When God Writes Your Story in a Way You Didn’t Want…

story pain write+

 

My oldest daughter, Katie, just left for Africa to serve the Lord overseas for almost a year.

Seven years ago, serving Jesus would have been unthinkable to her. Seven years ago, God wasn’t real to her any more. Seven years ago, she almost walked away from faith.

A few weeks ago, on the Sunday that her church commissioned her, the sermon was on Joseph. The pastor said, “Don’t be so focused on what God has taken from you that you can’t see or believe that God will do something through you.”

Those words hit me hard. He went on to quote from Paul Miller’s powerful book, A Praying Life, “When confronted with suffering that won’t go away or with even a minor problem, we instinctively focus on what is missing…not on the Master’s hand. Often when you think everything has gone wrong, it’s just that you’re in the middle of a story.”

Often when you think everything has gone wrong, it’s just that you’re in the middle of a story.

That one sentence kept coming back to me throughout the sermon. It’s so easy to focus on what is missing and not on God’s hand when you’re in the middle of a story. When every day feels like an insurmountable struggle, and the details of the present are all-consuming, it’s impossible to imagine anything else is happening.

Seven years ago, we were in an excruciating part of the story. It felt like an unending nightmare. In fact, it was probably the hardest year of my life.

In the middle, all I could see was what had gone wrong. What God had taken from me. What seemed irredeemable and broken. I felt that I had lost everything. And I didn’t believe that God would do anything through me or through my circumstances. My husband had left, my kids were a mess, and my body was failing. How could anything good ever come out of unimaginable pain?

Talking to my oldest daughter one afternoon in 2010, trying to help her make sense of what had happened, was one of the lowest points for me. I told her that God would walk us through the current crisis. She stood up, threw a Kleenex box at me and yelled as she walked out of the room, “Stop talking! Just stop! I don’t want anything to do with YOUR God.”

I sat there, stunned. I wasn’t sure what to say. This precious daughter, who had been baptized two years earlier, had decided that my God wasn’t her God. She had prayed and trusted and waited for the Lord to change her family situation, yet nothing had changed. Things had gotten worse instead. Her prayers felt pointless and her faith was crumbling along with our family.

I so wanted a happy ending, tied up with a bow. A restored marriage. Faith-filled children. A pain-free body. I was convinced my daughters would only trust God if their prayers were answered exactly as they were asked. After all, they wanted godly things. Why wouldn’t God answer them?

Night after night, I had prayed earnestly for them and with them. I knelt by their beds and we talked to God together. But after a while, they grew disinterested in prayer. Nothing seemed to be happening.

After years of praying with seemingly no results, I too was tempted to give up asking for change.  I knew God was at work, but I couldn’t see any evidence of it.  I wanted to protect my children and to give them everything I thought they needed to have a strong faith, but I simply couldn’t. Nothing was in my control. All I could do was cry out to God and wait.

I despaired for my daughters and for myself as darkness seemed to press in on every side. This wasn’t the plan I wanted for my life. Or for theirs. I felt helpless and hopeless and I couldn’t see God working in any of it. Well-meaning friends gave me statistics about how vulnerable my daughters were. I knew those frightening stats. And I lay awake at night, afraid. I could trust God for myself – but for my children? That was much harder. And still is. Could God possibly love my daughters as much as I did?

But very gradually, over several years, both daughters came to a deep faith. This daughter, who wanted nothing to do with “my” God, pursued a relationship with the Lord again. She started going to Bible study. Her demeanor softened. She talked about Jesus.

She then started leading a Bible study. The Lord once again became “her” God. And now she is going to serve the Lord in Africa.  Somewhere, in the middle of all the pain, God became real to her again. He wooed her back.

As she was commissioned in front of her church a few weeks ago, I cried. Tears of sadness that she would be leaving coupled with tears of joy that God had met her. Those desperate years when the Lord was silent, he was not absent. He had been there all along.

We are all works in progress. And we are all in the middle of our stories. We don’t know how things are going to turn out. And they may not get tied up with a bow in this life. We may not see our kids recommit their lives to Christ, or our marriages restored, or our diseases cured. But we can trust that God is in the story. And he is orchestrating the tiniest detail. We may not understand why, but we can be certain that God has a glorious purpose to the pain we are enduring.

I’m still in the middle of my story. And so are you. While none of us know the joys and trials we have yet to encounter, we do know that Jesus will be with us through them. And we can be confident that one day, after the last chapter is written, our story will be tied up with a bow with the happiest ending of all.

