The Life Free of Disappointment

Sometimes in our world there is news or a circumstance that breaks through the cloud of Christian clichés that give us an illusory sense of control over our life. Do you know what clichés I mean? We’ve all heard them. Someone puts their house up for sale, and it sells immediately, and someone posts “That’s God’s favor, right there!” Or the guy speaks up at community group about how every time they give to the Lord, money just appears out of nowhere.

And I always think, “That’s great, but that’s just not how it goes for us.” In fact, lately, as I look around, many of our friends are in this place with us of trusting God despite great disappointment and amidst the carnage of broken dreams.

  • What do we do when the miracle we hoped for, prayed for, and desperately needed, missed the deadline?
  • When the adoption we knew we were called to falls through, leaving us devastated with an empty nursery?
  • When we feel called to be a wife or a husband, but the years of waiting for a partner has made our hope weak?
  • When we find out that the parent who is the glue that holds our family together has a body racked with inoperable cancer?
  • When the money we needed to make the payment doesn’t show up?
  • When the path we know God told us to take leads us into a valley deeper than anything we’ve ever known?
  • When month after month after month our body betrays us and the baby that we hoped for isn’t there, and we feel broken and forgotten?

Where do we go when life is real and tough and the clichés and “what you give, you get” faith doesn’t pan out? This week I, along with the rest of the world, have watched Rick and Kay Warren face every parent’s nightmare scenario. We all know the fear that we will lose our child, and it is hard to even imagine that these righteous wonderful people are now facing the aftermath of the suicide of their youngest son after his lifelong struggle with depression. I am broken for them.

These earthly realities, and the Warrens’ pain, confronts us with the simple terrible truth that sometimes, in this world, the miracle we need doesn’t happen.

 

What do we do with that?

I think we have no choice, in these places of brokenness and desperation, but to force ourselves to look up to the Lord and look ahead to the next world. To say, with abandon, this place is not our home and the circumstances I see now are not the whole picture. To allow ourselves time and space sometimes to grieve. To cry out in justifiable anger and fear and disappointment, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Because, just as the Lord not only allowed but ordained his Son to die on a cross in this world, to achieve a greater good in the world to come, unimaginable sorrow and pain is sometimes allowed in our lives in this world to achieve a greater good in the world to come. And we don’t always get the luxury of understanding why.

The healing we hoped for comes in the next world, leaving only devastation in this one. The investments we are making are in the next world, leaving debt and insecurity in this world. The children we want to carry in our wombs and fill our homes in this world are sent instead to heaven, where we will someday hold them (and hopefully understand). The path we are on will sometimes take us into pain and loss in this world, to reap a harvest of joy and righteousness in the next world.

We do have hope for a future, because of Christ (and for that I am so grateful), but sometimes we need to release our desire to see that hope realized in this world. Because the simple fact is, sometimes it isn’t.

I think that is the hard lesson of the Warrens. They will see their son again. He will be whole, at peace. They will be reunited. But everyday until then, as they walk this earth, they walk it with the weight of grief. And may God help them, and us, to bear that weight well until they can say, with their Savior, “It is finished.”

And then the life free of disappointment will begin.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21:4)

Until then, we “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Rom 12:15) and we “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). And we stop with the ridiculous unhelpful Christian clichés that do nothing but add weight onto our brothers and sisters who are bearing burdens.

 

He Makes All Things New

This is a new season in the Wells home. Grace starts Kindergarten tomorrow, oddly enough on the same day I start full-time college. Today I’ve had school supplies strewn out in my living room, one pile colorful and fun, one slightly more serious. We’re both excited and giddy at the new adventure God is beginning in us.

He makes all things new. 

The beginning of fall is in the air, and change comes with it. I have one friend who is starting a new job as a teacher, another is soon to return to work after the birth of her new little boy, another waits to hear word that she can travel to go get her new daughter from the country of her birth, and another is adjusting to a new normal after her world collapsed into what seemed like an unholy mess, but for God. Today in church I got to sit next to a new friend, and I pray the Lord will bring her back to join with our little messy body of Believers.

He makes all things new.

New hopes rise, sometimes in the shadow of hopes lost. That is certainly my experience this Fall. In my head, the countdown to what would have been my due date is still ticking away. I thought it would have stopped by now, but I am still learning to grieve and trust even when the grieving takes longer than I wanted it to take. In some ways, although this fall brings great blessings, it still feels like there is a hole where the new baby was “supposed” to fit into the picture. And I’ve had to come to peace with that void and with that feeling of incompleteness. Our little family in my head and heart is five, even though it stubbornly remains at four. And I’ve had to wrestle with that over and over this year. In the quiet, after the wrestling, I remember that God is still good, is for us, and is still doing new things in our hearts and minds even if the new thing we were expecting isn’t going to happen.

