Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds. —Isaiah 3:10 (NIV)
Sometimes things just don’t work out according to plan. This is not just a suggestion from a line in one of my songs. It is the truth.
So how do we deal with the really big disappointments in life? Allow me to tell you about one of the greatest and most Godly women I have ever known. Introducing, MY GRANDMOTHER.
My grandmother and grandfather were married for forty-eight years. They raised their family in church, and made sure that their children and grandchildren knew Jesus.
Shortly after their forty-eighth anniversary, my grandfather retired from the steel plant and my grandmother would soon retire from her position of forty years as the Children’s Director at their church. They had always talked about doing ONE thing after retirement… traveling. Their dream was to visit places that they had always wanted to see, so after my grandmother’s retirement, they would hit the road.
That’s when things hit the fan…
My grandfather began spending more and more time away from home and more and more time on the phone. When my grandmother would ask him to talk, he had nothing to say. Before long, our suspicions were confirmed. While my grandmother was working at church, Satan was working in our family. My grandfather became involved with another woman and announced to our family that he was divorcing my grandmother.
We were all DEVASTATED. We did everything that we knew to do and prayed every prayer that we knew to pray. My grandmother cried and we cried with her. It was all to no avail. Once someone has their mind made up, even God will NOT force His will on them. He WILL intervene on our behalf.
My grandfather soon married his mistress so my grandmother decided that she could begin again. I must tell you. If I ever get to a place where I feel like giving up, I think of her. She was the ultimate picture of DETERMINATION. She prayed for God’s help, asked Him to take her brokenness and decided she would travel-with or without my grandfather.
Now my grandmother had rarely been out of East Texas, much less out of the state of Texas. Every time the Senior Citizen trips rolled around however, she packed her suitcase and got on the bus. She later told me that sometimes, she didn’t even know WHERE they were going, and quite frankly, she didn’t care. God was allowing her to do what she had always wanted to do. Her life was playing out differently than she had planned, but she trusted God and she traveled on.
She shared one trip that is FOREVER etched in the minds of my family. While in California, her senior group took a trip to Disneyland. While she is not one for riding a great deal of rides, she said she spotted one that looked fairly calm, so she decided to try it. It was the “ET” ride. She said they had cute little bikes so she thought she would settle in for a nice bike ride through the park. Little did she know that the “ET” ride was a ROLLER COASTER! My grandmother and all the other eighty-year-olds boarded the ride and prepared for their “bike ride.” At first, the ride is slow and takes you through the “ET” movie set. After that, the cars suddenly drop 50 feet and the rest of the ride is CRAZY.
My grandmother said all she remembers is seeing “ET’s” head bobbing back and forth in the basket on her “handle bars” and the old lady next to her saying, “I am going to die Helen. I am going to die right here.” After making it safely off the ride, my grandmother opted to sit and eat ice cream for the rest of her stay at Disneyland.
Have you ever thought that you were going on a leisurely bike ride only to find yourself on a roller coaster? It may not have been at Disneyland but life took you for a ride that you weren’t expecting. Maybe it wasn’t the betrayal of a spouse, but it was the death of a child, or the loss of a job or the betrayal of a friend. Whatever your rollercoaster ride, it was not expected and you had to hang on for dear life until the ride was over.
So what do we do when we are in those unexpected places? I learned from watching my Grandmother. First, we PRAY. We pray every day, every hour, and sometimes, every second. Then, we SURRENDER. We surrender all of our feelings, hopes, wants, dreams and plans to the One who can take our lives and put them back together when they have been destroyed. Next, we TRUST. We believe God’s Word is sovereign and that He can do exactly what He says He will do for us. Then, we LIVE.
When we have been in the valley of despair, climbing out is sometimes hard. We want to avoid others, disengage and hide. While this may be good for a season, it is not healthy long term. The Bible reminds us to “forsake not the assembling of ourselves together.” (Hebrews 10:25 NKJV) Why? Because we find STRENGTH and HOPE as we see God working in the lives of others.
What about our feelings of INJUSTICE? When we find ourselves on the roller coaster, we often wonder why the one who flipped the switch did not have to take the ride? In other words, why did the one who caused the hurt seem to get off scot-free? I wish I had a better answer for you but the best explanation I have heard is this: GOD is our vindicator, and HE will decide who needs vindicating and in what time frame. If we sit around worrying about what our offender is doing, or how God is going to get him/her, we allow that person to control our lives. God is fully aware of the situation and much more capable of handling it than we will EVER be. What happens to us may be far from fair, but God knows when to move and what to do and he doesn’t need our help.
When we are broken, God is able to pick up the pieces and make us a beautiful person who is able to reflect His light. Take stained glass for example. When light hits a stained glass picture it reflects light in a thousand different directions because of the broken pieces of glass the picture contains. One of those pieces of glass would not be nearly as beautiful by itself and they certainly wouldn’t reflect light unless they were broken. This is where the difference comes. Many choose to hold onto their brokenness and become bitter and angry. They do not allow God to do what He does best — take the broken pieces and make them into something beautiful. As a result, their hearts grow cold and ugly. Then, they are even unhappier and for the rest of their lives, they blame the one who “broke” them. That, my sweet friend, is called a victim. Yes, we have been hurt, yes we have been wronged and yes it was unfair. But what does holding on to the anger and resentment bring except sickness and death? Those aren’t my words; those are God’s words. “Do not let the sun go down on your wrath.” (Ephesians 4:26 NKJV) Why? Because He knows the damage that anger and resentment do to us.
So what is the ALTERNATIVE? Give God the broken pieces. Kicking, screaming, and crying all the way, tell Him you are determined to make it and to come through this trial with HIS help. Your plans may have been severely altered, but let Him know you trust Him, then, surrender. Remember, “YOU can’t, HE can, let HIM.” My grandmother certainly did. She continued working and taking trips but she never remarried. She said she “refused to wash another man’s dirty socks and underwear.” Meanwhile, my grandfather decided that life on the other side wasn’t so fun and asked my grandmother if he could come back home. Do you want to see how God can heal? She graciously allowed him to move back into the spare bedroom in HER home and she cared for him until he died of cancer the following year.
After my grandfather died, my grandmother didn’t take many trips, but I took many to see her. We had AMAZING conversations and she taught me things that I still teach from the platform. She died several years ago, but by allowing God to turn her brokenness to beauty, she continues to affect thousands of women each time I share what I learned from her.
If you are experiencing brokenness today, I encourage you to TRAVEL ON. Life may not have turned out the way you planned it, but taking a new trip with God may be just the vacation you need. Give Him the broken pieces and ALLOW HIM to reconstruct an image that reflects the light of His healing. Then, enjoy the ride.