Not What I Imagined
Reaching the End of Myself
Finding out I was pregnant with our little miracle baby was a prayer come true, but this pregnancy was not the journey I had always envisioned. I had always pictured myself as the mom who exercised daily during pregnancy, ensuring that I stayed fit and strong for my baby. I imagined that I would be the mom who ate an avocado a day, along with a number of other healthy, nutritious foods that would aid in my baby’s development. I would work hard to remain self-disciplined and healthy for the sake of the little one growing inside of me. But now, as I laid on my couch looking in disgust over my emaciated body those dreams had never felt more out of reach. This wasn’t the pregnancy I had imagined; it was a nightmare. I was one of the two percent of women diagnosed with “Hyperemesis Gravedarum”, an extreme sickness that caused my body to reject food and water. I had entered the second trimester now; most of the other moms I knew at this stage of pregnancy had cute little baby bumps popping out, but for me, the only thing protruding out further than before was my rib cage as my stomach continued to sink in, making me look more and more like a skeleton. My body was weak, most of its nutrients coming through IVs or the minute amounts of food I could keep down when my medications actually worked. My arms were bruised and sore from needles and blown veins caused by dehydration. Mentally and emotionally, I had reached my breaking point weeks before. This wasn’t the road I had imagined at all, but walking it was bringing me to the end of myself and nearer to the One who possessed the strength I so desperately needed.
Perhaps you’ve felt similar to the way I have. Is your journey different than what you always imagined? Are your own plans falling apart? Perhaps you have been single for far longer than you ever anticipated or perhaps the children you’ve so long prayed for have yet to come. Maybe a difficult family situation or a lost friendship has left you feeling abandoned and alone. Maybe a broken marriage or the loss of a spouse has left you feeling hopeless. Maybe your body or that of a loved one has been wracked by a crippling disease, robbing you of the life you always dreamed of. Has your life not gone as planned? Have you reached the end of yourself? For the Christian, the end of self is truly the best place to be. It is when we have reached the end of our own strength and recourses that we begin to lean harder on Christ. It is at the end of ourselves that we see Him more clearly and learn to cling to Him more desperately. This state of desperation is exactly where we belong.
A Desperate Need for Christ
There is nothing that takes God by surprise, nothing that catches Him off guard. His plan is from the beginning of time (Ephesians 1) and His counsel stands throughout all eternity (Psalm 33). We can take comfort in the truth that though things don’t always go according to our plans, they always go according to His. How quick we are to try to figure things out on our own and do things in our own strength. How often our hearts run to worry when things don’t go as we expected them to. How quick we are to forget to go to Him in prayer, to rest in Him and trust Him to meet our needs, to rely on Him for daily grace. Yet He gently reminds us that our strength and salvation come from Him alone. He is faithful, we can place our hope in His steadfast love that constantly pursues us. Let us not be women of half-hearted trust, but women who trust Him with vivacity and boldness. Women who can “laugh at the time to come” (Proverbs 31), for though we do not know what tomorrow holds, we know the One who holds it, and He is trustworthy. He is sovereign over our lives, yes, even over the unexpected. We can trust His wisdom and trust that He is working all things together for our good, even those things we never imagined we would have to endure.
