How have you responded to the things God has promised you in contrast with the things you expected God to give you?
Several years ago a good friend of mine suffered through the loss of an unborn baby, and then another. I was devastated for her. I was saddened and heart broken. I hadn’t seen her much during that season of loss and when I finally did see her I expressed my sorrow to her.
As I spoke with my friend I was moved by her love for God and her acceptance of circumstance. She told me that God hadn’t promised her children. She didn’t know if she would ever be able to have them but it was clear to me that she was content with where she was and all that God had given her.
I had never seen someone respond this way to such great heartbreak and loss. As I observed my friend through this difficult season, I continued to be amazed by her. I had never considered all the things I just assumed I deserved from God that when lost, brought me anger, sorrow and resentment.
Over the years I continued to ponder my friend’s approach to her loss and disappointment. Particularly, in the last four years as they have been incredibly painful for me; I have worked through my own pain in the abrupt stop to my childhood dreams, physical illness, moving away from family and friends, and loss of my own unborn baby. I was angry with and hurt by God, I couldn’t hear Him, and wondered if I ever had really heard Him at all.
I began reading a book about thankfulness and it started changing my life. I also remembered my friend, her heart, and her words. I realized that God had given me many amazing promises about Him being with me and working all things for my good (Rom. 8:28).
But He had never promised me freedom from pain.
My circumstances were the same, but I began to shift my thinking from pain and mourning over the loss of my dreams to the incredible abundance of gifts and promises God was offering me. I began a list of the things I was thankful for and realized the list was endless. From the people in my life down to each breath I was taking, I couldn’t write them out fast enough.
God hadn’t given me many of the things I wanted and felt entitled to receive. But He did gift me with the discovery of my true passions and talents, the ability to serve the needs of my family in the midst of physical illness, a new place to call home, a husband, and two amazing children. God had made and kept promises even if they didn’t include the dreams I had in my mind.
This last year, my fourth after the pain began, has been a year of continued healing for me. In the midst of shifting my expectations for my life, we moved again. I found myself struggling to understand why God would move us so soon, more specifically why He would allow my kids to go through the trials of a move for a second time.
Then I remembered, God made no promises to me about where my family would live. He
didn’t promise that my kids would stay in the same school with the same friends for any certain amount of time. I also understood that I didn’t always know what was best for them or for myself much of the time.
I began using the skills I had developed over the previous three years. I worked to shift
my thinking, enjoying the gift of a new home and new people to meet. God has been steadfast to keep His promises and He has made my family stronger through the trials we’ve faced.
My story isn’t done yet, and neither is my friend’s. She and her husband were blessed with not one but two amazing children and through my journey, I find my mind shifted and my heart renewed. I am thankful for the abundant blessings I have been given though much different than I had mapped out for myself. I am thankful to my friend for showing me how to cling to God’s true promises and have eyes to see the gifts He gives in abundance.
Do you or your family need a paradigm shift (a fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions) in the way that you view the circumstances in your life?
Consider starting a list with your family of the gifts God has given you.
For more on living a thankful life check out One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp.