front door, dropped my gear bag on the floor, and greeted my mom.

“I guess Grandpa Cecil is here?” I asked.
“Actually, he’s not,” Mom replied.
“Then why is his car parked outside?”
“Well, he dropped it off and asked if you would wash it for him.”
A look of confusion came across my face. “Uh… why?”
“He said, after you wash it, it’s your car.”

My parents were both standing there, grinning, holding out the keys to me. And, if I were a respectful, grateful daughter, I would have started jumping up and down excitedly.

But I didn’t. I tried to fake some excitement, though apparently I wasn’t very good at hiding my disappointment, as my parents knew the truth right away.

Just like any other teenager who is about to turn sixteen, I had daydreamed about the type of car I wanted. I researched vehicles online and daily checked the classifieds in the newspaper. I knew we didn’t have a ton of money to spend on a vehicle, and to be honest I don’t think I knew what an appropriate amount of money might be for them to spend. But I was hopeful for a Jeep Grand Cherokee, a Honda CR-V, or a Chevy Silverado, even if it were several years older.

So the twenty year old metallic blue granny car in the driveway was not what I expected and not what I wanted. It had over 200,000 miles on it and the A/C didn’t work. I learned how to check my oil level and transmission fluid right away, because both would often leak and need to be filled up weekly. Even if you floored the gas pedal, it took a good 10-Mississippi-seconds to get from 20mph to 40 mph.

Life doesn’t always go the way we want it to. Our expectations aren’t always met. And if we aren’t careful, disappointment can jade us and break us and cause us to live a life resigned to just getting by.

I’ve struggled to understand what it means to have hope in discouraging circumstances. The job that didn’t work out the way I thought, the loneliness I can’t shake, the health situation that results in more questions than answers.

One definition of hope reads: “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” I always want hope to feel like that thrill in the anticipation leading up to something big: the slow, intense moments just before a first kiss, the silence before a major announcement, the pretty presents wrapped under a Christmas tree. But when I walk through a discouraging season–the times I need hope more than ever­–resulting disappointment changes my perspective, and deciding to hope can feel like allowing someone to beat me in the shins with a baseball bat over and over. Hope can hurt.

I tend to assume I have done something wrong in the area of hope when it results in disappointment. Does disappointment mean my hope was misplaced? I know my hope should be in the Lord, which Romans 5:5 promises will never put us to shame or disappoint us. Then how do I hope that the Lord will work and answer prayer without risking that disappointment, if he chooses to act differently than I am asking him to?

I typically associate a sense of desperation with hope: I am hoping because I want something to change­­. That desperation combined with disappointment then leads to despair, an all-consuming, self-centered, miserable place to land. The fatalistic thoughts of what if this never gets better or I can’t imagine continuing to walk through life this way can distort my view of God and his sovereign hand in my life. And despair is the indicator that my hope is in actually in the gift (new job, pregnancy, friendships, healing, etc.) rather than the Giver.

Hope is hard. I want to see it as “worth it,” but in all honesty it is simpler at times to let go and not get my hopes up.

And in this thinking, my options are either devastation or apathy: I could hope for that change and risk it falling through, or I could stop hoping for things and thus stop trusting the Lord to work at all.

But I don’t want to settle for one of those options. Romans 15:4 says, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” And a few verses later, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” If hope describes God’s character, and if it’s something Paul prayed that the Romans would abound in, then I want it, too!

How can I abound in hope, not worrying about what happens if it falls through? How can I recognize that that even if I am disappointed, God’s love doesn’t change or fail?

Here’s what I have begun to see: perhaps accepting disappointment is the key to understanding hope.

It’s not a lack of God’s love or care for me. Rather, it’s a sign of his care for me. He allows for my disappointment in order to make way for his (better) plans.

With this realization, I am beginning to change the way I hope. I am feeling the depth of my need for God to work, but I am also recognizing the security I have in him, even if the result is disappointment. I am recognizing what it means that he is good with the whole picture in mind, not simply “good in my limited perspective” or “good in relation to my list of wants and wishes.”

While God is a God of hope, he’s not a genie, nor is he Santa Claus. He’s not telling me to hope in him so that I can have my best life now. God is able, and God is loving, but he is also omniscient. He knows what I don’t, so the things I am hoping for may not be for my big-picture good.

I want to know God’s love through disappointment, not equate disappointment with a lack of love.

When my parents gave me that Thunderbird (which I and my friends named Stella), I was disappointed, but I didn’t doubt their love for me. I knew it wasn’t a limitation of their love that kept them from giving me the car I wanted. While it was related to a limitation of finances (they paid my grandpa ten bucks for that car, simply to have an amount to put on the bill of sale), it was, in fact, a demonstration of their love that they didn’t go into debt or spend all of their savings on a vehicle for me. They were providing for the cumulative needs of our family. They had a long-term picture of how long I would drive my first car. They wanted to make me happy, but they were also practical. And, in the end, I got a job the next summer and bought my dad’s 1987 Ford Bronco, a much cooler vehicle in my opinion, and passed Stella on to my sister.

Hope does not disappoint or put us to shame when it’s in the right thing–Christ alone. When our hope is in him, we see him as the one who satisfies our desires. When our hope is in him, we also understand that not all satisfaction will be experienced this side of heaven.

It takes faith to repeatedly believe that God could do “it” (whatever that “it” may be). It takes faith to believe that God even wants to answer my prayer. But if we never allow ourselves to hope in him, we will never experience the joy of dependence on him or the security of entrusting our desires to an all-powerful and always-loving God.

And when I find myself disappointed, I want to bring the disappointment to him, recognizing that I will experience his love in greater ways as I surrender my hopes to his sovereign hand.

“You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.” –Psalm 145:16