I’m doing everything God desired me to do, and I’m disappointed by the results. Those are the words I said over the phone to my mom just over a year ago, such brutally honest words, that had I not said them out loud I might never have remembered saying them at all.
It was my response after she had sweetly inquired how I was feeling, as she has done ever since I was five.
How’s my daughter doing? She’d always say.
(And this time, after the barrage of distressing circumstances we had just endured, …well, that was a loaded question, to say the least.)
In the 6 months prior, we had lost my father-in-law unexpectedly, and months before the heartbreaking onslaught of death that would ravage our world due to COVID.
I’ll never forget watching my husband kneel at his father’s casket, holding his cold hands in the warmth of his own, all while naively thinking to myself that the most pressing thing we’d have to journey as a family, would be navigating how best to support my husband as he grieves (not knowing the chaos that would soon unfold in the coming weeks and months…)
Not even 7 days later, I’d find myself in the hospital with a rare case of shingles… on my face… I recall the attending doctor preparing me for what was to happen…5-6 weeks in bed, boils that would grow and then break open and bleed, severe scars that would likely remain, pain that would escalate… excruciating, almost nightmarish pain, I’d soon learn… and the worst of it, that I was at risk of losing the vision in my left eye and the hearing in my left ear.
In a moment, my hearing & sight could be gone. Forever.
I remember scooting around on the crinkly, crunchy paper after the doctor had left me alone in the room, feeling the weight of that diagnosis, and the irony that it came the day after my 33rd birthday. I remember, even more, not knowing how to pray.
Weeks later, and while I was still recovering, Covid slammed my home of NYC. The haunting and inescapable sirens… the refrigerated trucks stationed on street corners to store all the bodies… the mass exodus of people leaving the city in the middle of the night…
At the same time, my husband I watched the church we had thrown our whole lives into building over these last 4 years, crumble, as it became abundantly clear that because so many people were moving out of the city, we’d have to start over completely from scratch. That everything we had worked so tirelessly for, given up everything for… was simply put, just a dress rehearsal. On a bad day, it felt like a waste.
And then somewhere in the middle of it all, was a miscarriage that broke something in me.
Not just any miscarriage, a pregnancy that happened after 8 years of desiring another child and navigating the cruel & crushing path that is infertility.
It had been a natural pregnancy the doctors had told us could likely never happen… and then it did happen… I took 18 pregnancy tests because I couldn’t believe that it was true. Yes, 18.
…And then one day, as I was walking down the stairs with a bowl of popcorn, I tripped and fell.
The bleeding began the following day.
I’ll never forget as I arrived at the hospital that night, how the nurse complimented me on my pink nail polish, no doubt, in an attempt to calm my palpable anxiety. And how I responded kindly, without hesitation, not knowing the cruelty that would be found in my words.
’Oh, thank you” I had replied, “My daughter gave it to me today, for… Mother’s day.…”
Mother’s Day. That coldhearted reality hit me the moment the words escaped my lips. — the reality that I was losing the pregnancy I had been told I’d likely never have, miscarrying the miracle I had thought God had given me, and on Mother’s day nonetheless.
In the first 6 months of 2020, our family, our careers, our dreams, and my health had all taken debilitating blows. (I took the picture of myself above, immediately after the onslaught, feeling so mangled and disoriented I was certain I’d look unrecognizable to who I once was. Only to find, to my astonishment, I looked strangely the same.)
How am I feeling? I had pondered in response to my mom’s well-meaning question, searching for a word to describe how ravaged I felt inside.
“I feel disappointed — I’m doing everything God told me to do, I’ve worked tirelessly to become everything He desired me to be, and the truth is, I feel deeply disappointed by the results.”
Maybe you feel the same way today.
Perhaps that’s what has compelled me most to write again after all these years, is that I know I can’t be alone in that feeling… Maybe, more than that, I need to not be alone…
I need proof there are people like me, with no bows at the end of their most distressing stories (not yet at least… Not even close.) People like me, who have been shattered to pieces in this last season and who’ve yet to be rebuilt, who don’t even know where to start, but who take selfies and stare blankly at themselves in the mirror, because they are certain they must look different after all they’ve just endured.
