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Disappointment —> His Appointment

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What’s the biggest disappointment of your life?

Maybe it’s a high hope that came smashing down with an injury, a breakup, a loss. Or maybe it was a noble dream- for healing, for children, for peace- that has slowly fizzled out.

I had some disappointment last week when some grand plans I had for myself and my family didn’t pan out. The details don’t matter. What matters infinitely more is that I learn to do disappointment well.

Because how I cope with my disappointment reflects a lot on my God.

For God’s Sake, Do Disappointment Well

My learning to cope has been slow. The devils of Self-pity and I-deserve are right there, crouching at my door, desiring to have me the second my plans fall through.

But I am learning.  Here are two things I know about coping with disappointment.

  1. Joy comes when we choose what we did not choose.
  2. Grumbling won’t make the bitter taste go away, but gratitude will.

But the third is new- or maybe it’s just a new spin on the first two.

See God’s Hand in the Crooked Path

In my disappointment, Ecclesiastes 7:14 gives me pause: Consider the work of God, for who can make straight what God has made crooked? 

Thomas Boston wrote a book on that one verse. It’s called The Crook in the Lot. Crook is short for crooked and lot is as in one’s “lot in life.”

Boston writes,

I am now meeting only what has been determined by his eternal plan. I know not what is the “reason” why it was appointed; but I see that God had resolved to do it, and that it is vain to resist him.”

When we are disappointed, can we say the same thing? That it’s not by chance or accident, but by His appointment?

Boston adds,

It is much, when we are afflicted, to be able to make this reflection. I had rather be afflicted, feeling that it is “the appointment of God,” than feeling that it is “by chance” or “hap-hazard.”

It speaks comfort to the afflicted children of God to consider that whatever the crook in your lot is, it is of God’s making and therefore you may look upon it kindly since it is your Father who made it for you. Question not but that there is a favorable design in it toward you.

And by some miracle of grace, that’s what saints do with their disappointment. They trust that there is a favorable design in their disappointment.

Because God makes no mistakes.

Too Wise and Too Loving to Err

John Paton and his pregnant wife Mary left Scotland to be missionaries to the New Hebrides islands in the South Pacific on April 16, 1858. They arrived on November 5th.  In March 1859, his wife and newborn son died.

Talk about a bitter taste and a crook in the lot.

After Paton buried his beloved wife and infant son, he said,

I felt her loss beyond all conception or description, in that dark land. It was very difficult to be resigned, left alone, and in sorrowful circumstances; but feeling immovably assured that my God and father was too wise and loving to err in anything that he does or permits, I looked up to the Lord for help, and struggled on in His work…

I do not pretend to see through the mystery of such visitations – wherein God calls away the young, the promising, and those sorely needed for his service here; but this I do know and feel, that, in the light of such dispensations, it becomes us all to love and serve our blessed Lord Jesus so that we may be ready at his call for death and eternity.

It does. In our disappointment, it becomes us all to rest assured of our God’s wisdom and love.

Love Leads in the Opposite Direction

I’ve been camping in the land Exodus lately and was greatly impacted by Tim Keller’s sermon on chapter 19.

The Israelites are three months out of Egypt but further from the Promised Land than they were before they left.

Exodus from Egypt map, ESV Study bible

God, for kind reasons of his own (Ex. 13:17), led the people in nearly the opposite direction of their destination and he took them into a desert. A mountainous, barren desert. A land far worse than Egypt.

I love how Keller explains this “history of grace,”

God says I’m going to take you over here, but I’m going to take you by way of a place that is farther from Egypt and a land that is worse than Egypt. And that’s where he meets them. And it is often so…

If you admit it, you’re further away from the the things you thought God would be giving you than you were when you trusted him and it seems like God is taking you in the opposite direction.

So often the history of grace in our lives follows this same path. God seems to be taking us away from where we thought we were going, but he’s still leading us to the Promised Land.

In other words, our disappointment is God’s appointment. That’s how God’s grace often comes.

Disappointment, His Appointment

It just so happens that the very same day I wept myself dry, I ran across this poem.

“Disappointment — His Appointment”
Change one letter, then I see
That the thwarting of my purpose
Is God’s better choice for me.
His appointment must be blessing,
Tho’ it may come in disguise,
For the end from the beginning
Open to His wisdom lies.

