Disappointment. Unmet expectations. Heartbreak.
We’ve all been there.
I’ve had the desires of my heart not met many times. A relationship that didn’t work out. A dream project that got cancelled. And many others…
But God is good. All the time. Because even though things don’t always go as expected—the way I want them to— He knows what my soul needs. He has better plans.
That relationship that didn’t work out? A relationship that I had thought about and prayed about most of my childhood, teen years, and even early college years? God later introduced me to someone else, and that “someone,” my Danny, became my loving husband. He is an amazing blessing I never saw coming; a blessing God had prepared for me before I was even born.
The dream project (publishing a series of children’s books) that got halted because my publisher suddenly (and scandalously) went bankrupt? I was deeply disappointed. I had waited two years to sign with a publisher, and I had been under contract with them for over six months when they literally closed their doors. I also lost my financial investment; money we had scraped together and sacrificed to “make my publication dream come true.” But God is good, because He gently opened another door— blogging— and Faith & Family First was born!
God had a purpose for each of those unmet desires. He had a greater purpose. He turned my disappointments into blessings. Instead of giving me my heart’s desires, He filled the needs of my soul, which in turn became my heart’s new desires.
Let me tell you a story…
Remember in my “Why Labels Are Important in Relationships” post, where I told you I would one day share with you the story about how Danny proposed? And how it involved a chaotic—yet comical— boating accident?
Well, today is the day…
Sit back, grab some popcorn, and get ready to be amused…
It was April of 2005. A Sunday evening. I had a sneaking suspicion that Danny had asked my parents the day before for my hand in marriage because they were briefly in town (from Argentina) for my brother’s senior piano recital and college graduation. Danny and I had already been seriously talking about marriage and looking at engagement rings for some time, so I knew the day was coming soon.
Danny asked me to go with him to the lake for a boat ride. Our first boat ride together. As we arrived at the boat dock, I accidentally saw in the backseat of the truck some “Double Stuf” Oreos (yum!) and a bottle of Argentine wine, Argentina being the country where I had spent my childhood.
I knew something was up. An evening out on a boat, possibly long enough to see a romantic sunset. Oreos. Argentine wine. “Tonight is the night!” I thought. “He’s going to propose!”
I imagined him getting down on one knee while the sun was setting. I imagined a beautiful, heart-felt speech, telling me how much he loved me and needed me; how I made him want to be a better man; how he wanted nothing more than to spend the rest of his life cherishing me and growing old with me; etc. etc. All the typical romantic, lovey-dovey stuff, right?
Well, that didn’t happen. Far from it. My little fairy-tale bubble popped like a big balloon!
Here’s what really happened.
After we had backed the boat into the water at the very edge of the loading dock, Danny started to notice that the boat was taking on water. And fast. It was sinking! Danny frantically jumped into the water, which was well-above his waist, and he was heaving, pulling, and holding up the boat as much as he could, trying to keep it from taking on more water.
He yelled at me to go start the truck so we could pull the boat back up onto the loading dock. I ran up to the truck and jumped in. I tried to start the truck, but it wouldn’t work. Turned the key. Nothing. Pushed on the gas pedal, turned the key again, and nothing. “It won’t start!” I yelled back.
“Come here and hold this rope!” he yelled a couple times. We switched places. I stood at the edge of the dock, pulling as hard as I could on the rope that was tied to the front of the boat. It was a windy day, and the water seemed pretty choppy, so I could just picture the boat taking off any moment and dragging me into the water.
Meanwhile, Danny (aka MacGyver) was working on the engine of the truck and managed to jump-start it with a screwdriver. He backed the truck down the loading dock, hopped out and safely anchored the boat back in place, and then finally pulled it back up the dock with the truck. Whew!
This all transpired over a few minutes, but it felt much longer than that. Danny’s clothes were soaking wet. We were both cold, exhausted, frustrated, and we had been yelling at each other during the whole ordeal (not that we were mad at each other or anything, but we had to raise our voices in order to hear each other, and there was definite, notable frustration in our voices over the chaos that was occurring).
But then— to top it all off— as soon as Danny parked the boat and got out of the truck, he quickly got down on one knee in front of me, and he pulled out a wet box with my ring in it. He was still trying to catch his breath from all his physical exertion, and he apologetically blurted out, “I’m sorry. This didn’t turn out as I planned, but will you marry me?”
I was inwardly thinking to myself, “Now?! You’re proposing to me NOW?! Can’t it wait for a more romantic moment? Why the rush? Where’s my ‘I will love you forever’ speech?”
But of course, I loved him with all my heart, and of course, I wanted to marry him more than anything, so I said “Yes.”
We briefly hugged and kissed and sat in the wet (parked) boat, shivering, eating our Oreos and sharing a small Dixie cup of wine.
Was I a little bit disappointed with how it all turned out? Sure. Was I disappointed that Danny proposed that day? Never. Not in a million years.
And to Danny’s credit, even though the moment didn’t go exactly as I had wanted it to— how neither of us had planned— he knew that I would want to share the exciting news with my family while they were still in town, which is why he felt like he had a very small window of opportunity to propose that day. He was looking out for my best interests, for the desires of my heart. Also, since we never had a chance to go on our intended boat ride, we had enough extra time that evening to share an impromptu, celebratory dinner with both sets of parents and my grandfather. A very special moment.