He makes all things new.

I’m so grateful for that truth. He even makes new our hopes and dreams, and our visions for the future. My heart that felt weary and full of doubt as I cried out my fears and questions to people who loved me just as recently as last week – that heart today feels hopeful. And that is a miracle of our God. He brings fall every year, with the death of some things and the change of others, and in all the change, He remains loving toward us, accepting of us, pouring on us His mercy. He shows us that death is never the end, because of the cross, and we never have reason to lose hope.

He makes all things new. I pray that truth is real to you this Fall, despite your circumstances.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Cor 5:17

I’ve Realized Something…

I don’t do well with sadness.

I had a brilliant therapist once who told me that self-awareness is a choice, and few choose it. I thought I was pretty self-aware, but this grieving thing has shown me that I am not.

At all.

We adopted a dog on Saturday. For most of you – that’s not a big piece of news. But for people who know me well, they just went “WHAT?!?” and laughed out loud. I am not a pet person. I am a bubble-girl to a highly-unusual degree and literally I can’t sit in grass or touch animals because I swell up. And I am really sensitive to smells. So the combination of these two things makes pet ownership difficult.

And yet, suddenly, last week, all of my previous arguments against getting a dog melted away and I found myself on adoptapet.org searching out the perfect dog for our family. It was like I unlearned everything that 36 years had taught me and suddenly I NEEDED A DOG. I found one, emailed about it, and we went and adopted it.

Really.

Henry Wells

We brought him home, changed his name from Snuggles (a boy named Snuggles? No.) to Henry. Henry is adorable. He looks like my parents’ dog, which is the only dog I’ve ever really gotten close to. It seemed perfect. But soon after getting him home, Henry began to be very dog-like. In fact, he was very puppy-like. Peeing on my carpet and rugs, jumping on all of us, whining and crying all night long – he was the trifecta, a perfect embodiment of every argument I’ve ever given myself and others against a pet.

And I started crying (another thing I don’t do that often). And I didn’t just shed a tear – I sobbed. Poor Justin has a dripping, heaving, impossible-to-understand woman on his hands, and he has no idea what is happening.

I was crying because it hit me. I didn’t really want a dog. I was sad, and I was hurting, so I did something drastic that just happened to look like a cute little dog named Henry. I wanted to take things into my own hands – unstick what was stuck. And looking back I realized this pattern. In times of past sadness, I’ve done some pretty radical things. I’ve cut my hair or sold my car or taken up painting, or countless other rebellions that weren’t as visible but were my own little war against the way things were. This time I got a dog. And it didn’t take a therapist to see what I was really doing. I was sad about the baby, and since I couldn’t change that and I couldn’t give my girls the sibling I wanted to give them in the timeframe I wanted, I gave them a dog. It was obvious, except to me.

I was crying because my solution didn’t stop the sadness. My house smelled, chaos reigned, I had a DOG, and I was still hurting.

So carefully and a little fearfully, I leaned into the sadness. I trusted the Lord with my grief. I allowed myself to cry. I revisited everything that happened a month ago that I have been trying not to dwell on. I re-read the verses that sustained me during that terrible time. I grieved. It was cathartic and probably very healthy for me.

As I cried, I cleaned up my house and tried to turn myself into a dog person. Because Henry is cute and the girls love him, and the Lord already used him to allow me to grieve a little. So maybe we can make this work.

I don’t do well with sadness, but I want to. I want to accept with open hands what the Lord gives and allows, even if it isn’t my plan in my timing. I want to trust Him more, and myself less. And I know I need the Lord to help me do all of these things, because they are completely contrary to my instincts and nature.

Lord I don’t want to run after my own impatient solutions to the challenges you have allowed in our life. I want to learn to wait. I want to grow from the lessons You give, to trust You with the timeline, to trust myself with the sadness. I want to feel. I want to be honest. Help me Lord. Forgive me when I fall short. Bring Your blessings in Your time for Your glory. I trust you with how our family will grow. 

A Faithful Man

This past weekend, a man walked into my church, and when I saw him I started to cry. He was hard to miss, tall and broad, a former Dallas Cowboy, but that wasn’t how I knew him. I knew him because he had given the eulogy at the funeral of a man I deeply respected, John Weber, and I hadn’t seen him since that day. It shocked me how much it impacted me to see this stranger and how quickly all of the emotion from the day of Mr. Weber’s funeral came rushing back.

John Weber was a wonderful man. He had an important job – he was the chaplain of the Dallas Cowboys. But when I met him, I didn’t know that. I knew him as my friend Sarah’s dad. I was in high school, new to faith, new to church, and new to the idea of a Christian family that prayed together more frequently than at Christmas and Thanksgiving. And what I saw in the Weber’s home was absolutely amazing to me. I studied it like a creature from another world.