I need to find the people who are grappling and reeling and army-crawling through the trenches and their toughest questions, yet even still, are wearily and furiously searching for God’s goodness knowing it’s there, …it has to be there, somewhere… even though right now everything feels like it’s falling apart.
If that’s how you feel today, I pray that you will find great comfort knowing you aren’t alone in your disappointment. (I’m with you. So with you.) Not only that, if I were given the honor of hearing your story, and were to watch as you hold back tears as you strain to tell it, I have no doubt that the disappointment you feel today would be understandable. Expected, even.
Again, it’s okay you feel disappointed…
But it’s important you know this as well: The choking disappointment you feel today is not the destination.
Romans 5:5 tells us this, saying, ’And this hope will not lead to disappointment…’ (NLT)
Scripture makes lofty promises of the God we have placed our hope in – the hope that He is good and that He knows what He’s doing, the hope that God will set the wrong things right and will write a story better for us than we could have ever written on our own – promising that if we continue to courageously place our hope in Him we will never be left disappointed.
But here’s what the Bible doesn’t promise… and this is important…
While the Bible promises our hope will not lead to disappointment, what it doesn’t promise is that we won’t have to wade through disappointment from time to time.
(Just ask David and the Israelites.)
In Psalm 23:4 David says this of the path He found himself on, ‘Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid for You are close beside me.’
Exodus 13:18 says this of God’s beloved people, saying, ’God led the Israelites in a roundabout way through the wilderness…’
Don’t miss this: God wasn’t leading them to dark and stiflingly desolate places, but He was lovingly leading them through them. Dark valleys and desolation were not the destinations. (And the same is true of the incredibly dark and disappointing places we have found ourselves in today).
You see, it’s okay to be unsatisfied with the current outcomes of your life — The move you were sure you were supposed to make, the job you watched ‘the stars align’ in order for you to take. The prayer you thought – for sure – would’ve been answered by now, or the person you thought you had consoled God thoroughly on before you married … yet, here you are. You’re not where you thought you would be.
It’s okay to have expected such good from God that today’s results have fallen short — our future feels unknown and our present, excruciating. Our dreams still feel denied, our obedience fruitless, and the direction of our life (still) pitifully aimless.
It’s okay to be disappointed, but know that God is not cruelly leading us to this disappointment; He is lovingly leading us through it.
I see that now, though I’ll admit, it’s taken me a while — it’s taken me a while to see that God wasn’t leading me to this punishing decade of infertility nor to that terrifying diagnosis, or the shattering incident on the staircase that day… But make no mistake, He has been trying to lead me through it. (Trying… though for the better part of a year a half I’ve wavered in following His lead at times, because I’ve been far too busy kicking and screaming – more on this later.)
Yet, through it all, God was speaking these words to me, the same words I believe He wants to speak to you, smack dab in the middle of whatever disorienting disappointment you are wading in today (and perhaps, over your own kicking and screaming):
God is saying, “I know you are disappointed. I know what this has cost you, and that today it doesn’t feel worth it. I know what you are walking through is scary and uncertain and that you worry if I really know what I’m doing (or worse, that I led you astray.) And you’re right, this is hard — excruciating and confusing at times, almost beyond your ability to endure. But know that not a single tear or sorrow of yours has ever escaped me. I see your scars and understand your questions. But don’t be mistaken, I’ve never left your side, not for a moment …and I’m not leading you to this disappointment, I’m simply leading you through it.
Through some of my darkest days over the last year and a half, those words have consoled me,
“I’m not leading you to this, I’m simply leading you through it.” — God
Oh, weary friend and frustrated follower of Jesus, breathe this truth in and let it revive your hope today: That if we could see where God is – right now – leading us to, we would not be displeased. (Far from it.)
What has you reeling today is not the end of the story, nor will it be the end of mine. Debilitating disappointment may be our reality but it is not the destination. We’re just passing through. — Proceed with hope in that today.
I’ll be over here furiously fighting to do the same.
Yet I still belong to you [Even after all this disappointment…]; You hold my right hand… leading me to a glorious destiny. (Psalm 73:23, NLT)