 

 

 

  • October 11, 2017 - 5:32 pm

    Lisa - Thank you Vaneetha. I love Paul Miller’s book. Funny how, when we’re right in the middle of one of God’s most suspenseful chapters, we want to rewrite the story, instead of sitting firmly on the edge of our seats looking expectantly to Him. Usually it is in His silence(and ours) that we can see Him most at work. May He help our unbelief!ReplyCancel

    • October 14, 2017 - 4:08 pm

      Vaneetha - Totally agree Lisa! I so want to rewrite so many chapters in the story long before I know why they are even there!ReplyCancel

  • October 11, 2017 - 7:44 pm

    Deborah Peel - Very helpful Vaneetha, confirming my current lesson which in God’s good grace is coming at me from various directions 🙂ReplyCancel

    • October 14, 2017 - 4:06 pm

      Vaneetha - Love it when there’s an echo to what I’m hearing from the Lord…ReplyCancel

  • October 11, 2017 - 11:26 pm

    Diane - Thank you, Vaneetha. This ministered to me in a very meaningful way.ReplyCancel

  • October 12, 2017 - 7:47 am

    Cindy Brown - All of the above. Trusting Him in the middle, when whining and anger and being petulant come so naturally to me, I am grateful for His lovingkindness and gentle conviction. He is faithful to forgive!
    Thank you Vaneetha!ReplyCancel

    • October 14, 2017 - 2:37 pm

      Vaneetha - I too “am grateful for His lovingkindness and gentle conviction.” Thanks for writing!ReplyCancel

  • October 12, 2017 - 9:27 am

    Roger Price - Dear Vaneetha: each time you put pen to paper, you enlarge my apprehension and appreciation for the glory of God. You address suffering and victory like few writers I have encountered. Bless you my dear friend in Christ! RogerReplyCancel

  • October 12, 2017 - 10:04 am

    E Coughlin - Thank you for sharing your story. It’s an encouragement to me. Both of my daughters have walked away from God. They’ve both bought into the lies the world tells them. I used to ask myself where I went wrong while watching other families around me with kids who love the Lord. I thought I did all the right things when they were growing up but apparently, I didn’t. I don’t know what God is doing by allowing this but two things I do know- He loves me and I can trust Him.ReplyCancel

    • October 14, 2017 - 2:35 pm

      Vaneetha - Thanks for writing. I’m so sorry about your daughters current attitude towards faith but please don’t blame yourself. Reading “I thought I did all the right things when they were growing up but apparently, I didn’t” made me want to encourage you that you are not your daughters’ saviors. Jesus is. He doesn’t need us to do it perfectly or even well to save our children. He calls us to be faithful, yet the outcome doesn’t depend on us. Praying that you would feel God’s love as you watch and wait for Him- and remember your beautiful words: “…two things I do know- He loves me and I can trust Him.”ReplyCancel

  • October 13, 2017 - 12:54 am

    Spring - Thank you for this heartfelt encouragment. Paul Miller’s book brought me from a very dark place. It is good to remember that God is doing so much that we can’t see.ReplyCancel

    • October 14, 2017 - 12:31 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you for writing. Totally agree that “it is good to remember that God is doing so much that we can’t see.” I need to remind myself of that daily.ReplyCancel

  • October 13, 2017 - 8:53 pm

    Michelle - Dear Vaneetha, Your words speak to me as I sit here in the hospital with my daughter. She has one more chemotherapy next week. It has been the hardest year of our lives and I was telling my dear friend today that the life we have lived this last year and will continue to live for years to come is one that I never would have imagined. It is a life I wish I could rewrite. My mother, my daughter, and I were all diagnosed with cancer this past year. Both my daughter and I will have scans every three months: she for the next five years, me for the rest of my days. When I struggle to find peace in the middle of this hard thing, I preach truth to my heart and mind and cling to my Jesus. I look for His grace to meet us at each moment. Please know that your tears and suffering are being used by our gracious Father to point us to the One who gives us life eternal. I love you, my friend. Thank you for your faithful service.ReplyCancel

    • October 14, 2017 - 12:29 pm

      Vaneetha - Oh thank you Michelle for your words. Praying for your precious family as I write this, for healing, for peace, for a sense of his presence. Love this: “I preach truth to my heart and mind and cling to my Jesus”- praying that you would continue to do this as you sit in the middle of your story.ReplyCancel

  • October 13, 2017 - 11:39 pm

    Sami - I just finished crying out to God…asking Him for help…because my story has been so painful this last year and I have lost hope. Your words were His answer to my plea…ReplyCancel

    • October 14, 2017 - 12:25 pm

      Vaneetha - So thankful that the Lord gave you hope today. He hears you. And his silence is not his absence…ReplyCancel

  • October 14, 2017 - 2:02 am

    Emily J. M. - “We are in the middle of our story” – this really is a promise to cling onto. It reminds me of Psalm 63:11 – God is Powerful and He is Good… and sometimes that’s all I know – but it is enough that I can know for certain that the ending will be Perfect. So happy for this ‘plot twist’ in your daughter’s story 🙂ReplyCancel

    • October 14, 2017 - 12:24 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you, Emily. Love this “God is Powerful and He is Good… and sometimes that’s all I know…”ReplyCancel

  • October 14, 2017 - 6:01 pm

    Suzanne - Thanks for the encouragement of this testimony, Vaneetha. As a mom also in the middle of the story, I continue to pray for the salvation of my daughter and sons.ReplyCancel

