Guest posts are a big part of Simple Deep Life. I love hearing stories from other women, how God is moving, how God has worked in them. Stories are what bring us together as we can see elements of our own journey in everyone's story.
Today's Simple Deep Life guest is no exception. This is a young woman who at the age of 25 has already done more than many of us can claim at twice her age. After graduation from college, she packed up and headed off to serve at a private school for missionary children, in Lima, Peru for two years. I know this because she taught my oldest daughter! What a blessing she was. Then she returned to the US and worked in a restoration home for teenage girls who had become entangled in some serious life issues at young ages. As she shared with me, that was a huge season of learning and testing!
Yet, God has asked of her some deep seasons of trusting Him with the unknown. I'll step aside and let her tell you the story, in her own words. Join us at the table.
When God's Will Brings Pain, not peace.
Recently I attended our high school's Spring Formal Banquet here in Cleveland Tennessee. It was full of pretty dresses and bow ties, fancy cars and and a million selfies. The teachers put on funny skits about dating and we heard a message about God’s will for your life. As we settled into our seats for the message about God’s will it was all too familiar. Talk about deja`vu! My mind drifted back to when I was in that seat; a junior or senior in high school, dreaming hopefully about the future God had for me.
The problem is, I think I was raised in an era of making lists that create expectations from God. Things that in and of themselves are not bad at all, but can sometimes set us up for disappointment without realizing it. I mean…what is “God’s will” anyway? It’s a question that at 25 I am still wrestling with, and as much as I’d like to think that a white picket fence and a happy marriage would end my search, I know that it wouldn’t. I see now that God does not hold higher favor with people that come in pairs. (But I’m not opposed to that either God… just sayin’.)
I can’t say I knew back in high school what God’s will would be, but I believed that it would bring joy and happiness. There is truth to that. I wouldn’t trade being a Christian for anything. The security and love I feel in knowing that THE God of the Universe has His hand over me is overwhelming. I’m thankful to know Him, and more thankful that He is interested in knowing me and spending a lifetime with me. But….but. What about all the hard stuff that’s happened since then? They didn’t tell me that at the banquet.
Was it God’s will for my closest friend Amanda to be diagnosed with leukemia at 25? Was it His will to heal her of cancer but plague her with an infertility struggle? (And yes, it does feel like a plague.) Was it God’s will for a strong Christian family that I know to divorce after 20 plus years of marriage? To leave their family in pain and fear of the future? Was it God’s will to give my mom a condition that will really never get better? Why am I here at 25, trying to make tough life decisions that as a woman I was not created to make? I realize that part of growing up is making adult decisions, but I never imagined having to make them all on my own. I feel like I’m trying to live life without an important piece of the puzzle.
These aren’t the things that they tell you when you’re praying about your future. I do realize that people are only trying to encourage us to follow Jesus and not the world, that's why the “God’s will” talk is so heavy in teen years. Decisions are so important at this stage of life. But honestly, they’re always important! Every season needs to be centered around what God wants. I heard a powerful message at a Christian camp last summer that simply showed why we are so confused on what God’s will is; it's because we always add this to the end of it….for my life. The answer doesn't lie in what's best for me, but in what's best for Him and what He wants. What He does through me won’t always be for me. Did you get that? Yes, His plans are personally rewarding most of the time, but not every time. Just because His plan hurts and stings along the way doesn't mean you're not in His will.
I’ve been studying Ruth all year and she has blown me away. I had her all backwards before. Her strength and character during her trials has affected me more than the "happily ever after" part ever will. Honestly I stink at being happy during a trial, I get a big fat F, but she handles it with so much grace. There are a few things as well that I think we overlook when we read about her story:
1) We forget that she was married for almost 10 years when her husband died. (Ruth 1:4) That pain didn’t just go away because they moved to Bethlehem. It was probably part of her despairing cry to stay with Naomi in the first place! To keep alive the memory of the man she loved and the loss she was grieving over.
2) She is never caught speaking of the condition of her heart. Naomi takes center stage in grieving and bitterness (and rightfully so), but Ruth is always there listening and pressing on, day by day. Her virtue is caught in how she carries herself, not in what she says about herself or even her God. Her character is shown in her actions and reactions, not her words. Oh, that I could learn this lesson with all my heart too!
In the end, this story was about so much more than just Ruth. It was about Jesus, and all our lives are about Jesus too. It’s always ALL for Him and all about Him. Her pain paved a way for the birth of a son and a lineage that would eventually lead to Christ! What an amazing story, one that gives us hope that our trials are never in vain.
What really struck me was this- she died before she ever knew the extent of her life story! Through her obedience Jesus would be born and change the WHOLE world! I can only imagine the look on her face as Christ explained the reason for the path He led her on. What a special moment in Heaven, and I believe He loves us enough to do that for us too one day.
Oh, if we could just see what He’s doing for us and through us now! It gives me so much hope to know that my story is never without a bigger purpose, no matter where it comes from. He is SO merciful and patient with us, with me. I’ve got tears now just feeling His nearness as these words spill from my heart. My first attempt to write this blog was entitled “When God breaks your heart”. Honestly, that's how I’ve felt this year. It has been a year of emotional exhaustion that I did not foresee when it began, but I know it wasn’t and isn’t His plan to break my heart. His plan is to build my heart to be more like Him, through any means necessary, and it’s worth it. Totally worth it. Every part of our story has a purpose and a meaning and it will all come back to bless us someday if we don’t abandon Him in the process.
God’s will is simply this, it’s His. Sometimes full of joy, and sometimes full of sorrow. I pray you’re learning to trust Him too as you seek Him in peace and pain.
He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him. Ruth 4:15