“Disappointment — His Appointment”
Whose?  The Lord, who loves me best,
Understands and knows me fully,
Who my faith and love would test;
For, like loving earthly parent,
He rejoices when He knows
That His child accepts, UNQUESTIONED,
All that from His wisdom flows.

“Disappointment — His Appointment”
“No good thing will He withhold,”
From denials oft we gather
Treasures of His love untold,
Well He knows each broken purpose
Leads to fuller, deeper trust,
And the end of all His dealings
Proves our God is wise and just.

“Disappointment — His Appointment”
Lord, I take it, then, as such.
Like the clay in hands of potter,
Yielding wholly to Thy touch.
All my life’s plan in Thy moulding,
Not one single choice be mine;
Let me answer, unrepining —
“Father, not my will, but Thine.”

-Edith Lillian Young

No sugarcoating: “doing” disappointment this way is both a bitter pill and a sweet remedy. I cried hard last week. Coping with disappointment this way hurts my flesh. But as it does, it heals my soul.

Even when I don’t know why, I’m learning to change that one letter and see that His appointment is a better choice for me.

“For He performs that which is appointed for me…”

Job 23:14a

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Winter’s Past. Go On Into Spring.

We have the power either of withstanding the spring, and sinking back into the cosmic winter, or of going on into those ‘high mid-summer pomps’ in which our Leader, the Son of Man, already dwells, and to which He is calling us.

C.S. Lewis

The last JoyPrO was about pain that’s real and pressing and all creation groaning and our way-long delayed spring.

That was last week.

Winter Is Past

But it’s 78° today. Windows open, shorts on and the daffodils are smiling at the doves.

Spring came this way slowly. But, as C.S.  Lewis wrote, the great thing is that the corner has been turnedThe winter is past, the snow is over and done. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, The corner has been turned- at least, outside.

And who in his right mind wouldn’t prefer spring over winter?

Don’t Sympathize (With Yourself)

But some don’t. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I prefer to wait in the cold and withstand the spring.

Don’t get me wrong, My heart thrilled in the breeze in the season’s first big bike ride today.  I mean the inner spring. The one Christ said wells up to eternal life. I mean, if I’m not careful, my soul lingers in woe-is-me winter. I’ve noticed that when my soul winters linger it’s because I’m stuck sympathizing with myself. 

Now sympathy for others is good and right. It’s beautiful. We are called to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15b) and to have sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind (1 Peter 3:8).

But our hearts are supposed to feel tender toward others, to be directed outside of ourselves.

I know- too well- that melancholy and self-pity are a slippery, wintry mix for my soul. They tend toward dark nights. When I sympathize with myself, I choose winter over spring. I choose not to turn the corner and I deprive my Help, my God, of glory.

But my inner self loves spring. Which is why I’m on a sophron quest, a self-control, sound-mind mission to not let my emotions rule me. It’s why I’m learning to distract my wintry thoughts by thinking on excellent and lovely things. To get a grip and push the brakes.

Get a Grip. (Talk to Yourself.)

It is a work. And a process- a Spirit-guided process.

But taking myself in hand is the only way I know to get my soul to spring. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote a book called Spiritual Depression.

Here he  explains why we must get a grip.

This other man within us has got to be handled. Do not listen to him; turn on him; speak to him; condemn him; upbraid him; exhort him; encourage him; remind him of what you know, instead of listening placidly to him and allowing him to drag you down and depress you…

We must talk to ourselves, instead of allowing “ourselves” to talk to us! Have you not realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? You must say to your soul, preach to yourself, questions yourself “Why are you so downcast?” (Spiritual Depression, p. 20)

Lloyd-Jones is only echoing the Psalmist’s 3,000 year-old cure for the downcast soul that can’t – or won’t- turn the corner from winter into spring.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are so in turmoil within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. 

Let’s take ourselves in hand and leave winter behind.  Hope in God, O my soul. Don’t withstand the spring.

We do have that choice. The flowers don’t. The crocus can’t choose if it will come out in spring or not.

But we can.

Go On Into Spring

We can choose.  

There is, of course, this difference, that in the natural spring the crocus cannot choose whether it will respond or not. We can. We have the power either of withstanding the spring, and sinking back into the cosmic winter, or of going on into those ‘high mid-summer pomps’ in which our Leader, the Son of Man, already dwells, and to which He is calling us. It remains with us to follow or not, to die in this winter, or to go on into that spring and that summer. (C.S. Lewis, “The Grand Miracle,” God in the Dock)

There is a season for everythinga time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. And God knows it’s not for me to determine the times and seasons he’s appointed. 

