I turned forty this year. Forty.
I never dreamed forty would look like this. Feel like this. Ache like this.
I also never expected I would find Him – Jesus – in the middle of this ache and loss. But here He is, and it’s the hardest and most beautiful thing.
Over the last year, the realization that my life doesn’t look at all like I thought it would, has hit me very hard. At times, I thought the ache just might kill me.
In the middle of the ache, I realized I wasn’t being honest about how I really felt. I kept pushing away and swallowing the disappointment. I would grit my teeth and tell myself, “God is good” “he’ll come through for me” “no really, God is good!” While these things are very, very true – He is good and He will come through – I had not been honest about saying, “but what if He doesn’t feel good and what if He doesn’t come through how I want Him to?” Is He still actually good then, too? I was measuring His goodness on Him some day answering all of my hopes and dreams, instead of in Him just being good. I was measuring His love for me by what He did or did not provide for me, instead of simply basking in that love. I was measuring my worth based on my loneliness and lack instead of in His companionship and fullness.
I think the hardest part about disappointment and loss of our dreams is that it can feel as if Jesus doesn’t care. Like He arbitrarily chooses to say yes to some people’s dreams and no to other’s. This is the worst kind of lie. It is so against His nature and His character. The disciples also thought He didn’t care once (maybe more than once!). When the storm was raging and Jesus was sleeping peacefully below, they woke Him saying, “Jesus, don’t you care if we drown?”. But He did care. He cared so much that He let them wait and wonder a little longer than was comfortable so they could see Him come through in a way they never would have otherwise. If He didn’t care maybe He would have stopped the storm before it even happened. Had He done that, they would have missed something spectacular. The truth is that He’s not arbitrary. He’s very intentional and personal- so that we each get to see Him come through in the way we need at the exact time we need it. It just doesn’t always feel safe or good.
Turning forty does crazy things to you. Your body does, indeed, start to fall apart. I cannot tell you the number of doctors I have been to this year. I have actually lost count. But, for me, the emotional ups and downs have felt far more life threatening than the physical. I have cried more tears this year than maybe all of my thirty-nine before. I have had to come to the heartbreaking realization that my life will not look like how I dreamed. Dreams that I have had since I was a little girl. Dreams that I can almost smell and touch. I’ve also had to let go of new dreams and roles and friendships. Something doesn’t have to be around for a long time for us to have grown incredibly attached to it – or, at least the idea of it.
I have been given a choice to make. A choice that’s been excruciating at times, and one I have to make over and over again.
I get to choose to be real with Jesus about my longings and my hurt and my disappointment. I get to choose to invite Him in. I get to choose to let Him teach me how to grieve the loss of these dreams. I get to choose to let go of things I never had but clung to as if they were mine. I get to choose to encounter Him in the middle of it all. I don’t get to finally encounter Jesus when my dreams come true. I get to encounter Him now because He is the dream come true. In the middle of my mess, He waits for me. In the middle of my ache when I can’t see Him or feel Him, He is right there. And now, when I grieve over what I never got to actually hold in my hands, He sits and grieves with me.
Most days, I don’t do this well. I still shake my fists and ask Him, why not me? I still cry myself to sleep and wonder why I didn’t deserve a husband. I am still very much in the middle. Still sorting through lies and putting on truth. I’m so grateful Jesus is in the middle, too – not just on the other side after I’ve figured it all out.
The beautiful thing about really, deeply, truly encountering Jesus is that we learn He deals with our hurts and questions very well. He handles complicated like a champ. I’m the one who struggles to reconcile all my messy feelings – not Him. If I have learned one thing this year, it’s that I can hold immense disappointment and great hope at the same time. And, He loves it when I do – because it’s real and it’s where He gets to show up. If I cannot be real with my disappointment, I won’t be able to really hope in Him, either. To swallow disappointment as if it doesn’t exist, robs Him of the opportunity to shine hope into my life. To BE the hope in my life.
“Now may God, the inspiration and fountain of hope, fill you to overflowing with uncontainable joy and perfect peace as you trust in him. And may the power of the Holy Spirit continually surround your life with his super – abundance until you radiate with hope!” Romans 15:13 (TPT)
I don’t always trust Him to be this fountain of hope for me, but when I do, He does not disappoint. Life may disappoint, but He does not. I may cry out, “Do you not care about the wind and waves?” But He responds by calming them just in the nick of time. And I get to see a part of Him I would have missed otherwise.
I pray you encounter this Jesus today – the inspiration and fountain of hope. And I pray you radiate with hope.