The new year is upon us and with it a new decade. It is a wonderful time for reflecting back and looking forward. If you are like me, you probably had many goals for this past decade and just as many, if not more, for the upcoming decade. However, if I am being honest, all of this goal setting can bring about unease and dissatisfaction with the life I currently have.
As I traversed the 2010’s I brought with me my desires and plans for life like a blueprint for a world I hoped to build for myself. Yet, as adulthood came and the decade progressed, I found myself deviating from my imagined roadmap and with that those desires going unfulfilled and goals unmet. There are times when unmet desires and fading dreams can be a source of great heartbreak, after all, “hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12a).
In a notebook on my desk I keep a list of questions I have about the Bible. A few months ago I jotted down, “If ‘hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when desire comes it is a tree of life’ [Proverbs 13:12] what do I do in the interim?” Meaning, if it is good to have hopes fulfilled and hurtful to wait, what am I supposed to do while I wait? I wrestled with that for quite a bit of time and I don’t know that I necessarily have a solid answer, yet but I have found myself much more comfortable with it.
John Piper offers this counsel to those who have suffered loss either in the form of having something and losing it or having a hope that seems endlessly deferred: “Occasionally, weep deeply over the life that you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Feel the pain. Then wash your face, trust God, and embrace the life that he’s given you.” In embracing the life God has given me, I am finding what I can only describe as a bizarre optimism.
This bizarre optimism is propelled by a quote I’ve heard attributed to St. Augustine (but admittingly can’t find a source on): “Who has the craft and power to create themself?” My sinful flesh wants the answer to that question to be me. Surely I have the power and creativity to build myself, my life and my world in such a way that I can be perfectly fulfilled and happy. However, that has not been the story of my life.
While I have unreached goals and my timeline hasn’t taken the shape I had hoped for, I am not finding myself unfulfilled and embittered. In fact, the life God has given me is proving to fulfill me and enrich me in ways I could never imagine. Could it be that I what I want isn’t what I want? That the life I designed for myself lacked a vision and understanding for whom I’ve been created to be? No matter how great the plans I had formed for myself were, they were not beautiful enough, powerful enough, complete enough to ever make me whole or bring me fulfillment. How could the machinations of my mind ever compare to those of the architect of the universe and the author of my salvation?
So yes, my life has not followed the road map I’d hoped it would, but that is a blessed gift from God. What I thought I wanted was never and will never be enough to fulfill all that I truly want. My life has been designed and planned by the One who truly has the power and craft to create out of nothing. Psalm 16 declares: “O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;Yes, I have a good inheritance…You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
So for me, I’m probably still going to plan and dream for my life, it’s just my personality. However, now I will expect to be pleasantly surprised by all the wonderful ways God disrupts my plans. I will embrace the life God has given me, knowing that only He can give me what I truly want and make me whole.
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