This weekend, I gathered with a small group of women on mission here in Zambia and we reflected on the lives God has called us to, other women’s testimonies we can relate to, and passages in God’s Word, all the while eating delicious food and enjoying one another’s company. We had gathered to go through retreat material created by an online community for women living overseas called Velvet Ashes. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to get too much out of this half day of activities, other than some extended girl time, but God certainly met us there. Our morning retreat was a powerful time set aside to reflect on the most important thing in life, our relationship with Jesus. After coming away from our time feeling so refreshed, I didn’t realize how much I had needed this time.
One of the most powerful parts for me was going through Luke 24, where Jesus appears after his death to a couple of believers on the road to Emmaus. If you are familiar with this passage, you will remember that the pair walking together were discussing Jesus’ death with a stranger on the journey with them, but the whole time they were kept from knowing the stranger that was with them was actually Jesus himself. It’s a unique picture of how God is always with us, even when we aren’t aware of His presence. He longs to hear the deepest cries of our heart when we think no one important is listening, He is there.
In verse 21, they lament about how the chief priests and rules sentenced Jesus to death, and they go on,
“But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.”
Now, if we jump ahead, we know that Jesus actually rose again on the third day, he was walking among them, and not only did He redeem Israel, but his death redeemed all mankind. He had to die so that we might have life, but this was not yet revealed to them, they didn’t yet know the bigger picture. They didn’t yet know Who was listening to them as they walked.
But we had hoped…
I want to invite you, like the authors of my retreat study invited me, to think back to a time when you were as disappointed and distraught as those walking together on the road toward Emmaus looking for answers. What were the disappointments you were (or are currently) carrying? Take some time to just list them out.
But I had hoped (fill in the blank for yourself)…
Go ahead and list as many things as you would like.
This was so powerful for me to admit the things that I had hoped God would have done for me, the ways I had hoped I would have reacted, and the things I had hoped to feel. For me, to admit that I was disappointed about certain ways things had turned out lifted a huge burden. I knew that some of these disappointments were in the back of my mind frustrating my everyday life, but I was afraid to give voice to them.
Confession, even if first just to myself and God, is powerful. Life often doesn’t pan out the way that we expect it to, and as much as I wish I could just go with the flow and trust God in it all, often I don’t. It’s hard to admit it. I’m so worried about coming face to face with the not so great ways I am feeling and reacting, that I rob myself of the freedom I experience when I consciously confess my disappointments to Jesus. The truth is, he already knows, why am I so afraid?
Next, we were asked to take a look at our list of disappointments, and ask ourselves which of these God may be asking us to offer back to him. This is kind of a strange concept, and I don’t think it was meant to say when we exchange our disappointments to God He gives us what we want in return. Rather it’s the act of acknowledging our disappointments and opening ourselves up to Him that puts us in a position for true peace.
I invite you to also ask God what he wants you to do with that disappointment. Is he calling you to trust him with that disappointment? Is he calling you to let go of that disappointment? Is he calling you to just be still and wait?
For me, the answer was TRUST. Such a simple word and idea, but a deep concept to embody. I must trust, even though a lot of my disappointments were for good things, He is God, His ways are higher than my ways. He may fulfill the missing things my heart is longing for in a different season or in a different way, or I may never get an answer. But I found so much power in just confessing what I was longing for or sad about, and then laying it at his feet. He cares about how I feel, but He knows what I truly need, and he promises he has given it to me.
The other passage we went through at the retreat was Psalm 23, and as I sat there thinking about God’s provision co-existing with my disappointments, the first verse of the Psalm came to mind.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” Psalm 23:1
I lack nothing.
Though I am disappointed, though I fall short, though some things may never get answered, I lack nothing. As the Psalm proclaims, my Good Shepherd knows all that I need, he is leading me to green pastures and quiet waters.
This doesn’t mean that I won’t face difficult seasons or moments where my pastures feel anything but green and it seems the waters are far from quite. In fact, the Psalmist calls where he is at “the valley of the shadow of death.” However, even in my lowest of lows, God is with me, He is with all of us.
He is a God that comforts, guides, anoints and restores us. There is such peace in that. God is God, He is the one orchestrating all of the good and wonderful things around us.
May we find Him in our valleys and our disappointments, but instead of letting those things take center stage, may we conclude with finding fulfillment in our Maker.
May we find ways to stop running around and worrying about the things that haven’t turned out the ways we had hoped, but instead lay down in the green pastures He offers within the storm. Join me in finding peace this week, in pouring out our true hearts, but still fixing our eyes on the hope that comes only from Him.