Sunday, January 22, 2017

Not what I signed up for...

Something I think that we all struggle with at different points in our lives is disappointment.  But, sometimes that disappointment settles in, takes root, and can lead us down really harmful roads that damage the relationships we do have with our friends and family.

Over the past two weeks, I read three novels by Sally Johns: Ransomed Dreams, Desert Gift, and Heart Echoes.  Yesterday, I finished Desert Gift.  I enjoyed Ms. John's writing and the stories.  There was a theme in these three books that I was grateful to see addressed.  That theme was "This isn't what I signed up for".  Over the years, when I've spoken with couples getting divorced, this theme (idea) is something that I've heard.

I know that sounds like a strange theme--I could call it disappointed expectations or resentment or bitterness.  But, really, "This isn't what I signed up for" sums it up better.  It's the idea that what I (you, he/she) wanted when we took a given job, got married, or even had a child--wasn't supposed to be the way it is.  I deserve for life to be the way I (you, he/she) wanted it to be and it should be that way because what we wanted was a "good" way.  We would be happy if life was the way we wanted it to be and because life isn't, then we aren't happy, satisfied, or fulfilled.  

I was reading in Job yesterday about his plaintive calling out to the Lord, the Lord's response, and Job's friends' response.  He could have said "This isn't what I signed up for", but he didn't.  He says to his wife at the beginning--

Job 2:10 NIV   He replied, "You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.

I've been wrestling with the idea that if something is good and we want that good thing--shouldn't we have it--isn't it okay?  If God doesn't take away the desire, doesn't that mean that He condones and supports that desire?  Someone said this to me and it didn't sit with me.  There are many good things that I've wanted in my life and God hasn't given me.  Does that mean that I should take things into my own hands and do what I can to get them myself?  Should I push?  

I have been trying to think through this idea "This isn't what I signed up for" and formulate a clear, biblical response to it.  I've come to a couple of conclusions.

First, God is sovereign and everything is in His control.  He opened my womb and closed it.  I have three children, but I had a miscarriage before I had my oldest daughter.  I have seen Him use that in my life many times over, though it was so painful.  He knew me before I was born.  I trust that He knows better than I do what is best for me.  

Second, not all of God's gifts and how He takes care of me is going to feel good.  
Romans 5:3-5   3Not only that, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character;and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.…

Third, sometimes God gives us desires that we need to sacrifice and surrender to him.  We need to sacrifice what we have wished for in order to love our spouses, children, and family better.  We choose them over what we want.  That is something that God uses to teach us not to be selfish.  Are we listening to them?  Thinking of them?  Loving them or ourselves first?  Tit for tat is a destructive cycle.  

Our pastor painted a picture yesterday at the beginning of the sermon that fits into this discussion well.  He explained that there is certain protocol about how we should receive and respond to gifts when we open them.  Imagine someone opening a gift, frowning, and saying "This isn't what I wanted."  or "I don't want this--can you return it and get... which is what I want?"  or simply "I don't like this.  It isn't what I asked for."  Sadly, some people really do say these things when they receive gifts.  

Once I did when I was a senior in college.  I opened a gift from a relative and didn't know what it was.  I was struggling to have enough food to eat, pay my bills, and my feet were cold (I asked for socks and a room heater that Christmas).  Because I didn't know what the gift was, I cried.  The giver thought I was a selfish brat because she thought I had more than ample financial resources and didn't know what my life was really like.  It wasn't until years later that I had the chance to explain and apologize for my reaction.  The giver understood and forgave me for my response.  

But, when people say things like that in response it comes from the heart.  Jesus tells us that where our treasure is, there are heart will be also...  What comes from our mouths reflects our hearts.  Can you imagine saying those things about a gift to God?  

God, this isn't what I wanted.  I don't want it--take it back and give me the life I wanted.  This isn't the life I expected, so change it.  Now.  

No!  We probably would not talk like that to God out loud, but sometimes our hearts can feel those things when we start telling ourselves "This isn't what I signed up for... and it isn't what I want."  Isn't it the same thing, but with different words?  

I don't want to be that ungrateful receiver--when it comes to God or anyone else in my life.  No, my life has not turned out the way I expected or wanted it to.  Yes, it is very hard at times.  Very hard.  All of our lives are hard at times.  

But, we all have a choice when that thought creeps into our minds... "This isn't what I signed up for..."  

We can say to ourselves, "So I'm going to get out."  or "I'm going to get what I want myself".  

Or we can say to God, "Thank you for what you've given me because I know that you know me better than I know myself and you know what I really need.  What I want isn't as important as what I need."  and choose to focus on being grateful instead of resentful.  

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