My journey to motherhood has gone nothing like what I imagined it would. It was a full year before I ever saw that second line appear on a pregnancy test- a full year of praying for miracles and of waiting. During that year, foster children came and went and my husband and I walked through three failed adoptions, wondering if we would ever possess the names “mom” and “dad”. It was a time of great trial and heartache for us both, a time where we both had to rely on Christ for much grace. We continued praying and waiting (not always very patiently) until at last, God opened a door for us to pursue a domestic adoption. A week after beginning the adoption process again, we found out I was expecting, and the following week God gifted us with yet another baby through foster care. All of my long-awaited dreams for motherhood had been fulfilled in a matter of weeks and yet, here I am, in the midst of my fulfilled dreams and longings realizing that I need Christ just as desperately now, in the fulfillment of these dreams, as I did in the longing for them. The longing and waiting were hard, so very hard, and now those prayers have graciously been answered and it is still hard. The adoption process is full of ups and downs which often causes added stress, the pregnancy complications have made me sicker than I ever knew was possible and having a newborn to care for in the midst of it all is a challenge- oh how desperately I need Christ in this season! Just as much as I needed Him in the previous season I found myself in. Likewise, you also need Christ in whatever season you find yourself in- the expected or the unexpected. Whether you are enduring a time of great testing or relishing in a season of happiness and rest. Whether you are in a season of longing or a season of fulfillment. We must learn to cling to Him in every season- the beautiful and the difficult, on the brightest days as well as on the darkest ones.
During those seasons of reprieve when we do not feel as helpless, weak, or desperate, it is far easier to forget just how much we need Him, but the truth remains that we do. It is vitally important for Christians to seek Christ daily. Jeremiah 29:13 tells us we can have full confidence that when we seek Him, we will find Him. Psalm 34:5 says that those who look to Christ are radiant. When we get just a glimpse of His glory, it will shine through us, just as it did for Moses who saw just a small bit of God’s glory (Exodus 34:6-7, 29-35). Our lives should be a reflection of His glory. He has shone His glory in our hearts (2 Corinthians 4:6), and now we can reflect it to those around us.
We look to Him by looking to His Word. His Word reveals Him, and it is on the pages of Scripture that we see His glory. Let us be women of the Word. May we be found in the Word daily. Whatever you do, do not neglect your private devotional life. If you can’t read without interruptions from little ones, then include them in your daily Bible reading or wake up before they do to get it done. Set aside time each day to be in the Scriptures, stay consistent. If you struggle to focus, listen to the Bible in audio form, have it playing in your home throughout the day. Listen to Scripture songs in the car. Post verses and promises from God’s Word throughout your home and meditate on them all day long. Teach your children memory verses and learn right alongside them. Keep seeking and striving to know the Word of God better. Even if you are in a dry season and feel like you aren’t getting anything out of your daily reading, press on. Fill your mind with the truths of Scripture so that you are ready to combat the lies the enemy will seek to assault you with in your weaker moments.
Let us also be women of prayer, women who go to Christ for anything and everything. Make prayer a daily habit and priority. Pray as the needs arise. Remain dependent. The state of dependency is the best state for the Christian to be in. Pray for the big things and the small things. Pray in times of joy, as well as in times of desperation. Pray in times of peace and in times of temptation. If you find it difficult to stay focused in prayer, write your prayers out in a journal. Pray out loud. Pray quietly. Pray alone. Pray with others. Pray with your husband. Pray with your children. Ask others to pray for you. Pray as you wash dishes or fold the laundry. Pray as you drive to work. Pray without ceasing.
Let us be women who are actively involved in the body of Christ. In times of weakness more than any other time, the enemy will seek to assault you with lies. Surround yourself with God’s people, those who will speak truth into your life. In my own darkest moments, I have often had to be reminded of the truth by others. Truth may not always be what we want to hear, but the wise will listen and take it to heart. During times of affliction, it can be tempting to become more withdrawn and isolate yourself. Though it is sometimes physically necessary to stay home more and rest, it is vitally important that we surround ourselves with God’s people as much as we possibly can. Surround yourself with other believers who are seeking to grow in their faith. Get help and counsel when needed, get fellowship, get accountability. Prayer, Scripture, and the body of Christ are all vital aspects of the Christian life, don’t let these things go no matter what season you find yourself in.