    • October 14, 2017 - 9:57 pm

      Vaneetha - So glad this was encouraging, Suzanne. Thanks for writing!ReplyCancel

  • October 16, 2017 - 9:42 am

    Chris Bennett - Thank you so much Vaneetha for your encouragement. I so look forward to your blogs. Your precious sister gave me your book, how I love it. It has touched my heart and helped me in so many ways. I to have unsaved family and broken lives, and there are times thar I don’t see the Holy Spirit working, but I know He is. Then, sometimes when I least expect it, there is a glimpse of hope. One thing I have learn is: I can only pray my heart out and trust that if the Lord saved me He can save anyone and through it all I’m learning to trust Him more even though I don’t always do it well. I truly believe that our God is Sovereign, in control, that He has a plan for my family and I and He will saved my family. He has become my Everything. Again, thank you so much. You are such a blessing.ReplyCancel

    • October 16, 2017 - 1:17 pm

      Vaneetha - Oh Chris, thank you for writing. Its comforting to know that we can trust God with all of our fears and that he has a good plan for our life.ReplyCancel

  • October 16, 2017 - 9:30 pm

    Pam & Mark Helms - Vaneetha,
    Thank you for the truth you spoke in how we all have things going on in our lives where we need to trust the Lord in the middle. During this past year, it has been a gift to see the Katie I (Mark) knew in her younger years! We look forward to hearing updates! Mark & PamReplyCancel

    • October 18, 2017 - 11:49 am

      Vaneetha - Thanks so much for writing! I love it when the Lord encourages us when we are yet in the middle of our story, so we can be refreshed along the way. So grateful for all you do, Mark.ReplyCancel

  • October 17, 2017 - 10:45 am

    JSG - I needed this so very much today. I’ve endured a 7 year separation from my husband due to adultery. I felt God promised he would restore my marriage & even confirmed it through verses and many other ways. He did come home 5 years ago but more damaged than when he left. He hasn’t attended church in 12 years but started going a few months ago. He plays on his phone during the message and seems very disinterested. It’s so very hard to keep showing him unconditional love, keep the roots of bitterness out of my heart and keep believing that God will keep his promise and truly bring restoration to this destroyed marriage. The book of Job has been a lifesaver so many times over the past 12 years. A friend always says she wants to tell Job in the middle of Chapter 17 – “Hang in there Job! I’ve read the end of the story and it turns out really, really well.” This blog post reminded me of that today. I just have to keep my eyes focused on the One who is able to do the impossible.ReplyCancel

    • October 18, 2017 - 11:50 am

      Vaneetha - I’m so sorry about the heartaches in your marriage. Praying as I write this that you’d have strength as you walk through this long and difficult chapter of your story…ReplyCancel

  • October 18, 2017 - 11:39 am

    Kathy Vaughan - I don’t have much time for blogs, but I do follow yours. I appreciate how real you are, and how you share about finding God in your suffering. I am a missionary serving in Uganda. I am wondering where your daughter will be serving.ReplyCancel

    • October 18, 2017 - 11:56 am

      Vaneetha - Thank you, Kathy. So glad the blog has been helpful! And my daughter is serving in West Africa, in Senegal.ReplyCancel

  • October 24, 2017 - 8:55 am

    Clint - Your writing just manifested itself this morning amidst despairs that have seemed innumerable and unconquerable. But your God-inspired wisdom showed through the nimbus clouds like a rainbow of Christ’s Light and I am renewed knowing that I am somewhere in progress, and not defeated. The Lord is so perfectly timely with giftly reminders amidst our enduring patience that seems unbearable. May you be blessed for reminding us all that indeed things of the Spirit are always operating despite appearances to the contrary and for your reminder to recommit to having patience in The Lord, along with feeling the everlasting arms of His peace.ReplyCancel

    • October 24, 2017 - 6:24 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you for writing, Clint. So thankful the Lord used this to encourage you. I’m ever glad that “things of the Spirit are always operating despite appearances to the contrary!”ReplyCancel

  • October 24, 2017 - 12:06 pm

    Iza - I’m now in the middle of the crisis and see no light in the tunnel… It’s been 30 years of my difficult marriage to an abusive unbeliever in the meantime watching my children grow lukewarm to faith…
    Would you pray for me because I’ve been crying to God for the last 20 years and things still seem morose….ReplyCancel

    • October 24, 2017 - 6:21 pm

      Vaneetha - Praying now, Iza. Praying you will sense God’s love and presence as he holds you in the middle of your story. And that he will do what seems impossible to you right now.ReplyCancel

      • October 25, 2017 - 9:45 am

        Iza - Thank you so much, Vaneetha. I’ve been reading your articles for several years on Desiring God and I feel that you’re very close to me…
        I’m really moved that somebody like you is praying for me 🙂
        God bless you!ReplyCancel

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