A Letter: Facing God’s No

Facing Disappointment

Dear Friend,

I know this “no” hurt. It’s hard not to let the voice of rejection ring loud in your heart after you prayed and sought God for his very best. From your vantage point, this looked like the best. It rang true with the very desire of your heart. And then for some reason, He said this wasn’t it. The door closed, the relationship ended, the dream died. Silence followed and all that you could hear was the breaking of your own heart.

I know you cried out from the depths of your heart. You thought you laid your desires out at his feet and believed that he would grant them. You ask, “Doesn’t he want to grant the desire of my heart? Doesn’t he see this need or want for what it is? Isn’t there a chance that he is the one that placed it there?” If the answers to these questions are “yes” then why did he come back with a no?

The truth is he does want to fulfill the desires of our heart. The desires he placed there. Not all desires we have sadly, are from him. We have a deceitful heart (Jeremiah 17:9), that seeks to satisfy our own selfishness and flesh (Galatians 5:17). Our motives are not always pure nor are they always in alignment with him (Jeremiah 17:10). Even when it seems like they are, he searches the far reaches of our heart for the true motive. Maybe we aren’t even conscious of what this is yet.  Sometimes the no is the very thing that exposes our true heart and demands a part of our flesh to die so we can walk in life.

I know this “no” feels like hope deferred and heart sickness (Proverbs 13:12). As the waves of sadness come, it seems that all is lost. Maybe even a part of you feels like you are dying. But is it possible that he is about to raise you to life?

Our Father is kind. Is it possible that this very no is his kindness stretched out? Our emotions are fickle. They are like the waves of the ocean, tossing us about.  They are not truth which we can stand on. They are real, yes, and worthy to acknowledge at his feet and definitely a part of how he created us. We should not feel ashamed of our heart and emotion. But they are not trustworthy. They do not proclaim truth about a situation to us without the proper footing on the Rock which we can stand. This is where we need his Word, his voice echoing in the midst of our emotion. We need to hang onto him.

You see, our Father sees what we cannot around the bend of that “yes” we so desired. He can see the outcome had he met that request with a yes. Imagine for a moment that if he said yes to this particular thing that it would lead you down a road away from his heart? What if this form of granting the desire of your heart meant giving you away to the world? What if you missed knowing his heart or the fullness of his love? Maybe it meant you bypassed the very reason you were created, or were left to a spiritual demise that devastated him.

God doesn’t promise an easy road without disappointment and valleys of suffering and despair (1 Peter 1:6). He doesn’t promise to meet our desires and needs in our way on our time table (Isaiah 55:8). He will not leave us wanting (Isaiah 58:11). He will provide for us (Matthew 6:26-27). He will not forsake us or abandon us, ever (Romans 8:38-39). But he also is faithfully committed to love us and complete the work He began in us (Philippians 1:6). What work is that you ask? The work of making us like his son, Jesus. This means a death, a dying of self to be raised to life again. This also means providing for us in his way, his timing. It doesn’t usually look like what we thought and certainly often contrast the world. It demands our trust, even when it isn’t easy to give.

And so because He loves you, he said no. He said I will not give you away. When you asked him for his will, his way, his best, he lovingly said no I have better.

In his time, in his way he will lead you to his best. In the meantime, lean into the comfort of his arms. Let him shelter you under his wings (Psalm 91:1). He is close to the brokenhearted (Matthew 5:4). Let him expose his love for you and heal your broken heart. Likely, he is just waiting for you to discover more of him. He is longing for you to know him more and anxiously awaiting your companionship. Don’t hide. Don’t reject him. He is the very thing you need.

