Friday, April 17, 2015

The Beautiful Story That God Writes Through Our Disappointments


I had a special opportunity to speak with a group of women in Shanghai this week, thanks to my friend Katie. We were encouraged with the way God brought everything together! I thought that sharing the message here would be a way for you to pull up a chair with us in Linda's living room...

We started our evening of fellowship by singing two songs, 10,000 Reasons and One Thing Remains.

I recently read J.B. Phillips' book Your God is Too Small, and this passage really impacted me:

To some people the mental image of God is a kind of blur of disappointment. “Here,” they say resentfully and usually with more than a trace of self-pity, “is One whom I trusted, but He let me down.” The rest of their lives is consequently shadowed by this letdown...God is a Disappointment...

Such a god is, of course, in the highest degree inadequate. It is impossible for people who have persuaded themselves that God has failed, to worship or serve Him in any but a grudging and perfunctory spirit...

God will inevitably disappoint the man who is attempting to use Him as a convenience, a prop, or a comfort, for his own plans. God has never been known to disappoint the man who is sincerely wanting to co-operate with His own purposes.

This quote really challenges me, because I have wrestled with disappointment in God. Does that mean I have been trying to use God as a convenience, a prop or a comfort for my own plans? What does it mean to sincerely want to cooperate with God and His purposes?

When you look back at this past week, this past year, however long you have been on a faith journey with God—what do you do with your disappointments? With your unmet expectations? With the times that you really believed God would answer your heartfelt prayer in a certain way—and He didn't. Do you have bitterness and resentment in your heart toward God?

I know God could, but He probably won't.”
God just wants my life to be hard.”

Is that what your God is like?

I've struggled with feeling that way toward God.

Two of my biggest areas of disappointments with God have been with my migraine headaches and with our adoption journey.

We started the adoption process in 2007. In 2008 God gave us the desire to adopt two children from Gansu province (the place that God had put on my husband's heart before we got married and where we were praying that God would open a door for us to live, which we later did in 2011). So we changed our request from a healthy baby girl to 2 children of any age or gender from Gansu province.

Around the same time as we changed our request, some friends asked if they could specifically pray for healing from my migraine headaches. That prayer time, in combination with some juice fasting, gave me 3 headache-free weeks. I thought I was healed. 

I remember a friend writing to me, “Isn't the timing great that God healed you of your migraines right before you adopt the 2 children He has for you?

That is the way I would have written my story if God had given me the pencil and the book with the unwritten pages of my life: Healed from Headaches and Adoption Completed in 2008.

But God chose to allow my struggle with migraines to continue—like the thorn in the flesh that Paul wrote about in 2 Corinthians. God said, “I have more to teach you about weakness.”

And God chose for us to wait 6 1/2 years for our adoption to be completed and our sons—David and Daniel—from the Lanzhou orphanage to join our family. His plan was to teach us through waiting in the dark.

So while I would prefer to live out of my strength and to receive my requests from God right away, God has different plans for me.

How have the circumstances of your life turned out differently than you had hoped?

Disappointments are like stop signs, aren't they? They give us pause to keep us from going through life on cruise control. One of the most fundamental questions that disappointments bring to the surface is:

Do I believe that God is on my side and wants the best for me? Or do I believe that God is out to get me? That the hardships in my life are evidence that God doesn't care?

God used this passage to speak to my husband at a conference years ago when he was really struggling with why God didn't answer our prayers to take my headaches away. Did God even care?

Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain O Israel, 'My way is hidden from the Lord, my cause is disregarded by my God'? Do you not know? Have you not heard? 
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. 
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.” 
 (Isaiah 40:27-28)

A few chapters later, God says:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; 
and when you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you. 
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” 
(Isaiah 43:8)

God promises to be with us. In the water and in the fire. Immanuel. To uphold, to strengthen, to sustain, to give grace, and to give hope.

When we're experiencing circumstances that are crushing and overwhelming and are taking all the life out of us. Even if no one else is there or can understand what we're going through—God is there and He is on our side. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us. I believe that's what He wants us to hold on to when we're going through deep waters, when we're in the midst of the fire. Immanuel.

God of Angel Armies”

Questions for Personal Reflection:
  1. How have the circumstances of my life turned out differently than I had hoped?
  2. How have these disappointments affected my relationship with God?
  3. What has God taught me about my weakness and about waiting on Him in the dark?
  4. Do I believe that God is on my side and wants the best for me? Or do I think that God is either out to get me or that He simply doesn't care?

