It was a year of what seemed like constant heart evaluation as I tried to discern more than ever before what God wanted me to do instead of just defaulting to what sounded good at any given time. Sometimes I knew clearly what He wanted me to do; sometimes it seemed like I was swimming in murky waters, unable to see whether I had drifted off course.
Some big dreams bloomed in my heart, and although I really believed the end of the year would have seen them in fruition, they remain dreams in my heart only. This has prompted that classic, heart-struggle-of-the-ages: “Is God really good? Why would He withhold these dreams from me?”
Honestly, I still don’t know. I mean, of course I can list some surface reasons why they haven’t come true. But I know that God could have “fixed” any of the obvious hindrances in a moment. So it comes back to Him. Why did He not give me these good things?
After wrestling through doubts and fear and heartbreak and false thinking, the only answer I am left with is this: In His goodness, and in His love for me, He said, “Not now,” to these longings in my heart because He knew they would not be good for me yet. Just like a good mother will not give her newborn baby a hot fudge sundae–and let’s just all agree that a hot fudge sundae is a very good thing–before the baby is ready for all that sundae brings with it, so also will God not give me any good thing that would not be good for me at the time.
And even while gently yet firmly saying, “Not this year,” God showed me so much love and kindness. One example: I have prayed for friends my whole adult life. When I say friends, I mean real, close, first-person-I-call, ongoing text thread, praying and crying together friends. I’ve come close, but either my own hesitation to trust or the daily grind of life interfered and my friendships just never reached the level that I craved. This year, that began to change. A few existing friendships deepened, and a few new friendships were forged, and God used my friends to minister to me and carry me through a heart-breaking disappointment and some frustrating days. I had local friends who prayed with me at parks and in parking lots and cried with me in our corner booth at McDonald’s. I had friends in other counties and other states texting me in shared frustration over my disappointments and also sharing wise, biblical counsel that my heart needed to hear. These are the friends I have longed for. God said no to what I was asking for, but He said yes to what I had almost given up on. His kindness was overwhelming.
So my big dreams didn’t come true in 2016, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t much going on. My plate was still very full, and that led to the rest of the fight for discernment. Was my plate full of things God wanted on it, or just things I automatically put on it? That’s where I am as I go into 2017. I want to really contemplate my commitments this year. How does God want me to prioritize? Is there anything I need to take off? How can I be faithful and content with what He has already clearly given me, instead of wishing for something bigger or different?
Let’s be clear–my heart is full. I had some disappointments–some really big disappointments–but that in no way diminishes the very good things that fill me life. My marriage is strong, by the grace of God. My family is healthy and flourishing. My friendships are still deepening. God continues to blow our minds by the love of our church family. And He has given me lots of ways to serve Him by serving His people through the church, through Revive Our Hearts, and through my writing. I have absolutely no complaints to make.
Yet, even then, we still struggle to be content, don’t we? There’s always something more to dream about, something more to desire. So, since my two big dreams are still floating around in my heart and I don’t believe God has given them a permanent no, but rather a temporary no, the question for 2017 becomes: “How do I dream big dreams and ask for big things while remaining content with where I am and what I have?”
My prayer all through 2016 was that I would hold those dreams with an open hand; that they would not become idols; that I would desire God more than those things. That remains my prayer in 2017. I will keep asking for big things. I will keep dreaming. But I want my pursuit of knowing Christ to be much stronger than the pursuit of my dreams. I want to crave the Giver more than the gift. At the end of the year, no matter what has come to pass, I want to say with confidence and fierce conviction, “He is good and He does all things well.”
May God grant me more of Him this year. And may He grant the same to you. Happy new year, and thanks for faithfully meeting me here at The Beautiful Ordinary.