Life takes some funny twists and turns. Sometimes “funny” means “laugh-out-loud surprise”, but often “funny” means “heartbreakingly strange” or “difficult adjustment”. My life hasn’t exactly gone according to plan. Heck, my DAYS don’t usually go according to plan. If you are reading this now and your life is exactly how you envisioned it, I want to meet you. One of two things is going on: Either you exited the womb within the week (and if that’s the case I want to beat Ellen in debuting your brilliance to the world – I mean, you ARE reading), or you are the long-sought after magical unicorn (and if that’s the case I want to beat Ellen in debuting your brilliance to the world).
For those of us with loved ones who are disabled or have special needs, those twists and turns became huge detours. And grieving for what might have been is a regular part of our existence. Most of us have a copy of “Welcome to Holland”, a poem by Emily Perl Kingsley, tucked somewhere for quick reference when we need a reminder. (If you don’t know this poem, please look it up. You will be blessed.) But even if this isn’t your particular lot in life, you are still very accustomed to bends in the proverbial road. God’s Word tells us that “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Pro 19:21. So since surprises are inevitable, how do we learn to love the life we never asked for?
Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” The biblical story of Joseph is one of the best examples of this I can find. Joseph was his father’s favorite son and his brothers were jealous of him. They threw him in a pit and planned to leave him to perish in the elements. But when they saw a traveling caravan on their path, they decided to sell him into slavery – getting rid of Joseph and making a profit at the same time. Joseph became a high ranking and well-respected servant, re-writing the trajectory of what he thought his life would be, only to be falsely accused of a crime and imprisoned. Joseph would eventually rise to greater prominence (2nd in command) of his country. This had been God’s plan all along. I’m sure it was hard for Joseph to see this outcome from the bottom of a seemingly hopeless pit, or from behind the bars of a dank and dark jail cell. But eventually, Joseph was able to say to those who had persecuted him, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Genesis 50:20
When my step-son first dreamed the dream of medical school, his vision didn’t involve a simultaneous wife and four children. And while his path might be 10x harder than an otherwise unencumbered student, I can guarantee it’s 50x more joyous. How do I know? I’ve seen him with those kids. He wouldn’t have it any other way, even if sleepless nights, crying babies and minimal funds can sometimes make him loose sight of that for brief moments. And while parenting a child with special needs might, in some ways, be 10x harder for me than parenting a typical child, what I get from being the mom of this sweet, loving, precious child cannot be measured – even when the sleepless nights, perpetual messes and uncontrolled seizures make me want to cry “uncle”.
So what is the key to making lemonade out of the lemons, finding the joy in the madness, and overall loving the life you have? I believe it is trust in the Lord. 1. We have to trust that God is all powerful. He tells us in His work, “I have said these things to you that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 2. We have to trust in the message of Romans 8:28 (previously quoted) that God really does work all things together for good. 3. We have to trust that this life is not all there is. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4 When we go to heaven to be with our Savior, we will never experience the pain and brokenness and disappointment this world has to offer. No more curve balls. That is something to be happy about no matter how much difficulty you are currently experiencing.
Developing this assurance in the promises of God is not as easy as listing 1,2,3 like I did in the previous paragraph. It takes time. Time spent in God’s Word. The more we study it, the more we believe it. It takes time in prayer. The more you talk to Him, the more you will know Him, who is true peace. And it takes some time examining your own life. When you are able to pin point and acknowledge His hand in your life, your faith becomes real to you and takes root. Can you put in the time to truly love your life? It’s a discipline I struggle to maintain every day, but it’s paying off in spades of joy!
“But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand;” Psalm 31:14-15a