” I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”Philippians 4:11-13
The cool air blew through the parking lot as storm clouds skated across the sky, preparing the snow expected in the morning. We stood in line waiting for our ice cream, licking our wounds, after a different kind of cloud cover loomed. Just as cold and unwanted as snowfall in May, billows of disappointment threatened to steal our joy and contentment.
I wanted to know the next step, or at least the end of the story. After all, I’m the kind of person who likes to read the last chapter of a book to see if it’s worth reading. But my life story isn’t finished yet. I can’t turn the pages or control the outcome. However, in this situation we came to expect a certain ending. We prayed and acted in faith and things looked good. We would get what we “wanted.” Then, everything changed within a few hours. Someone else intervened and what we wanted was lost. Like the rolling waves of the nearby ocean, our emotions peaked, then receded into the vastness of normalcy. But it didn’t feel normal. It felt like we had been tricked or violated somehow–even though we prayed for God’s perfect will and He answered.
Right now, in the midst of disappointment, I know God allowed the cloud cover. What feels like a loss is actually a faith building experience that reveals the goodness of God. His goodness demands that He offer His best to His children. Sometimes that doesn’t feel good. In fact, sometimes it is so anticlimactic it makes you angry. This time God and I wanted different things. Or did we?
Fortunately, God did answer our prayers. He said, “No.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because I said so. Because I know what’s best for you. Because I love you. Because I am the great I AM.” Then He asked, “Do you trust me?”
Then I realized the truth. This is a spiritual dilemma, not a physical one. Through this small disappointment God revealed that my heart was focused on earthly things, not on things above. My heart’s desire was not God’s best. Like a spoiled child I wanted to cut across what God was doing in the waiting and live for myself. Instead, God’s love compels me to echo Paul when He said, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” God wants me to live for Him alone. Disappointment and discontent reveal that I believe Jesus is not enough for me–What He did is not enough for me.
Now, we sit looking behind us and realize this was a catalyst to action. We have a vision. We have plans. So, we wait. How long? I don’t know. As long as it takes. God isn’t going to plot our lives in a predictable way like a romantic novel. Boy doesn’t always get the girl. People don’t always live happily ever after. God surprises us with middles that don’t always make sense. In fact, the end is usually shocking, or at least abrupt. There is no neat The End this side of Heaven. Instead we are ushered into another realm altogether. A new life from the womb of the world to the fresh air of Heaven. There we experience everlasting joy. A joy that can’t be yanked out from under you like a cotton rug on a tile floor.
Ask yourself, do I live for the things this temporary world offers? Can I be content in all circumstances? Is God enough for me?
Ultimately, I thank God for unanswered prayers. Or, I should say, I thank Him for saying no. I praise Him for making me wait. I am content to live in the Hope of Heaven. In the meantime, God is the author of my messy middle. Besides, the end is already written.
I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.