Recently, I attended a Good Friday Breakfast. Many in my church gathered on this particular morning as a way to remember together what Jesus endured and how He died. Our pastor commented that without that day, without Jesus’ death, we wouldn’t have been gathered there. At all.
That jolted me.
How much I take for granted!
Of course, his statement was completely logical, but something in me had an acute awareness that hadn’t been there before he prayed those words.
Without Good Friday – without the day Jesus died – our church wouldn’t exist. Christianity wouldn’t exist.
It’s a really good reminder of what we talked about in the last post – God’s original, intended purpose for us was thwarted in the Garden of Eden. It’s why we live with so much disappointment.
But God has had a plan all along to make things right. To redeem all of creation. To eliminate our disappointments.
And Jesus was the lynch-pin of that plan. His redeeming work ushered in the new covenant and brings to all who believe the power of the Holy Spirit, the chance to live life with hope and strength and purpose.
That’s truth. It’s our choice whether to believe it or live by it. But it’s the truth of who God is and why Jesus came, died, and rose from the grave.
Keeping all this in mind, let’s look at the Introduction of Lysa TerKeurst’s book, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way,
“Humans are very attached to outcomes. We say we trust God but behind the scenes we work our fingers to the bone and our emotions into a tangled fray trying to control our outcomes. We praise God when our normal looks like what we thought it would. We question God when it doesn’t. And we walk away from Him when we have a sinking suspicion that God is the one who set fire to the hope that was holding us together” (page xii).
Take a moment to breathe, then read that again.
In all honesty, how attached are you to outcomes?
How often have you worked your emotions “into a fray” trying to control your outcomes or fighting the outcomes that aren’t what you wanted?
I have. I do.
When my first teaching job, the job I’d dreamed of since childhood, didn’t look or feel anything like I thought it would, I was a mess. That gap between my expectations and the actual experience was huge. I was disappointed. I was disillusioned. I wanted OUT. But my frenetic search of the Sunday paper’s classified section each week was unfruitful, to say the least.
When my firstborn came along, I was shocked to discover how difficult it was to leave him every day to go to work. The plan to be home on holidays and summers just wasn’t enough. I was desperate to discover a way to stay home. I wanted to control the outcome I desired, no matter the cost.
Even now, when the expectations, the outcomes, I’d hoped for after 12 years of full-time ministry don’t appear to be especially fruitful, I have to fight the urge to try to control the outcomes.
Lysa seems to be learning what I am – WE CANNOT CONTROL OUR OUTCOMES.
“We cannot formulate how the promises of God will actually take shape. And we will never be able to demand any of the healing from all the hurt to hurry up” (page xiii).
What’s a girl to do if she can’t be in control?
She remembers Jesus. She recalls the way the Son of God left his throne in heaven to walk in her shoes. She sees the way He surrendered His desire for “this cup to pass” to God’s perfect will and plan and purpose. He wanted God’s will more than His own because He trusted God.
And she realizes that He is the model by which she should live. Surrendered. Anchored in the hope He represents and brings. Trusting in His promises, His timing, His ways.
“Though we can’t predict or control or demand the outcome of our circumstances, we can know with great certainty we will be okay” (page xiv).
And for me, that statement is why we follow Jesus. It’s why we pick up a book like this one.
With Jesus, we will be okay. Even in the middle of life’s biggest disappointments.
In the study guide that accompanies this book, Lysa opens the Day 1 Personal Study (page 23) with a “disappointment continuum.” It’s a graph, an exercise, that’s meant to help us see that a) not all disappointments are the same and b) how we respond to the differing disappointments should also not be the same.
Take some time now to do your own Disappointment Continuum. Here are Lysa’s instructions:
“There are various kinds of disappointment, from the annoyance of a friend cancelling plans at the last minute to the devastating death of a loved one. Imagine a scale from 1 (minor) to 10 (major). What would you rate as a 10 on the scale of disappointments? What are some 8s and 9s? What are some 2s and 3s?”
| | | | | | | | | |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
I have to confess how tempted I was to brush-off this exercise, to give it minimal thought. But, thankfully, I didn’t. The process of thinking through what makes a disappointment a 7 versus a 2 was more than enlightening, more than helpful.