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
(Habakkuk 3: 17-18)

This passage has really challenged me with the question: Where does my joy come from?

Is it only possible to feel joyful when everything is going my way? When my crops are abundant and fruitful? And when my sheep and cattle (or my children) are just the way I want them to be?

We have the choice to rejoice every day. This is one of my ongoing struggles. Maybe it's one of yours too.

In the summer of 2013 when our adoption paperwork was about to expire, we found out about David and Daniel. But the very same day we were told that it was not possible for us to adopt them together. So we decided to fight for them. Actually God was the One who fought for us (like the God of Angel Armies song) and made a way where there seemed to be no way.

But in September, just 2 days after we got the exciting news that we had been matched with both boys and we thought the battle was over, we found out that Daniel was very sick. He had been in a coma for 6 days with high fever and seizures. After 3 weeks in the hospital, the doctors gave him the diagnosis of viral encephalitis.

Why, God?

As a family we decided to move forward with the adoption of both boys—with the future still very unclear of what Daniel's recovery from his brain infection would be like. When we brought him home he was in diapers and he couldn't walk, talk, or use his hands. God has brought healing and enabled Daniel to regain much of what he had lost in these physical areas, but the brain damage remains.

It has been a difficult journey, to say the least. Today is the 18 month anniversary of our bringing our sons home. We have come a long way, and God has been faithful. But I have asked God multiple times over the past 1 1/2 years, “Is this really the life you want for me, God?” We waited so long for our adoption to be completed and we endured great strain on our marriage:

My husband wanted to keep waiting for 2 from Gansu and I doubted. Did we hear God right? Did God really want us to keep waiting for this specific request? Was my husband just being stubborn (which is part of his personality) or had God given him the faith to keep trusting without any evidence that we would ever see out request fulfilled? It's because of my husband's faith and because of God's faithfulness that we have our two sons today. It it had been up to me, I would have chosen to be matched with a single child from anywhere in China because I didn't want to lose our chance to adopt.

So, we got our sons, our big answer to prayer. And then we struggled with the question, “What have we done?

It's a choice to see our two boys as a blessing and not as a burden.
It's a choice not to focus on the bad behavior and the challenges and the questions like—will Daniel ever become an independent adult?

I really want to see David and Daniel with God's eyes and to love them with God's love—because my eyes and my love are both so limited. It's very humbling for me when people say, “Oh you are so loving to adopt these boys,” and I am thinking, “If only you knew how unloving I can be.”

We are preparing to go back to the US for at least a year starting this summer—to help David and Daniel with their English and with their special needs. Daniel and I are here in Shanghai for him to get Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and a psychologist's evaluation to help us identify the resources he needs in the US public school system.

We will also be seeking God while we are in the US, for His next steps for us.

We've been in China as a family now for 20 years. Our oldest son CJ is a sophomore in college . Our second son Joshua is about to start college. Our only daughter Jordan (in the middle of 4 boys) has one more year of high school. Daniel and David are 9 and 10 years old.

These are the questions that I ask myself and want to challenge you with as well:

How can we choose joy in the midst of disappointments?

Do we believe that God is writing a story for us that even though we don't understand many of the why's—one day He will enable us to understand and we will thank Him for the pain and the brokenness that He used to create something even more beautiful than we could have imagined.

It is my prayer that each of us could look back at every one of our disappointments—not with resentment toward God—but with a heart of gratitude that says “This is what God used to get my attention, to take my life in a new direction, to show me who He really is.”

This is how I would rewrite Habakkuk 3:

Even though my headaches have not gone away 
and our adoption journey turned out much different than I expected. 
Even though we are leaving China and are going back to the US 
for an indefinite amount of time with many unknowns in our future. 
Even though so much is uncertain and unclear right now, 
I will choose to rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Savior. 
Because He is writing a beautiful story through the disappointments in my life,
 and I trust Him in my weakness and in my waiting.

How would you personalize this passage?

Blessed Be Your Name”

Personal Reflection Questions:
  1. Do I choose to focus on the disappointments and discouragements or on the blessings God has given me?
  2. What would help me to make the choice to rejoice every day?
  3. What does God want to be for me in the difficulty/disappointment I am currently facing that He couldn't be for me otherwise?


  1. Re-reading and re-listening to this. Thanks for doing this my friend. A year later, still powerful.

    1. Thank you, Katie. That time was such a blessing to me too!



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