Our proposal story—a story we’ll remember and treasure forever— just goes to show how nothing in life is guaranteed to go the way you plan. Not marriage. Not raising kids. Not even your day to day plans.
My marriage of twelve years has had its ups and downs. Amidst all the wonderful, amazing moments, Danny and I have also experienced moments of disappointment, unmet expectations, and hurt feelings. But some of those “down” moments also became “blessings in disguise.” They became teachable moments, if you will; an opportunity for us to ask God to show us how to rise above the disappointment and how to grow closer to Him and to each other.
Each disappointing moment has reminded us, that 1) neither of us are perfect and can’t be expected to be perfect, and 2) marriage isn’t about “always feeling happy” and “always having your needs met by your spouse.” Marriage is a commitment of choosing to love each other and choosing to serve each other, even during the hard times.
Only Jesus can fill our emptiness and give us true joy. Happiness is fleeting, but joy takes on a much deeper, spiritual, and eternal meaning.
When you seek God (individually and as a couple) and strive to be faithful to the commitment of marriage, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, etc., God promises to fill the needs of your soul— and fill the needs of your marriage— in His way and in His timing.
Disappointments or Blessings?
So, I shared a somewhat trivial and comical story about my marriage, and I referenced life’s disappointments and unmet expectations in the setting of a marriage relationship, but what about the “hard stuff?”
What happens when there’s unexplained tragedy? Death of a loved one. Death of a child. A scary diagnosis. Pain and suffering.
There are no easy answers for this. The only answer I can give you is from the Bible. From God’s promises:
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
“‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” (Isaiah 54:10)
Nothing can separate us from God’s love. His love is unfailing. His covenant of peace cannot be removed.
But even though God promises us peace, compassion, and hope, we will still experience valleys of hardship and sorrow. We will still have suffering. Christians are not immune to that.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the tragic school shootings across our country. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain and heartache— the agony— a mother must feel when she loses one of her children so senselessly.
If it were to happen to me— if I were to lose my own child, for whatever reason— I for one believe that I would feel like my heart and soul were being ripped out of me; I would struggle to breathe; I would struggle to function. But I would also like to believe, that after my initial stage of grief (and subsequent stages of grief), I would still trust deep down in my heart that God is good.
God is good, even in times of tragedy. He is good, even in heartache.
God may not always give us the desires of our hearts— we may not get our prayers answered the way we want them to be answered— but God promises to fill the needs of our souls, even when we don’t know what those needs are. He wants us to keep trusting in Him, putting one foot in front of the other.
I’m reminded of Laura Story’s song, “Blessings,” where it says, “What if a thousand sleepless nights is what it takes to know You’re near.” It may take a thousand nights, maybe even longer. But our deliverance will come, even if not in this lifetime, it will come in heaven, when we have finished our earthly race and find ourselves in the presence of our maker, where there will be no more tears, no more suffering.
Grieving is the path to healing.
I’m not saying we should discard grief. It’s healthy and necessary to grieve. We are only human, after all, and pain and sorrow is a God-given, human emotion. I think it’s ok to question God and to cry out, “WHY, God?” “Why me?” “Why this?” “Why now?”
Even Jesus, while he hung on the cross, cried out to God, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) And before his arrest, Jesus asked God to spare him from his painful death, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me.” (Luke 22:42).
Jesus wept. (John 11:35) He felt anguish. (Luke 22:44) He felt troubled. (John 11:33) I personally believe that God used Jesus’ then human nature to show us it’s ok to grieve. It’s ok to feel anger and disappointment.
The grieving process ultimately “breaks” us and brings us down to our knees, leaving us raw and empty, all the more ready to receive the love, hope, and peace God has for us. Remember when Jesus said, “Take this cup from me”? He also ended that prayer with a proclamation of faith and trust, “yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) Jesus trusted God’s plan to be perfect, even if it meant enduring a painful death on the cross.
Grieving is the path to healing. That path isn’t easy or fleeting. It often travels through long, dark valleys. But we can rest in the promise that God will comfort us and restore our soul, even in the darkest of valleys (Psalm 23). Our weeping may last through the night (or many nights), but JOY comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).
I leave you with more lyrics from Laura Story’s, “Blessings,” and I invite you to hear me sing it on YouTube.
Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops?
What if your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know you’re near?
What if trials of this life are your mercies in disguise?
What are your thoughts?
I pray this post blesses you. I pray this post reminds you, that whatever disappointment or heartache (or even tragedy) you have experienced in the past and/or are currently going through, I pray you’ll trust (or begin to trust) that God… is… good. As the saying goes, “God is good. All the time. And all the time, God is good.”
Even though we may sometimes not be able to understand His ways, we can always trust in His ways.
Can you imagine going through life without trusting God? Without knowing His hope and peace? I certainly don’t want to.
“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know, He holds the future. And life is worth the living because He lives.” (Song citation: Because He Lives, by Bill & Gloria Gaither)