They loved extraordinarily. They laughed freely and cried bravely. They somehow seemed more together than other families. They all seemed to have this amazing ability to look directly into your soul and they cared about everyone around them. They valued people – me included. They loved Jesus. We had a few Bible studies in their home and stayed there for a Disciple Now – and every time I was there I basked in the love and the light of their family, feeling part of something extraordinary. As an adult I know that the warmth of their home was due to real community and the nearness of Christ, but then I only knew that it was different and wonderful and I never wanted to leave.

After Sarah had gone away to college, my encounters with the Webers became less frequent but always that feeling of being a part of them and valued by them remained. I loved them and looked up to them. Mr. Weber was not a tall man (in fact the Webers are all tiny people with massive hearts) but he was huge to me. Every time he saw me he focused on me, hugged me tightly, and asked about me and my family by name. I could tell he genuine loved me, and frankly, that both shocked me and made me feel important. Since his death I’ve heard dozens of people say it and it’s true. When you talked to Mr. Weber you felt like you were the most important person in his world. I certainly felt that. He had a gift of making others feel significant.

Mr. Weber

After I was married, I saw Mr. Weber a few times when he would come to speak at churches where I worked. He always touched people’s lives and it was fun to see the effect he had on others. Men, in particular, were impacted by him. He would speak at a men’s retreat at our church and men would return home changed – more loving and present and serious about leading their families in the way God intended. Mr. Weber was powerfully used by the Lord.

One fall morning my mom called to tell me Mr. Weber had passed away suddenly. I remember the shock. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea that he was gone. What a light he had been to so many. I thought of Mrs. Weber and his kids – I couldn’t imagine how they felt. I ached for their hurt. I called the Weber’s house to offer to make a video for his service and to tell them I loved them. To my surprise, they took me up on my offer. I was humbled to get to honor him in this way.

As I went to the Weber’s home to get the pictures for the video – I was a little anxious. This place was always one of love and warmth for me, and I walked in afraid to intrude on their grief. But there were people everywhere, crying, hugging, laughing, sharing. The same love and energy that had been there in the bright days of my high school memories was there that day, on the hardest day. I was so grateful. It felt like the Lord was near. The magic wasn’t broken. Death hadn’t won.

I’ve written before about his memorial, but I don’t think it’s possible to overstate how it impacted me. I honestly feel like, at the end of my life, it will be one of the pivotal moments in my journey with the Lord. Person after person filled that room, some very famous by the world’s standards, but all equal in our hurt and our powerlessness in the face of grief and death. It made us humble. It made us listen. We all wanted to matter like Mr. Weber mattered. That room was so full not because of fame, but because of impact, and every word spoken about him was so honoring. He had gotten it – the elusive key to a life well lived. And we all wanted to get it too.

In my mind that day is frozen – as real as if it occurred yesterday. That’s why I cried when I saw the poor Cowboy who had no idea he was inspiring a minor breakdown. I remembered.

Person after person spoke – all calling Mr. Weber their hero. But their words weren’t trite – they were genuine. He had changed their life. They talked about the value of a name and a reputation, and someone very famous with a well-known name said “Nobody ever had a better name than John Weber.”

His kids all spoke at that service, and their love and honor of their dad was overwhelming. I was a brand new mom, clinging to my husband’s hand, and in my head I was begging the Lord, “Please let us parent like this.” Each one spoke of Mr. Weber’s faithfulness and his wisdom. I didn’t know this until that day, but he had a saying he told his kids countless times and each of them talked about it in their eulogy.

Don’t strive to be extraordinary. Strive to be faithful.

It was his life goal. When I heard it – it rang so true. That was what Mr. Weber was – he was faithful. A faithful man. A faithful husband. A faithful father. A faithful friend. And his faithfulness made him extraordinary.

Last week after I saw the poor man who made me cry, I took a walk around the church building to pull myself together. But I couldn’t shake the memories. I cried as I walked and prayed. Again I begged the Lord to use me like He used that faithful man, both in my home and in the world around me. I begged Him to raise up men like Mr. Weber in our new little church. On the day of Mr. Weber’s memorial service I had seen a glimpse of the potential of a life lived in faithful service of our God, and I was changed by it.

Mr. Weber’s life made me want more God, more love, more humility, more purpose and most of all more faithfulness in my small life. He was ready for death because he lived a life faithfully focused on Christ. I have no doubt in my mind that the moment he closed his eyes on this earth he opened them in the presence of Jesus. And that gives me hope.

Lord, please let me be, both at the end of my life and everyday until then, a faithful woman. I confess that my flesh cries out to be extraordinary, but I want more to be faithful. I thank you for Mr. Weber’s faithful life. Please be near to his family today and everyday, give them more of You and fill the void of their loss. You are good and we are grateful.