These are all phrases we’re familiar with, realities we may even live with.
In this second chapter, Lysa builds on what we already know, what’s familiar, to give us something new to grasp about how we can walk with God through our hardest seasons, our worst disappointments, our deepest hurts.
We understand these feelings of brokenness and the sense of being shattered to pieces. Like broken pottery. A useful vessel, made useless upon its breaking, upon its shattering.
And when our lives break apart, when the pieces of our shattered lives lay all around us, we do things to try to piece it back together. We think we should be able to hold it together, maybe “glue” it back together.
That might look like effort — the work of packing a house, moving, and starting over after a loss. Or finding a new job. Or changing schools. Or working harder than ever — you know, nose-to-the-grindstone kind of thing. A picking-ourselves-up-by-the-bootstraps mentality.
While those things might seem to work for awhile, at some point we realize that our life is too broken — the pieces are too small — for us to put it back together. It’s too shattered.
“It’s hard to hold dust. What was once something so very precious is now reduced to nothing but weightless powder even the slightest wind could carry away. We feel utterly hopeless. Dust begs us to believe the promises of God no longer apply to us” (page 17).
We feel hopeless because we realize we can’t to do anything, and we’re tempted to think God can’t either.
“We want God to fix it all. Edit this story so it has a different ending. Repair this heartbreaking reality. But what if fixing, editing, and repairing isn’t at all what God has in mind for us in this shattering? What if, this time, God desires to make something completely brand new?” page 17).
Lysa wants us to realize that DUST is where God can do a great work. In fact, she goes so far as to say, “Dust is the exact ingredient God loves to use” (page 17).
She challenges us to look at shattering as the only way to get us back to our most basic form…dust. So that we can be made new.
In the beginning, what did God use to make humans? Dust. (Genesis 2:7)
Jesus used dust, mixed with water, to make mud to heal a blind man’s eyes. (John 9:5-6)
That idea of mixing dust with water is where Lysa goes next in this great analogy. Mix dust with a little water and you get clay. What is clay used for? To make pottery, a vessel to be used by its maker.
My oldest son took two years of Ceramics in high school. What he thought might be a blow-off class turned into a great experience. He learned the art of mixing water and dust to make clay, taking a lump of clay and putting it on a wheel, then shaping that clay into beautiful bowls and pots. My son, the potter, could take that clay and form it into any shape, size, and purpose he wanted.
God, our Father, is our potter. Isaiah 64:8 tells us that “we are the clay, you (Father) are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”
Lysa hopes we’ll change our perspective the next time we’re in the depths of disappointment. She wants us, in the middle of our broken and shattered lives, to take a step back and realize that God can take our dust and make something new.
All we have to do is let Him.
And that is what is so hard.
We have our ideas of how life should go, how it should look, how it should feel. And, if we’re honest, we assume God’s ideas look just like ours.
Oh man, God has called me on this several times in my life when I’ve tried to control the situations and people in my life (my own version of gluing the pieces back). He stopped me cold one night in the middle of my weeping, sobbing prayer, saying things to Him like, “This wasn’t the plan.”
His response was bold, compassionate, yet firm — “Whose plan?”
Pretty sure my shock stopped my sobs.
Then somewhere in my deepest place of knowing, I knew what I heard was truth. I was so aware in that moment that I had been desperately clinging to what I expected. In that moment, I knew I needed to let go and trust God.
That night I got the reminder that God’s plans and my plans are often not the same thing. His timing might not be what I’d prefer.
Maybe that’s why His Word tells us that His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). His Word prepares us for that reality. He knows our tendency to take control — to try by our own effort to piece life together to make it look like what we expected.
So He put the truth in His Word to teach and equip us:
Trust His ways. Trust His timing.
“Disappointment happens every time I come face-to-face with my absolute inability to control people, circumstances, and timing. If I could control all these things, I’d arrange my own version of perfection. I’d be the boss of my life and those in my life. And I’d do exactly what Adam and Eve did. I’d have a love affair with my own desire. I’d sell my soul for a lie laced with poison” (page 24).
Those are strong words.
Do you remember Lysa’s concept of wrestling well? It was the idea of wrestling with our feelings to get to the place of faith, getting with God and really wrestling through all the feelings SO THAT we can get the faith we need to be able to trust God with all our broken pieces.
The night I prayed that weeping, sobbing prayer about things not going according to my plan (aka: it’s not supposed to be this way), God’s statement caused a true pause within me. I realize now, looking back, that I was wrestling with my feelings.
I was so very disappointed. Hurt. Lost. I didn’t see a way forward.
But in my wrestling, honestly with God and myself, I was given the chance to stop, turn a different direction, and trust God with a future I could no longer imagine.
Instead of grieving a “present” that didn’t look like I thought it would, I let it go. Yes, I grieved for a while. But it was a healthy grief. The kind that I moved through with God.
And now, nine years later, I can say my heart is stronger than before. My faith is more sure. There’s a big part of me that feels new!
The funny thing is that while the circumstances I lamented that night are much, much improved, I’m still waiting on God’s plan and timing. That prayer still isn’t fully answered. Things still are in process. He’s not done yet, but He is faithful to show me that He is still at work.
And I trust.
And now I have this amazing image of dust to hold onto. The kind of dust that God can’t wait to use to make something new.
Lysa has given me a way to stop in the middle of the hurt and disappointment — to see it all as dust — and look to God, the potter, and realize that His hands can take the dust and make something new. That’s a hope-giver! That’s a game-changer!
So, if you’re following all this and find yourself nodding in agreement or even in wonder, wrestle a minute with this statement —
“If our souls never ached with disappointments and disillusionments, we’d never fully admit and submit to our need for God” (page 27).
What does that say to you? How does that make you feel? Wrestle well with those feelings. Lean into them, ask the Holy Spirit to help you find the truth in it — a truth for you, for your situation.
For me, I’m being given purpose for the pain. I realized a while back that this world is broken and that hard stuff happens to all people everywhere, and I can’t control it.
But I can turn to God in the middle of those hard places and get help. He can help me walk through it. And eventually, I can surrender to those potter-hands for a remaking. Useful. With purpose. Not wasted.
Lysa ends the chapter with some powerful bits of truth for us to memorize, cling to, and believe:
If I want His promises, I have to trust His process.
God isn’t ever going to forsake you, but He will go to great lengths to remake you. (page 28)
What I hear her saying is that I have some choices when I find myself full of disappointment and pain — I can choose to believe His promises, His process. I can choose to allow Him to do His work in me, to make me new.
I hope you will take some time to wrestle well today — right now, in fact. Stop what you’re doing and pull out a journal or a piece of paper, and ask God to meet you where you are, to reveal to you where He is in this season. Then take time to respond to some of the questions in this post, including but not limited to: Where can you take a step back and look for God? Where can you let go of control and trust Him? What areas of your life can you surrender to God so that He can do a new work in it, in you?
And, this is only Chapter 2! Lysa, and God, don’t leave us here. The notions of wrestling well and DUST are a foundation for what is to come — more insights, more steps, more ways to engage in this process. We have things to look forward to!
Making like a lump of clay, Shelley Johnson