It’s given me perspective.
It brings to mind something Beth Moore said once – that when we face a disappointment, a challenge in life, we need to stop and ask ourselves, “Is this a tragedy or an inconvenience?” before we allow ourselves to react.
In other words, I shouldn’t curl up in a ball on my bed and cry for hours over a bad haircut – an inconvenience. But, it was a perfectly appropriate response when I miscarried early in our marriage – a personal tragedy.
And, yet, Lysa helps us realize through this exercise – these are ALL disappointments. There will be feelings. And God wants to be in all of them with us.
She wants us to realize and believe that all disappointments, big or small, are “worth bringing before the Lord and being processed by truth” (study guide, page 24).
She quotes Viktor E. Frankl to help capture this point:
“…suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore, the ‘size’ of human suffering is absolutely relative” (study guide, page 24).
With Jesus as our model, we can release every feeling, every disappointment – big or small – to God. Lysa points us to some incredible promises God gives us in Romans 8:26-28, in The Message:
“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”
These are promises that can help us surrender our wills, just as Jesus did.
Lysa encourages us to write a “statement of release,” giving over to God those circumstances that are causing us distress, disappointment, and discouragement, releasing to God the outcomes WE desire. Take time to do this. It’s a great practice of obedience and faith.
Also, it always helps us to shift our eyes from our disappointments back onto Jesus when we look for “God’s interaction and intervention” in our lives.
Another exercise in the study challenges us to spend the next 24-hours looking for evidence of God’s faithfulness. Watch for seven instances of God at work and write them down because in Lysa’s experience (and my own), the “more we look for God’s faithfulness, the more we’ll start to see it in a current situation that’s hard” (study guide, page 28).
And that, my friends, is how we live victorious lives! It’s how we know we will be okay even when life and its disappointments wreck us.
1 Corinthians 15:57 is a Scriptural truth that holds this promise of victory:
“Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (NIV)
[For more context and more promises, expand that passage to include versus 56-58!]
As we bring our look at the Introduction to a close, let’s think a minute about that promise of victory.
- Nowhere in that promise does God say that our circumstances or outcomes determine our victories. Just Jesus.
- And, this promise points out that when we put our hope in Christ, when we look to Him in the midst of the hard places of life, we will be better than okay. We’ll be victorious!
To me, that says life won’t always feel the way it does right now and that God will work some sort of good out of this situation. I just have to be willing to trust God for who He is and to lay aside my will for His.
I know, I know. This is so much easier to type than to do.
It’s so hard to retrain my brain to assume the best about God instead of the worst when life throws me for a loop.
It’s so hard to release my grip of control on my children, my spouse – I mean, after all, I know what’s best for them, right? (I know I don’t, but sometimes I act as if I do…)
It’s so hard to frame each disappointment in a healthy perspective, because feelings.
It’s so hard to release each person, each situation to God and to put my full trust in His provision and His plan.
But I’m trying. And I’m discovering that it’s not by my strength or power that I can do any of this. My “trying” comes in the form of complete surrender – through worship, prayer, study of God’s Word, and healthy, honest conversations with trustworthy friends who can cheer me on and challenge me when I go off course.
In this season, my lifestyle looks a little different. Instead of reading novels at night, I’m journaling and reading Scripture. Instead of recording “all my shows,” I only watch TV when there’s a free hour or two here and there.
And I don’t share these things to toot my own horn, but to try to convey what “trying” looks like.
It’s has way more to do with a surrendering of myself than pulling up my boot straps.
It looks a lot more like listening in the quiet spaces than filling every second with busyness and noise.
The crazy thing is – it’s working! In the past few months, I’ve heard more from God than in the past couple of years combined.
So, if you’re living in the middle of your own “it’s not supposed to be this way” season of life, I challenge you to seek ways you can surrender your heart, your mind, and your time to God, giving Him space to do a new work in you.
Giving Him all the glory,