I’ve been trying to make sense of this new reality for months. Someone significant in my life let me down and I’ve had a really difficult time trying to figure out what to do. I was engaged, and now I am not, and that’s a choice I never anticipated having to make when I was a little girl. When dreams and plans shatter, there are two primary options: numb ourselves and deal with it later, or cling to God as we sift through the facts until they make some sort of sense. I don’t have all of the answers, but I do know this: as counter-intuitive as it seems, we have to trust God and smile during the difficult seasons of life.
If you’re here now, or God-forbid you find yourself here, there is a crucial, healing step that I overlooked for too long: give yourself permission to smile and be joyful again. Acknowledge the beauty and possibilities of life that still exist around you. Acknowledge that this is difficult and uncomfortable, but it is only temporary. As you experience new moments and actually, shockingly, don’t feel like such a soggy piece of paper anymore, embrace it. God doesn’t explain why our lives move the way they do, but He tells us to hold on and trust Him and choose joy even when we’re lost and in pieces. You do not need to embody the disappointment your mind is sifting through in every moment, even if that has come to feel natural. Rather, strive to be present; own that yoga class or bath tub or conversation. Also, pay attention to how you are treating yourself and others. Just because you’re trying to work through a lot does not give you the right to be moody and spew bitterness on those who love you—even if they will accept you no matter what. I admit that I’ve fallen short of this, but as I emerge from the fog, I see how much people did and are doing to help me—the conversations and check-in texts, the laundry my mom did for me, the furniture my family helped me rearrange for a change of scenery. You are not the only person in the world who has been hurt or who has problems. Care and remember and pray for other people who are hurting instead of solely focusing on yourself. Care and bless and pray for the people who have wronged you, and recognize that you need grace just as badly as they do.
Only you can open your hands and let God have control. Only you can decide to let yourself smile again, to dust yourself off and press on. The passage from Job below reminds me that God knows exactly what He is doing and has plans far greater than I can understand from my vantage point. It gives me hope that I will learn from this experience, even if it is hard to understand right now.
Job 42: 1-3
Then Job replied to the Lord:
2 I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.”
One of my close friends from college comes to mind as I write this. Her mother was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer midway through our Junior year; my friend had just been elected to be president of our sorority. Rather than stepping down from leadership and sinking into fear and gloom, she leaned into joy and strength. She was positive and hopeful, constantly expressing gratitude for her family and all the people who cared for her. She and her family fight back. She inspires me to keep smiling, to watch the funny movies instead of the sad ones.
In spite of the personal stumbling blocks and fears we face, and the painful let downs that we encounter and cause in this life, God’s glory and grace endures through the craziness of it all. Take my hand and trust with me that God knows how to arrange these shattered, surrendered pieces of our hearts into something more beautiful than we could have ever imagined.
Only you can give yourself permission to smile, to enjoy life again, and to realize it’s not all bad. In fact, much of it is still good. Messy, but good.
What has God taught you during a difficult season of life?