Why Did My Story End Up This Way?

disappointment

Excerpted From Fractured Faith

In the months after I left my church, my Christian world started crumbling. The losses came fast and hard, and lost relationships were the hardest to replace. Friends I had counted on now saw me as divisive. Women I had poured my life into were no longer around. And what platform I did have had just been disrupted. The sales of my books suffered. The trajectory of my Christian speaking career took a punch. My dreams were shattered.

But worst of all, my belief in the goodness of God took a hit.

Disappointment has a way of undermining the goodness of God in your heart if you’re not careful. Disappointment has a way of squelching hope, and hope is based on trust – trust that God in His goodness will come through for us.

It’s not supposed to be this way. Like a song on repeat, that sentence looms in our souls, coloring our perspective, poisoning our hearts.

Our perspective becomes obscured when we base the goodness of God on the outcomes we desire. If God gives me what I want, then He must be good; and if God holds back, then He can’t be trusted.

But there is a better way.

One of my favorite Bible characters is Peter. I like him because he’s flawed like me. He talked a big game. Yet he publicly lived through one of the most devastating failures of all times, and God still used him for good. 

Peter once made a bold claim: “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away” (Matt. 26:33). A few pages in the story later, on the night of the crucifixion, he did the opposite. In fact, he did exactly what Jesus warned he would do. He denied Jesus three times even before the rooster crowed once. I’ve always felt that one of the saddest verses in all of Scripture is Luke 22:62. After the Lord looks at Peter in his failure, Peter “went out and wept bitterly.”

Peter was devastated. So much so that he almost quit. His faith was almost deconstructed. His steps faltered. Instead of gathering with the disciples to pray and share the good news of the gospel, he found his old boat and settled for the familiar. Peter’s confidence in himself was shattered. It’s easy to see why he wanted to quit. 

What good am I for now?

Why would God ever use me again?

Why even bother?

How could I even imagine that God had a plan for my life?

I’m just a failure. I might as well spend the rest of my days with the fish.

I can’t believe I even tried.

We’ve all been there. We’ve all felt the sting of disappointment, and we’ve wanted to hide.

Hardly anything is more difficult than coming face-to-face with the truth of who we are. It’s one thing to tell the story of our pain and feel validated by it, but it’s a whole other story to confess when we’ve been wrong. We spend our lives convinced that we are good enough, that God is lucky to have us, until things go wrong and we find ourselves squirming under the steady gaze of a Savior hanging on a cross for us. The truth always has a way of coming out under the loving scrutiny of our Savior.

Most people would reassure you at this point, telling you that you are indeed good enough, and that you can do it if you’ll just try it differently this time. Most well-intentioned self-help gurus give you a list of ways to love yourself more and live your true authentic self. It might work for a while, but it will leave you utterly exhausted. No matter what we tell ourselves, our human potential to fill our deepest longings is limited. We might find a way to get married and have children; we might find a way to write a bestselling book and get into grad school, but eventually, our longings lead to expectations that lead to disappointment if not fully understood and aligned with God’s purposes.

We must learn to see that God uses our disappointments to realign and reorder our lives. God uses our desire and unmet expectations not to put a wedge in our relationship with Him but to deepen our communion and intimacy with Him. 

It was in the boat that Jesus found Peter. It wasn’t at church or in a prayer meeting. It was out at sea in Peter’s place of comfort, while Peter was coming to terms with yet another failure, a night spent without catching a single fish. But instead of judgment, Jesus met Peter with grace. Instead of anger, Jesus came to Peter and showed him love. Jesus helped him make a big catch, and then Jesus cooked Peter breakfast.

What kind of Savior does that? What kind of Savior loves like that?

It’s not supposed to be this way. That’s true. Life in God’s plan is not supposed to be painful and hard and hurtful. God created us in a perfect world with everything we needed for joy and fulfillment. He created us for unhindered communion with Him and intimacy with Him. God created us for love. But our sins blew it for us; we, like those before us, end up falling for the same lies, over and over. Negative, unhelpful messages swirl in our minds:

If God really loved you, He’d give you what you want.

You can’t trust God with the things that matter most to you.

God knows that you could be happy if you could just have that one thing

The good news of the gospel is that, even in our failure, God is still waiting with open arms for us. He waited in the garden for Adam and Eve. He called them out of hiding. He clothed their nakedness with the animal skins, and He renewed His promise to them. He gave them a way to meet their deepest longings: He promised them Himself. The only way to happiness is to come to God with your longings and trust Him to meet you there.

Like Adam and Eve and so many before me, I chose to hide from God in my failure and disappointment. I stopped going to church; I hid wherever I could. I didn’t count on the fact that you can’t hide from God. He has a way of finding us even when we don’t want to be found.

You might be hiding in your own disappointment right now. Your life is not what you expected it to be. You hoped that God would step in and give you your own future and hope (Jer. 29:11). You banked on “all things work[ing] together for good” (Rom. 8:28), but instead, you’ve gotten nothing but closed doors and a broken heart. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

You’re right. Life isn’t supposed to hurt like it does. Children aren’t supposed to die. Families aren’t supposed to be displaced and murdered. Women aren’t supposed to be raped and sold into slavery. That’s why Jesus came to earth. That’s why Jesus died. He came to make wrong right. He came to meet our deepest longings. He came to fulfill our expectations. He came to give us more than we could ever image. He’s the only one who can satisfy us completely.

Excerpted from Fractured Faith: Finding Your Way Back to God in an Age of Deconstruction by Lina AbuJamra (© 2021). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission. 

From Outreach Magazine  Aaron Menikoff: Shepherding in the Fruit of the Spirit