“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. – Isaiah 55:8
Our plans, His plans: What we see
I’m not smart enough to understand the interaction of God’s will and the will of man. Nobody is, really. We don’t have the complete picture. We don’t have all the puzzle pieces. All we can see is today, right now, what’s in front of us.
On this day I see bruises, dotted around incisions covered in fresh scabs. Given enough time, they’ll turn into scars, joining the others that run across my abdomen. I see the inside of my eyelids as I fight the urge to nap, knowing that I won’t sleep tonight if I do. I see my water bottle, my snoring dogs, my Bible. I see the blanket covering my chilly legs and feet.
I see the after-effects of surgery.
The “Typical” Plan
Some say that God planned this. Some say it’s a result of living in a broken world. I don’t know. Honestly? I don’t care. It doesn’t really matter, the why. The surgery and the recovery simply are. Trying to ascertain the ultimate reasons behind them is beyond my capability.
What I do know is that my life looks exactly nothing like most of the people I know. At 32, I definitively cannot have children – and I’ve been married for 10 years. This surgery closed that door forever. I will never have the “typical” family. Will never have the “typical” American Christian life.
Is that such a bad thing?
His unique plan for us
I’m not convinced that loving and obeying God means that our lives will follow particular patterns. There’s just no Scriptural evidence for that. Yes, normally, married couples will have children. This is the original and good design. But “normally” doesn’t mean “always.”
In these moments when the road turns left instead of right, we have a choice to make: Will we let the turn make us bitter or better? While there’s nothing wrong with mourning when the unexpected comes, there is something wrong with staying stuck in that sorrow, with continually opening the wound. When we do so, we say, perhaps without words, that God is not good. He is not trustworthy. All the Sunday school answers or platitudes cannot cover over what bitterness communicates.
We must square our shoulders and raise our tear-stained faces toward the heavens, stepping into the turn with the knowledge that He is with us. We must learn to rest in the knowledge that His plans are good, despite what we feel or what the circumstances are. In the core of our souls, we must hold to the fact that He has made us unique and wonderful. Like snowflakes that mesmerize children, none of us fits into a predetermined mold.
Why then do we expect our lives to follow those cookie-cutter lines?
Grace found in His plan
People who experience life as different from the norm have an opportunity to testify to the goodness of God in ways that others can’t. This doesn’t make us better. It just means we have a perspective achieved only by walking the rocky road. I cannot, will not, sit here and think that I have no purpose in the Kingdom of God. I refuse to believe that I’m being punished. I would never wish infertility on any woman, but being a woman is so much more than the function or presence of an organ.
Trials are an opportunity to lift our hands and say, “I love you, Lord.” The incisions that make us bleed don’t have to shrivel our hearts or shrink our capacity for praise. Hardship can grow us. Change us. They can be the very tools that God uses to transform us into people who look like Christ (see Romans 8:29).
We can be living stories of grace.
Our plans, His plans: suffering and grit
It takes a lot of strength to sing the song of praise in the middle of great hurt. It’s the kind of strength born in knowing weakness intimately. It is the grit of faith, the determination to stay so close to God that His shadow absorbs our own. The voice of grit echoes the disciples: “Where else can we go? You have what we need” (see John 6:68). This grit knows that there’s no point in being angry with God. There’s no use in turning away from Him. This grit looks up from the wreckage and into the face of God.
Grit is grimy and messy and built only through sweat and tears and struggle. It comes from applying theological concepts to the real and raw.
We can suffer well, my friends. We can. We need not be reduced to doubt and distraction when pain comes. We can take seriously the great words of the unknown writer –
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2
He endured, and His Spirit lives inside of you.
So, cry. Scream. Sit in silence. Feel what you feel. Ask your questions. But do so with your feet firmly planted in the knowledge that, whatever happens, God is real and true and good.