I like books with happily-ever-afters.
I want the novel in my hand to close with the satisfying feeling that all has been resolved. To turn to the last page and find the loose threads woven together, the dragons slain, and the broken hearts whole and healed.
For the past three years, we’ve walked through the pages of a story that have been written with tears: a stillbirth, four miscarriages, six months of negative pregnancy tests. The words are rougher and messier than what I would have penned for myself. Others see the book’s jagged edges and whisper well-intentioned platitudes like, “It will happen. Hang in there.”
And if this was a novel written by my own human hands it would certainly end with a baby born, whole and healthy with screaming lungs and flailing arms. Given the chance, who wouldn’t write out happy answers to our most heartfelt dreams? An acceptance letter into that longed-for university program, a perfect job that provide unending happiness, a spouse to snuggle up next to each night. With the rub of an eraser we would fix marriages that have been cracked or marred by human brokenness, and lives that have been devastated by sickness and poverty. With glittery rainbow-coloured markers, we would scribble out a lifetime of dreams fulfilled rather than crushed. Because if it were up to us, those things that we have been dreaming of, longing for, and praying for would always happen.
But this isn’t the case. Standing here, surrounded by a world that cries out for all that should be but isn’t, I know that we don’t always get our expected happily-ever-after.
A book lies open on my lap, the pages of which speak with the voice of the living God, and I see the generations who died in a place of expectancy and waiting. I see the desperation and sorrow of a nation who languishes in the desert awaiting a promised land, of a people who ask for an earthly prince when they tire of waiting for the one true King, and of hearts who weary and fall away.
What if we don’t get what we want? What if we wait and pray and ache until our hair grows white, and like Sarah we laugh at the impossibility of a child born in old age. Of a dream fulfilled “too late.” What if we never receive our Isaac, the thing we’ve been hoping and longing for. Or worse yet, what if we do and then God asks us to take that dream to the mountain as a sacrifice to Him, to give it all back to Him?
Can we trust Him even then?
Can we trust Him even when it’s hard and it’s messy? When life cracks and breaks and we find ourselves waiting for something more than what we have now? When bodies go unhealed, and injustice runs rampant, and the very cries of our heart seem to be left unheard?
What if there is no spouse at the end of this chapter? No baby? No home? No career?What if you don’t give me this thing for which my heart longs?
Even here, in the midst of the pain and ugliness of a world filled with crumbling, impoverished dreams, can we still say that “God is good?” Even here? Even now?
Yes, we can still trust, even when we’re feeling forgotten and neglected. When the friends around us are traveling the world and we’re only seeing it through their Instagram pages, when we lose our job and we’re not sure how we’ll make rent, when the engagement is called off, when the bones break and the cancer returns, when the baby is stillborn.
We may wade knee deep in mire, but who He is has not changed. Who He is remains the same.
There is no denying that our temporary life can feel so unfair, so unsatisfying, and unfulfilled. We plead and we pray and still the silence deafens. Until the day we fall on our knees in eternity, our faces reflecting the fullness of His glory, we may never know “Why us?” “Why not us?”
But we can know that through it all, He is faithful. Even here. We have not been abandoned, could never be abandoned. And yes, it hurts, even excruciatingly so, to see these dreams drift away on the wind and to feel the pangs of hunger for something more. But remember, sweet child, to whom you belong.
For there is a conclusion to this story that surpasses the joy of any novel written by human hands. The things we so desperately desire are mere shadows of what is to come. The brilliance of His glory causes even the brightest of our days to look dim; and the satisfaction found in Him so much greater than even the strongest of our earthly desires for today.
He knows this weight you carry. He feels the pain and the loss and the desperation, and simply calls you to Himself. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
The conclusion to this chapter may not look the way we wanted it to. It may be full of earthly aches and groans, sickness and devastation, denials and broken hearts. But laying our burdens at His feet, we can give up the stories we had planned for ourselves, and confidently ask Him to write His own, knowing all the while that it is good and that He can redeem and restore even this.
Because this is not the end. Brothers and sisters, this is not the final page. There is hope for tomorrow. When we take our final breath, and all the disappointments and aches of life pass away, it is then that we get to walk in the very happiest and weightiest of glory-filled forever afters.
Amen and amen. So well put and so maturely realized. Love you guys!
So amazingly written Liz! I’m so encouraged at your depth of faith and boldness to say what you say. Thanks for sharing your heart and sharing and shining your light into the dark and hopeless places of our hearts.