 

 

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Surprised by Pregnancy

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The day before I peed on a stick wondering if  two lines would show up, I sat in a church pew. I was minding my own business, singing the words to a well known hymn. Pregnancy was not on my radar, nor was it part of my husband and I’s plan. We were in major transition. My husband just graduated from seminary, we had just moved in with my parents and were in full blown job hunt mode.
The sound of hymns stirred within my soul and I heard it. “Erin, don’t freak out. You’re pregnant.” Suddenly the words on the screen faded and I responded to the quiet voice I know well with a “What?” Because He is gracious, he repeated to me “Erin, don’t freak out. You’re pregnant. And it’s a girl. I know you have always thought you’d have boys, but I know the desire of your heart and you want a girl. You are having a girl.”
I thought my heart was going to explode out of my chest. Mostly out of panic. I also had my own moment like Sarah, where I laughed at the Lord. I was convinced that I was delusional. I have misheard Him in the past and I am very guarded with taking things like this seriously until proven otherwise. The cost is too high to mishear Him. I learned that lesson the hard way. Surely the summer heat in the church was getting to me. I couldn’t possibly be pregnant,  but the thought nagged me and I knew in my heart this was one of those times he was speaking to me.
I stored this revelation in my heart with delight but mostly fear. Questions arose in my mind. How would we afford a child? How is this possible? We were so far from being ready to be parents. What about my dream of finishing school and pursuing a career before kids? What about my husbands job search? Shouldn’t we be living on our own? As the questions rolled in, the anxiety heightened. This wasn’t our plan. At least not yet. We had only been married a year. We were planning on waiting at least three to five. I thought through the reality of our current situation. We lived with my parents. We were between school and a job and despite many interviews every door was closed. We were teetering on the brink of serious discouragement over the many no’s we had recently received. We were pretty confused on what path to take and the thought of adding a baby into this made me want to hyperventilate.  I mean, our circumstances were enough to feel like if I got a positive test we were irresponsible. I began thinking about what my husband would think if this was true, and then our parents. Oh and lots of other people.
I shoved the thoughts down and forced myself to focus on the sermon that was beginning. Maybe I was just imagining that I heard God say the word pregnant…
I took the encounter seriously enough to buy a two pack of pregnancy tests that night when I was out running errands. I thought, well at the very least I can confirm or deny it in the morning. I don’t think I slept well that night. Both out of anticipation of hearing the Lord on something so major, but also the real possibility that I was in fact pregnant and what that would mean for our life.
Sure enough, the next morning yielded two pink lines and put me in a state of absolute disbelief. It was a whirlwind, emotional morning for the two of us. I can’t say I tactfully broke the news to my husband. It was far from the romanticized dream in my head of what the moment would be like. Looking back it’s almost comical. But in the moment it felt crisis like.
We reeled for a few weeks privately, not because we didn’t want our child but because we were so utterly caught off guard. Truly we were in a season of stripping. Each plan that my husband and I had made and hung onto was being stripped and laid bare before the feet of Jesus. Jobs, career, education, family planning, time in our marriage just the two of us, traveling and our living situation. Slowly it was as if God was asking us “Do you trust my plan? Do you want me more?” The pain of dying to our own belief that our plans were better than his or more timely than his was excruciating. We both felt crushed under the pain of grief and loss of our own treasured expectations. We prayed together often that we wanted his best. But when his best required we surrender any tiny piece of our conceived plan, it hurt. Truthfully, it still hurts. We both ebb and flow in and out of stages of grief that our plans are not reliable, nor did they come to fruition.
God was so gracious to prepare my heart for the positive test. It was even more remarkable that he let me know the child I was carrying was a girl. Now I am 34 weeks pregnant and know it’s a girl. Another confirmation of that Sunday surprise whisper of the Lord. He knew I needed that comfort for the weeks to come. I remembered him telling me not to freak out. Despite my desire to continually panic, I was able to slowly settle into the idea of becoming a mother.
Honestly, we are still in a lot of transition, but have seen God’s faithfulness in so many ways to make what seemed impossible actually quite doable. Many of the things we hoped for have not come about the traditional way. God’s ways are so different than people’s. But we have seen him to be trustworthy and completely truthful. We have what we need for this season. We also have way more support than I could have dreamt.
We are so excited to meet our little girl. She truly is a gift from God. After all he knows best, and gives us the best.

