I vividly remember a certain time in my life several years ago. A close friend and I, as we met for afternoon runs, found ourselves in very similar situations. We were both asking God to be faithful in the same area of our lives. We would talk about the anxiety and hurt that came with longing for God to show up and move, and the uncertainty of not knowing We found comfort in bearing each other’s burdens. We found sweet fellowship in sharing each other’s pain. We lifted one another up, encouraged by the empathy of the other, hopeful in waiting to see Him move.
And then, a few months later… He did. The very thing we’d prayed for/talked about/shared for months happened. To my friend. It didn’t happen to me. In fact, the opposite happened to me. I had to completely let go of what I’d held hope for.
This sent me into a swirl of confusion and disappointment. It was very difficult to rejoice with her, when I had thought we’d rejoice together. I had expected that since we shared in each other’s heartache, that it only made sense that God would allow us to share in each other’s joy.
God had heard our prayers, every one of them. And in His infinite wisdom, He had chosen to say “yes” to my friend, and “no” to me.
My heart began to feel hope fade away.
This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. What was God doing?
In the months that followed, my friend and I started to drift away from each other. This happened for a few obvious reasons. It was awkward for her to be around me because she didn’t know how to handle receiving a yes when she knew I’d received a no. I simply couldn’t bear the hurt I felt. Seeing her was a painful reminder of God being good to her, but not to me.
It was during this time when I watched God do the very thing He’d just done for my friend, to a bunch of other friends as well. Then I began to see Him do this for still others around me.
As a 23-year old young woman, I had plenty more opportunities to observe what appeared to be God “being good” to everyone around me. I watched as friends and peers were blessed with answers to prayers for jobs, vehicles, places to go, things to do, fulfilling careers, husbands, babies, travel, ministry, and all-around satisfying circumstances.
Meanwhile, I felt like I had been left on the sidelines. We were all supposed to receive together. We had all asked and prayed together. We were ready for the same things at the same times. Or so I assumed.
Why was it that everyone around me seemed to ask God for something, and receive it the next day?
Why was it that I asked, and heard no answer, saw no fruit, felt no movement from God in any part of what I had asked for?
I began to feel like God was being good to everyone but me.
Why did He leave me for later? I didn’t want to be later. That meant I was left out – falling behind everyone else. I didn’t want to be picked last, for my life to move on last. That was a lonely place. I’d have no one to share it with, as everyone else moved on.
I fought through the battles of feeling forgotten by God, and the battles of swirling unknowns around me while I waited for something I could bank on and begin to move forward. I tried to make do with what I had, searching for a calling in the midst of doubt and uncertainty and no clear direction. I peered through a heavy fog, attempting to catch even the faintest glimpse of what I was supposed to do.
All of my attempts were in vain. There was nothing I could do to help myself. I was forced to wait in the fog.
This made me want to pull away from Him. He knew very well that I was hurting, and He didn’t care.
My friend and I had prayed, “Lord, be faithful to us. Show us your goodness.”
As I thought about all I had asked of God in those months with my friend, I became angry.
“Lord, we asked you to be good to us. We asked you to show your goodness.”
I didn’t know that my view of His goodness was yet immature.
In the years that followed, God took me on a journey of refining. He refined my definition of His goodness. He humbled me to the place where I was able to say with full confidence that He was good to me.
God’s goodness to me was not giving me the thing I’d asked.
His goodness to my friend was giving her the thing she’d asked.
How does this make sense? I will never understand.
Yet, it was here that God met me and began to peel back the scales I’d kept tight on my eyes, the same scales that had kept me from seeing who He truly was, who He is.
In flowed His gentle voice: “Hannah, thank me for this. Thank me for your specific path.”
What? Thank Him for this? For losing that for which I’d carried hope for so long? For taking away? Thank Him for this?
It didn’t make sense, but I decided I didn’t want to stay in the place of lack, and I knew of nothing else to do. So I thanked Him.
“Lord, thank you for my specific path, my specific calling, my specific story, my specific circumstances. Thank you for this. This thing that I don’t like. Thank you for being good to me.”
As these prayers transformed my heart, I found myself starting to become genuinely thankful that God had chosen this for me. The path I walk was chosen by God. As I saw these truths, my perspective changed.
Slowly, my eyes turned away from everyone else around me and onto Him. From there, I could see clearly. My vision was no longer tainted by my disappointed expectations. I could see His goodness to me. I could see that my story, this circumstance, though not like my friends’, or even the majority of those around me, was meant to do me good, not harm. God had good plans. This was a good plan.
You may feel as if it’s blessing season, and you were passed over for the blessing.
There’s no way we can all be in the same seasons at the same time, all the time.
That’s what community and fellowship is for. We were meant to share each other’s burdens and joys, in the midst of whatever season we’re in.
That means the friend who’s rejoicing and celebrating her blessing should take time in the midst of her good season to mourn with me over the disappointment and loss I feel in my hard season.
It also means that I, in the midst of my hurting, should take time in the midst of my hard season to celebrate with my friend in her rejoicing.
As the years go by, we find ourselves moving in and out of each kind of season, and if we do this right, we will always have the sweetness of those who carry us in our grief and surround us in our joy. We will know true family. Maybe sometimes, we will find ourselves in the same season at the same time, and taste the joy of camaraderie that brings. This is how it’s meant to be. We must learn how to love well, meeting each other in our joy and not being afraid of our grief.
Remember, your specific set of circumstances, the ones you don’t like or wish were not happening, were chosen for you by Someone who has purposed to do you good. He’s not out to get you. If you love Him, He’s working for your good. He’s making you like Him. And the story is full of hope. Soon you’ll see. Soon you’ll be on the other side of your hard mountain, and you’ll be amazed at how much He loves you. You’ll testify of His goodness. You’ll see it in the land of the living.
So keep on going. Be there for those around you, whether they are celebrating or mourning, whether you are celebrating or mourning. And thank Him. Yes, even for this.