Psalm 34:8 tells us to “taste and see that the Lord is good”. Taste is an experience and something that is personal. We must experience Christ for ourselves. We must behold Him. We must see who He is and that He is good. We are promised that those who “seek the Lord lack no good thing”. He is what we need. This may not look like prosperity by the world’s standards. We aren’t promised material things; we are promised things that truly have value. We get Jesus. He is the gift. If all we had was Jesus, He would be enough. Because we have Him, we can turn from evil and do good, we can seek and pursue peace. This is shalom peace. It is completeness, wholeness, covenant relationship, and peace with God. This is what we have because of Him. Seek Jesus. Pursue Jesus.
God is Answering Your Prayers
“I’ve been praying for you, but I just don’t understand why God isn’t answering my prayers” my husband told me as he knelt beside the bed holding my hand. My sickness had been difficult for him too. “Sometimes God’s answer is ‘No, I have something more to teach you through this.'” I responded.
We know that God does answer prayer but oftentimes it’s easy to assume that “yes” is the only time God is answering them. We forget that “wait” and “no” are also answers from the Lord, and though they may not be the answers that we hope for, they may very likely be the answers we most need in our journey towards sanctification. Our all wise and caring Father knows what each of us need in order to become more like Him. For some of us, it takes a thorn in the flesh. Do we not desire more than anything to be made like Him though? Are we willing to endure whatever means necessary to draw us into closer fellowship with Him? Our question through times of difficulty should not be, “God, why are you allowing this to happen to me?” but “God, what are you trying to teach me right now? Help me to learn all you want me to learn through this.”
New Mornings Mercies
“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” -Lamentations 3:22-23
In the midst of some of my greatest trials, I have tasted some of God’s sweetest mercies. In my current season, I have tasted the mercy of a loving, supportive community that has lavished me with kindness. My servant-hearted husband has gone above and beyond to care for me and our babies. I’ve had nearby family members supply meals for my husband on the days I’m unable to cook. I’ve had sister-in-laws and friends offer to do my laundry and clean my house. I’ve had people step in to care for my foster baby when I’ve been hospitalized. I’ve had people willing to rearrange their busy schedules to take me to the emergency room, IV clinics and doctor appointments for weekly care. I’ve had a church family who prays for me and checks on me consistently. I’ve had encouraging visitors come to cheer me up both in the hospital and at home. I’ve been blessed with a wonderful medical team and medical care. I’ve been given the gift of an older sister with a similar experience to my own who has been extremely helpful and supportive. I’ve even been given the gift of a newborn baby in my home to remind me of the joy that is coming when this sickness is over. The list could go on and on, God’s mercies truly abound!
What mercies has God given you in your season of life? Open your eyes and you will find that there are many. Did you witness a beautiful sunrise this morning as you drove into work? Do you have a stable job? Did you enjoy a delicious breakfast or a piping hot cup of tea when you woke up? Did you wake up to have a Bible in your home, written in your own language and do you possess the ability to read it? Did you go to bed with clean pajamas last night and food in your stomach? Were you able to take a shower with warm, running water? Do you have family and friends to encourage you on your darker days? These are all truly mercies from God and they are new every morning, don’t turn a blind eye to them. Thank God for them.
His Grace Runs Deeper
The cross you’ve been called to bear may indeed be very heavy but as Elisabeth Elliot said after losing her husband, “…when you are called to face the unimaginable, there is something there that was not there in your imaginings— the grace of God.” His grace runs deeper than your deepest trials, and His grace is sufficient. So often it is in suffering or weakness that we feel His presence the most clearly. It is when we are so aware of our weakness that we can so clearly see His strength. We will face many afflictions throughout life, but He will be there through each of them. Psalm 34:20 is a beautiful prophecy about Jesus— “not one of His bones was broken.” Though He was pierced and crushed for us (Isaiah 53), He was not broken. As His church, we are His body. This life may bruise us, but it will not break the people of God. We may be afflicted, but we will not be crushed by this life. Life may perplex us, but we need not despair for there is a greater life to come. This world may persecute us, but our God will not forsake us. We may be wounded, but we will not be broken. Our God is able to redeem anything. He can bring good from whatever we face, even those circumstances that are different than what we always imagined.