The Third Road

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Flashback to May last year. The husband graduated Seminary and we were full  of expectation as he walked across the stage. We were praying about pastoral positions he had applied for and several of them looked promising. The other road that we were peering down was an opportunity for him to teach at the college level. Both were exciting and meant big change for us. We were overwhelmed but very excited about the possibility of either option.
Several of the pastoral positions ended up taking him through each step further and further. We were in some of the top positions and it almost seemed as we had options. We took each step in prayer and sought counsel. We thought we were doing everything right. In many ways I think we did. We always prayed for God’s best and said we didn’t want to settle for something other than what he had for us. The funny thing is we didn’t fully consider what this could mean if there was a third road.
The door to each church one by one closed and it seemed like the dream of ministry came crashing down. So we turned our attention to teaching. And this door also came to a close. Though an opportunity came very close to fruition, it still ended up as a no. So then I watched my husband turn his attention to a job. Any job. I watched him spend hours a day applying to anything that he could find. Still nothing. He worked a 40 hour a week job just searching for work. Recruiters, postings that he was beyond qualified for. Nothing. I watched him go to interview after interview with hope and come home with no news. We waited for calls and an answer and still nothing. I watched him be faithful even when there was nothing to show for it. As optimism faded, he still soldiered on. Even minimum wage positions told him no because he was over qualified. Grief crouched at our door. And then was ushered in. This went on for months.
We moved in with my parents in the transition when we were a final candidate at a church out of state. At the time we thought it was a temporary landing place for us to move from. We resisted signing leases because we were holding out for God’s best not knowing that he was positioning us in that place unbeknownst to us.
With each no, we considered that maybe we took a wrong turn and we came back to the drawing board. I watched my husband holding a diploma with a masters degree and say maybe I need to start again. And by begin again he meant start a new degree at the bachelors level. It all felt like a waste. A joke or an empty promise to run a race so far and have nothing but a piece of paper with a signature saying he had mastered something. To start again felt like a dead weight, but it was one of th few viable options. So he applied. Was accepted and even registered for classes. Engineering. It was the logical choice. But the debt loomed over us and we wondered with unsettled hearts how this could be God’s best.
I pleaded with God that somehow we wouldn’t have another 4 year road for another degree and an additional mountain of debt. That the work he did in school would be fruitful and some job would come that would provide for us. At a random networking event, one my husband almost didn’t go to, God answered that prayer.  But not in the way I expected.
He heard about a program that was a trade school. It was a bootcamp of sorts for computer coding. The field he was considering pursuing instead with a four year degree and debt that consumed us.  He met with a person who encouraged him to look into it and also try a few exercises to see if it was a good fit. So then I watched him explore a new topic and like it more than he expected. He then began the competitive process to get in. This 7 month program was not for the faint of heart. The application process included an essay, an exam like the LSAT, a video and paperwork. If you were one of the 25 percent moved into the next round, you then faced an interview which was an hour long and then you had to take a logic test verbally with the person you were interviewed by. Then half of those interviewed were selected. It was grueling and seemed like a total bait and switch for my heart. But we had run flat out of options. So he gave it his all and we prayed the same prayer, God we only want your best.
And God said yes. He said yes to an option that wasn’t even on our radar. And it was so far outside of the box of what we thought we would be doing ten months post graduation. And then I watched him dilligently prepare. And we humbly accepted that for at least seven more months we would be living with my parents. We struggled with broken dreams of ministry, career, living situation and timing of plans. Grief crashed over us like waves during a storm, but God held out hope with an answered prayer. His best for us. Even though it was and is still so far from the plans we had made.
I watched my courageous husband weather a storm of rejection and questions as he sought to provide for our family. And I watched him give thanks and solider on being faithful with each step of the process and say yes to God even when it hurt. I learned a lot watching him. I learned a lot about trusting God’s best and believing in his goodness even when circumstances screamed otherwise. I watched my steady husband camp on the Rock and commit to do anything, including apply for jobs that he was over qualified for or start over in a new field for the glory of Jesus. And I watched him do it all with the highest level of integrity and faithfulness.
And I learned that God is good. No matter the circumstances.