Did they have the Pinterest perfect flowers that you imagined all ready for your wedding? Is your mother-in-law the kind grandmotherly sort you can lean on? Does your husband constantly bring you flowers and in a certain light even looks a bit like Prince Charming? Did you get pregnant the first month you tried? Was labor easy and medication free? Was your baby healthy, beautiful, and a great nurser?
If you live in the real world with me, I bet you’ve found that your “happily ever after” occasionally is more like a “not-so-happily ever after.” From bumps in the road like a fallen wedding cake or wilted bouquets to serious complications like infertility or birth defects, things may not turn out the way we planned. Watching these dreams turn to dust can cause us to become discouraged, doubtful and defeated.
So where is God when our plans go awry?
- God may be growing us. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). Whether we are talking about misfortune (something goes wrong at the wedding) or tragedy (a stillbirth) trials bring with them a moment to grow. An instant where we get to decide how our faith will interact with our misfortune and whether we will become more compassionate, patient, and gentle or whether we will tear ourselves and others to shreds.
- God may be developing our contentment. “But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment” (1 Timothy 6:6). When our dreams don’t come true, it is so easy to let the seeds of discontent grow. We say to ourselves, “Why me? I didn’t want anything complicated! Why does everything go wrong in my life.” At these times we may also have to learn a lesson in not envying. It is easy to look at the mom next door, the bride next month and wish that we had what they have. Unfortunately, we never seem to consider that their private disappointments may be every bit as difficult as ours.
- God walks with us in our sorrow. The Hebrew writer focuses much of his attention on the way that Jesus by coming in the flesh joins us in our human struggles (Hebrews 2:14-16). The Savior became flesh and blood, learned obedience through suffering, and died to defeat death (Hebrews 2:14-16, 5:8-10). And when we suffer, whatever we suffer, we can be assured that Jesus is sympathetic. He is our merciful High Priest. He loves us and offers us a place at His throne to get the help we so desperately need (Hebrews 4:14-16).
- He may be adjusting our perspective. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). A clear picture of what actually matters allows us to better handle our troubles. When Paul mentioned his “light and momentary affliction,” he is, in fact, talking about a weight of persecution, illness, and personal defeat that would sink you or I. How could he take it so lightly? Because he knew the weight of the glory yet to be revealed. He was seeing through God’s eyes; he had eternity in view.
- He may be extending us grace. One of the revelations of my young motherhood was that I simply did NOT have the ability to minister or do devotions the way I did before. If I was fooled into believing that the things I did, no matter how good, were the purchase price of my Father’s love, I would have been desperate indeed. Instead, God, who created me, my body, my baby and my family, knew intimately the season of my life. Though we should never make excuses for ourselves, we should no feel guilt for murmuring “Jesus loves me” to an infant who hasn’t slept all night rather than serving on the church’s missions committee.
Sister, I don’t know what troubles you have faced. I don’t know if you have had disappointments or disasters. I do know that likely you have discovered that there is no such thing as “happily-ever-after.” At least not in the sense of the perfect life free from troubles. Don’t be defeated, discouraged or doubtful instead in all your trials small and great to lift your voice in prayer, turn your face to God, and receive His comfort and grace.