But spring has sprung and it is mine to choose if I will get on with it. If I will hope-in-God obey and rise and follow Jesus.

What will you choose?

My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
    and come away,
 for behold, the winter is past;
    the rain is over and gone.
 The flowers appear on the earth,
    the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
    is heard in our land.

Song of Solomon 2:10-12

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Hannah’s Hope

Her smooth cello drew me. Then, nine months ago we crossed paths again and I made a new friend. Actually, I found a new friend. Or she found me. In any case, our meeting wasn’t chance.

Because, like C.S. Lewis explained, A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to…Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others” (“The Four Loves”).

Truly.

Hannah was just finishing  her last chemo treatment when we met. But hat or no hat, short hair or no, Hannah is beautiful. Hannah exudes living hope; she laughs at the days to come.  Hannah lives her motto loud: Love Jesus. Love people. Share Jesus with people. By living this way, she strengthens my hope in God. 

Months ago, I invited her to share her story here. This week she took me up.  It is with pleasure that I share Hannah with you. 

Hi. I’m Hannah.

In the past 14 months God has led me and walked with me through stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. By His grace I am currently cancer free. I recently participated in the Leukemia- Lymphoma Society (LLS) Light the Night walk. LLS provides support to cancer patients and survivors and supports research to find more effective treatments for blood cancers. I was looking forward to a night of camaraderie and sharing of stories, a night of savoring and rejoicing in life.

And we  did “light up the night with hope.” We raised money and awareness for blood cancer research and patients. The survivors and MC at the event spoke of the support of family and friends through hard times, shared fond memories of those who died of cancer, and we all celebrated the blessing of being survivors.

Yet I left with deep sadness in my soul. Where was the real hope? The solid hope? Not the fluffy, humanistic stuff, but the kind to base your life on, the hope that gives strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. Where was that hope?

Some Trust In…

“Some trust in chariots [chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, science], some trust in horses [family, friends, statistics, positive thoughts] but we trust in the name of the Lord our God!” –Psalm 20:7

At the event, one of the women spoke of how positive thoughts, human relationships/support, and advances in science got her through treatment. I listened and thought sadly,  “Really? That’s all she’s got?” This is “hope”?  If it is, hope ends when life ends.

Positive thoughts are proven to help cancer patients handle treatment and life better, but no one  on her deathbed can save her  life by positive thinking. Human relationships have great power to affect lives, but all of us will die, and most of us won’t be remembered for long after our death (maybe a lifetime or two…).

Science provides many amazing ways to combat diseases and increase life expectancies, but no science could have predicted that I would be diagnosed with cancer at the age of 24. And this diagnosis after I’d lost 50 pounds and had really begun to live a “healthy” lifestyle. In fact, I’d run a PR in a 10k the week before my chemo treatments started. Beyond that, none of us can control whether or not the cancer returns. I know death is only breath away.

When the rubber meets the road, these sources of “hope” are just man-made smoke screens covering an abyss of hopelessness – a way for people to cope but not even come close to a permanent solution that addresses all anxieties and possibilities of an uncertain and unknown future.

But what we need, cancer or cancer free, is not hype and not “just to cope,” what we need is to hope.

Not hype, not “just cope”- hope.

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” -Corrie ten Boom

I’m not saying positive thoughts, human relationships, and science are bad. They are helpful, but they are all much too small and frail to be the basis of real hope.

So what is hope?  True hope is no wishy-washy thing. It does not look to the future with wishful thinking and “positive thoughts.” Oh, it is so much more!

God promises that those of us who have trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior have an imperishable and unfading inheritance, a 100% guarantee of hope in the future no matter what the present holds. Though we face various and difficult trials, we have this hope (1 Peter 1:3-9).

“We do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory…For we know that if the tent that if our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” -2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1

Though this earthly body be destroyed, I have something better and lasting – a building made by God, perfect and eternal, apart from the presence of sin and death, in the very near presence of God…and that is the best part – to get to behold God’s glory forever.

Light The Night, All The Day

I did not survive my cancer, nor do I live cancer free, with an insecure, surface level “hope.” I thrive through cancer and can live free from anxiety. I live with a living hope and seeking to fix my eyes on Jesus, my glorious Savior. Now that is the walk I live each day, by God’s grace, with an excited, joy-filled and hopeful heart. It’s a walk full of camaraderie, sharing stories, rejoicing in and savoring God and the many gifts He has given.

