3 Things Disappointment Taught Me This Summer...
When you look over the past month, how many marks out of 10 would you give it? My planner asks me this at the end of each month and I nearly always have to give a lower and a higher number because my life seems to be like a rollercoaster of events at times! The month of July, for example, had moments of 1 and moments of 10!
Let's go back a few months...
In May this year, my family and I were travelling from our home in Lima, Peru to England to visit family and friends. Towards the end of our 6-week visit, we were about to hop on a Eurostar train to Paris for family mini-break when I knew I needed to get an annoying abdominal pain checked out at the local hospital before we went. By 6 pm that evening Mark and the boys were under the English channel and I was under anaesthesia in London having my other fallopian tube removed as another ectopic pregnancy finalized any natural hope of having more children naturally. The shock and disappointment left me asking some big questions and reeling from being shaken so hard.
When your life suddenly looks different, or when we are struggling with disappointment and grief, finding time to be with God and even knowing how to start can be paralyzing. I still loved God and wanted Him to be close, but my own questions, doubts and disappointments made God look foreign and feel far away. I had to slowly find ways to connect with Him again and accept my own limitations. Today I want to share three things I have learned over the last season:
1. God is as close as we allow Him to be.
This truth hurts because honestly, we feel so out of control when grief or disappointment hits that knowing we have a responsibility to come close to God or to let Him in feels so overwhelming (and unjust?!) and sometimes almost impossible.
James 4:8 says: Come close to God and He will come close to you.
Sometimes my emotions scared me and I felt like I was being selfish, tantrum-ing to God about my grief and the injustice I felt. I had to learn to allow Him to hold me in that and know that He wasn’t going to reject me because my heart was full of dross. I also had to choose to believe His Word, that He is faithful and good and declare that even when my current circumstances felt the opposite. I had to ask, 'Lord, how do you want to meet me in this?' daily rather than 'Why?!'
2. Our times with God don’t have to look like the last season.
After I had surgery I couldn’t move around without a lot of pain. Even after four weeks, I couldn’t do any exercise beyond walking. Participating in a beach clean was one of my all-time stupid moves and landed me in bed for a couple of days! I had to learn that I had to do as much as I could and then stop, even if it was a tiny amount compared to before. The key was just to do a little bit more each day and not get frustrated. My spiritual life was similar. I couldn’t have long quiet times of communion with God. My brain got overwhelmed and distracted if I tried to read more than a couple of verses of scripture. I barely knew how to pray beyond breath-prayers of 'help!'. I wanted to pray but I had no idea what to say. I took to reading this prayer book out loud in the mornings as it gave me words when I had none.
3. Building up strength takes time. Little and often makes a huge difference.
Physically and spiritually I felt like I was a baby again in the 6 weeks post surgery. I felt like I was falling over constantly and I felt stupid and impatient. How can I lead others in prayer when I can’t even pray my own words right now? The words I kept hearing the Spirit whisper were ‘slow and steady, do what you can today and try again tomorrow.’ When we arrived back in Peru two weeks post-surgery, I wanted and needed to be part of community activities and Mark and I were back leading again, but my emotional capacity was low. I was down to lead prayers and I didn’t just want to say ‘no’, but I had no idea how I was going to lead for 30 minutes. I asked Mark if I could just start and if he could take over when I couldn't do anymore. I shared that with the team too because I wanted them to see that I was just doing what I could. I managed to lead for 10 minutes and it felt like a victory. As I persevered, much slower than I wanted it to happen, I gained strength again both physically and spiritually. But it took a little bit every day (or most days!) for weeks to get back up to strength again.
What about you? Where are you struggling to get time with God in this season? Are you just too busy or are disappointment and grief crowding out your energies to meet with Him? I have put together a 60-second guide for you to give you 8 fresh and practical ways that you can meet with God today in 10-minutes or less. There is one for every day this week plus a bonus one! You can get your guide for free by becoming an email subscriber to this blog (regular subscribers look out for a separate email with your guide!). I typically post at the most once a week and endeavour to bring you practical ways for you to meet with God in the midst of whatever season you find yourself in. I look forward to connecting with you!