If Life Doesn’t Look like What You Hoped For

I spent Thanksgiving alone this year.

This isn’t the first time that I’ve FaceTimed from twelve hours away, wiped a tear or two from my eyes, turned up the music in my too-quiet apartment, and looked forward to Christmas.

And it’s okay. Really, it is. As a single girl in her mid-twenties, far away from the family God placed me in, I’ve learned the hard way that holidays can hold laughter and longing at the very same time.

I pulled out a seat at the table on Thursday afternoon, turkey sandwich in front of me and empty seats all around, and this thought unexpectedly crossed my mind: you are lacking no good thing.

You are lacking no good thing.

It caught me by surprise, seemingly out of place with my current circumstances.

I’ve been walking through a season of grief and loss, learning to give grace — both to others and to myself — in the midst of unexpected and unwanted changes. There are significant decisions right around the bend, and to be completely honest, in the middle of loss I’m at a bit of a loss as to what to do, which way to go.

I wrote a book about choosing to believe He is still good and kind even if He doesn’t come through how we hope He will, how we know He could. And I’ve learned it the hard way: Be careful what you write a book about because you just might live out that message forever.

Earlier this fall, I shared at (in)courage about looking for His fingerprints, about asking God “Where are You?” and trusting His goodness to be true. I wrote about His presence staying near and guiding the way through the wilderness as a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night.

I wrote those words during the storm and the fire, with the ground beneath me shaking and the waves coming one after another after another. And then, six days later, the figurative flames became literal as smoke filled the apartment I’m sitting in, flames licking the walls.

Smoke. Fog. Grief. Confusion. Fire. Disappointment. Loss.

You are lacking no good thing . . .?

Not Afraid by Jesus Culture lyrics

I wiped crumbs from the table, turning the phrase over in my head, quietly offering these words in response “I believe You, God, but right now I feel lonely, I see lack, and I hear silence. Help me look past what isn’t to what is, and help me call it good.”

As a type-A firstborn, it’s no surprise that I love a good list. I sat at the table, intentionally listing the gifts, the grace He has lavishly poured out: relationships seemingly broken beyond repair now mended back together; four surgeries before twenty-six, all with the same result: benign; His financial provision through years of figuring out the adventure of self-employment.

Looking at the list, I realized each gift came from a storm I wouldn’t have chosen. Over time, the very waves that threatened to take me out pushed me to shore. The flames that threatened to destroy became the fire that refined. And when everything around was shaking and tomorrow so clearly not a guarantee, He was a solid foundation.

He was there in all of it — in the hard and the holy. In the ordinary, He was waiting to be found. In the unknown, He was constant. In the broken places, He was holding me together.

As I remembered what has been re-membered, the truth was clear: every last thing is a gift because He is redeeming every last thing.

He is a way-making, promise-keeping, battle-winning, water-walking, storm-stilling, faithful Friend and Savior.

He is a way-making, promise-keeping, battle-winning, water-walking, storm-stilling, faithful Friend and Savior.

My list of what isn’t didn’t change after making my list of what is, but my perspective did. And so I began to make another list, this time of God’s many gifts of “no” or “not yet.” Because the truth is, although there are most certainly things I still long and pray for, one of the most frequently spoken sentences in this apartment is “Thank the Lord He didn’t give me what I asked for.”

Sometimes what we think would be best would actually be flat-out terrible. And sometimes we pray and hope and pray some more, only to later find God had something much better in store, something we never would have thought to ask for.

I’m discovering that there are gifts hidden in the timing of the answer and in the prayers that seemingly receive a “no.”

He is a Father who loves to give good gifts to His children, and He has promised to supply all of our needs. And so, it must be that what we don’t have now, we simply don’t need now. There is a greater Story being told, and we can’t see beyond the page we’re currently living. As Charles Spurgeon said, “Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.”

Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.

I am lacking no good thing.
You are lacking no good thing.
We are lacking no good thing.

I won’t lie to you: this is not what I expected my right-now life to look like. This is not what I would have prayed for. But I trust the Author, so I have to believe that this is exactly what I would choose for myself if I could see the entire storyline.

There is a good God who gives good gifts — gifts of what is and what isn’t. And so today, I’ll believe that all is grace and all is well. Here, with my two lists, I can truthfully say I’m grateful for the things I’ve received . . . and the things that, praise God, didn’t come my way.

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This post went live at (in)courage this morning… and I’ll be completely honest with you because you’re my people – my stomach is in knots. Sometimes God leads me to write on something specific from an in-the-middle-of-the-story messy place. This is that, one of those posts I’d never write and share if He wasn’t incredibly clear. So let’s just say 1) if vulnerability hangovers are a thing then I sure have one 2) I’d really love for you to join me over at (in)courage and 3) most of all, I pray these words somehow show up in a newsfeed or an email inbox of a woman who needs to know God is good and she’s lacking no good thing.

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