Hannah with her brother and sister

It’s a daily “Light the Night” walk, lighting up the dark world with God’s light and daily proclaiming the greatness of my God and Savior who has called me out of spiritual darkness into His marvelous light.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession,

that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

1 Peter 2:9

*Abigail again: I mentioned earlier Hannah plays a mean cello.  This version of Abide With Me features a deep, sweet cello like hers. But it’s more the lyrics than the strings that lead me to thank God for Hannah’s fearless, living hope when I hear these words:

I fear no foe with you at hand to bless, 
though ills have weight, and tears their bitterness. 
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, your victory? 
I triumph still, if you abide with me. 

Henry Francis Lyte

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The Hardest Part: Waiting is not an interruption. It is God’s plan.


From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who works for those who wait for him.  Isaiah 64:4

When, Mom? How many more hours until they come? 

The party starts in 9 hours and 23 minutes, Gabe.

Is that a long time, Mom? 

Yes, Gabe.

Now jump back 2,000 years.  Think of the disciples  Just imagine their wait. The risen Christ had appeared twice to the disciples. But it wasn’t the same as before. Don’t cling to me, he’d said. I go.  I am ascending to my Father and yours, he’d told Mary outside the tomb.
But Jesus wasn’t totally gone. He left the disciples but hadn’t ascended yet, Between the surprise dinner date on Day 8 and Ascension on Day 40, there was a wait. Can you imagine their restless,  upper room, what should we do now wait?  

Peter went fishing. Gabe went out to play.

Waiting is our set stage.

Some friends of ours have been waiting a long time in the adoption line. They’d already waited awhile even before they “announced” their double Russian referrals to our Bible study with adorable, baby-blue frosted airplane cookies. That was almost four years before this. Before US-Russian relations dropped and our friends’ boy referrals did too.

But they kept waiting. And months later, a referral for another boy from another country came. But he was not to be their son either.  They didn’t step out of the queue. Finally, a few months ago, our friends accepted another referral. They’re still waiting.

Last month my friend posted this update:

We’ve moved on to the next step of waiting for approval! This did mean a flurry of things had to happen, including paperwork to get his visa and social security number, which meant [we] had to settle on what we were going to do about his name. 

I’ve read the wait doesn’t stop once you’re matched, traveling or back home. Considering we’ve been in the waiting stage (of various types) for a looooong time now, it was good to read that we might just never truly leave that stage and to mentally prepare for that.

You never truly leave that stage. She gets it. This side of heaven, we wait. It’s inescapable. At the store, at the stoplight we wait. From a seven-year old’s count-down to be eight to an eighty-seven year old’s count-down to be clothed, all creation waits.

Not An Interruption

For the Christian, waiting is where it’s at.

Our lives are on God’s stage. His choice crew are the Sanctified Waiters. Like Simeon, who waited for the consolation of Israel, and Joseph of Arimathea, who waited for the Kingdom of God.  It’s where God shows up and shows himself strong. It’s the where we see God act. Surely no one has a seen like ours who works for those who wait for him.  

For the Christian, writes Paul Tripp, waiting is not an interruption of the plan. It is the plan. Waiting is hard full of good. It’s Romans eight.

We ourselves who have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoptions as son, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with wait for it with patience(23-25).  

Knowing that it’s part of God’s good plan doesn’t make it easy. Tom Petty’s lines are timeless, the waiting is the hardest part. We’re right there with Job- God’s servant Job-when we cry, What strength do I have, that I should still hope? And what are my prospects that I should be patient? (Job 6:11)

It takes great strength to wait. Weak people cave. David knew the connection. Be strong, and let your heart take courage and wait for the LORD (27:14). God gives strength to the weary not after we wait but while we wait. While we we groan inwardly, we wait eagerly. That’s a Romans 8 wait.

Worth The Wait

We appreciate more who most patiently wait. The hours fasting before dinner make it that much tastier. Planning the trip is half the fun. When we wait, we gain, what Jane Austen called, “that sanguine expectation of happiness which is happiness itself.” Maybe it’s not quite that sublime, but it’s true that anticipation of a good thing ahead eases the ache.

But there is still the ache. Waiting is a slow burn with undisclosed outcomes and uncertain timeframes. It tests our patience and tries our faith.

Waiting brings out old idols and can push us toward new ones, like control and self-pity and food and drink abuse too. We say, But if I only knew. It’s this not knowing that makes it so hard.  

In His Place, At His Pace is Hard. And Good.

Yes? And at the risk of sounding curt and rude, I add. That’s exactly what waiting is. Waiting is hard.

It’s hard and good.  We feel how hard it is. But we need to know it’s good, because we might not feel that.

Waiting is good because our willingness to wait reveals the value we place on that for which we wait. When we wait for God- as John Piper puts it, in his place and at his pace-we show the world that He is worth the wait.

The watching world-the audience to our waiting stage, sees God’s great worth when we don’t forge ahead with our own plans. But they are stubborn children, God declared through his prophet Isaiah, who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin. They see it when we look to food and drink and worthless things and desperately ally ourselves to sinful things. When we tell ourselves, The end justifies the means. God will understand. The watching world sees this too.

So we who would be meek and sanctified waiters had best be on guard, Because waiting tempts us two big ways.

Two Waiting Temptations

Waiting can tempt us too take a rash detour– to get on with our plan and away from the wait- or to give up altogether. I’ve known both.

We were married ten years before God opened my womb. Mostly I despised that wait in such a barren place, God’s place, I’ve come to see. How longingly I looked at methods that offered life, but at far too high a price. Were it not for Jim’s resolve, I might have taken this detour, taken things into my own hands, taken up a plan, but not his. Only by God’s grace did I stay in his place. 

Those friends of ours? A few days ago they got “the call.” After years on the domestic stage, they fly in sixteen days. When God says move, I guess you move, my friend wrote. By his grace, they go at his pace. 

This is why we, who he created for his glory, are here. We are on this waiting stage to showcase his grace, to show others that the glory of our God is worth our wait.  I waited patiently for the LORD, he inclined to me and heard my cry. Many will see and fear, and put their hope in the LORD (Psalm 40:1,3). 

The off-stage watchers will see us wait for our God to act and, the Psalmist said, will put their hope in our Lord too.

Wait is not waste. (I.e., The queue has a view.)

Waiting increases faith. God wants to be in deep, faith relationship with us. If he didn’t care so much about that relationship, explains Paul Maxwell,

…He would give you everything you wanted immediately. He would placate you with the pleasures of this world. For those who know God, that is intuitively unlike him — not unlike him to bless, but unlike him to appease. God did not send his Son to propitiate your temper tantrum (Rom 3:25).

Because he loves you, God will not bless you so richly that you do not have to trust him. He blesses you seasonally, proportionately, and incrementally, because he wants to bestow you with both the gift itself and the gift of faith, and never the former without the latter. CCEF counselor Ed Welch observes, “Such prosperity would be a curse.” 

What are you waiting for? Your house to sell or to finally be well? A conception at last or a loved one to pass? Outcome of a tick bite or solid sleep through the night? Change in our nation or a dear one’s salvation? For family peace or conflict to cease? Take heart: The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him (Lamentations 3:25).

Wait for it. Wait for Him. Stay the course. And remember, right now, at this very second, The eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is whole toward him (2 Chronicles 16:9)

God is looking to help you wait well. Which means we don’t lose heart. We do the next thing.

Do the next thing.  

Back 2,000 years ago to Peter.

Somewhere between week two and day forty, after leaving peace with the locked-in Eleven, Jesus appeared to seven.  And he revealed himself this way:

Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to the, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out into the boat, but that night they caught nothing (John 21:2-3).

They did the next thing. They were still waiting. Peter did some his place and at his pace, be strong, take heart and wait for the Lord waiting. “Do the next thing” waiting.

Remember what happened then?

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net n the right side of the boat and you will find some.”

The rest is history. Peter strips down, throws himself into the sea and catches 153. They see the Lord for whom they’ve waited. And guess what? He’s been in control all along. While they were waiting in the boat, doing the next thing, Jesus was on the shore working for them.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread…Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” And Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead (John 21:9,12-14). 

What a God! He works while we wait. He serves his servants and calls them his friends.

So while we bide our time in and on this waiting stage, let’s “keep ourselves in the love of God as we wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life” (Jude 21). 

Because one glorious day, we will exit this stage- the Director will write us off- and we will say, You were worth the wait. 

“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
Isaiah 25:9