It Wasn't Meant to Be This Way
Updated: Feb 28, 2020
What I hoped for hadn't happened. In the wake of a shattered heart, I thought God was holding out on His promise of goodness for my year. How was I supposed to deal with this crushing disappointment?
One crisp January day, I poured myself a cup of tea, spread out my guided planner, and began to dream. I started to write a bucket list of goals and things I would like to have happen in 2019 – travel, start driving lessons, go back to my miniature house hobby, save for a house… Then my planner asked for my word for the year. Although many people choose a word themselves, I had started a new tradition of asking God for His input. Did He have something He wanted to say, a word or phrase that could be a guide or lens for the upcoming months? It had been fun and even awe-inspiring to look back over the previous year and see what God had meant and how His words had played out in that period. So, I was curious to know what He would have to say this time.
Over the next weeks, God indicated that His words over my year were “goodness” and “mercy.” I was to look for evidences of His goodness and mercy and apply that perspective to my fears and frustrations. The famous words of the poet David in Psalm 23:6 inspired me: “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.” Well, that sounded exciting! I started looking forward to a year full of positive experiences.
I was in a serious relationship, and we had been talking around the idea of marriage for a little while. He seemed sure about me. I felt peace about him. Perhaps he would propose to me this year. I hoped so. That would certainly be a good thing!
Yet that summer, I was blind-sided by a breakup. I was shattered. Stunned. And the day after, in what felt like some cruel cosmic joke, I had to go on air to deliver a show about good relationships. In fact, it was the beginning of a whole month of content around the theme of healthy relationships. I sounded cheery as I spoke into the mic, but during the songs in between, I cried. “What did you mean by speaking goodness and mercy over my year if this happened, God?! How on earth is this good in any way?”
Soon, though, God began unfolding some of the reasons why I could interpret this breakup through the surprising lens of those two words. As per what usually happens when God wants to make sure I get the message, His clues began popping up everywhere. Particular Bible verses, links and posts on my social media feeds, songs, books, and podcasts suddenly appeared and repeatedly addressed a few key themes. Interviews with counsellors that had been planned weeks in advance unexpectedly shed some light on what had happened in my relationship and what I should expect from and give to a healthy partnership. Friends and family also spoke comfort and wisdom into the situation. I saw moments of goodness as my brokenness kickstarted growth.
Not only that, but I was directed to ways to work through my pain. A podcast I follow happened to start a series and launched an online course on healing from heartbreak. I found some amazing books. Artists I loved (or discovered as I was researching for work) released songs that spoke into my darkness. I traced God’s goodness following me in those moments too.
I went back to the context of “goodness and mercy” in Psalm 23 and was reminded that David wasn’t describing a life that easily went just how he wanted. In fact, mere lines before he talks about the valley of shadows and the presence of his enemies; yet, it is in these circumstances that God comforts, provides, and ministers to him. And so, David goes on to exclaim, “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life!”
Like David, in my dark valley, in the wake of my heartbreak and disappointment, I saw ways that God's goodness followed me still. True, He didn’t give me all the answers I wanted. I was still angry at Him sometimes because I felt like He could have stepped in and changed things and He didn’t. But He gave me just enough insight to help me in the right direction. The knowledge and the new perspective didn’t take the pain away. But it did assist in the process of healing.
I am still in the middle of this story. Although I am in a much better place, my heart is not quite fully healed, nor do I know exactly how God will continue to weave all this into a pattern for ultimate good (Romans 8:28).
But what I am continuing to learn about the heart of God keeps me going (even though I often feel like I take two steps forward and one step back).
“If a child asks his father for a loaf of bread, will he be given a stone instead? If he asks for fish, will he be given a poisonous snake? Of course not! And if you hard-hearted, sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, won’t your Father in heaven even more certainly give good gifts to those who ask him for them?” Jesus in Matthew 7:9-11
“God is too wise to make mistakes, and too good to withhold any good thing from His people who do what is right. People are fallible, and although their petitions are sent up from an honest heart, they do not always ask for the things that are good for them... When this is so, our wise and good Father hears our prayers, and will answer; sometimes immediately, but giving us the things that are for our best good and His own glory. If the children of God could see His plan, they would know that He gives them that which is for their best good. Although they may not receive just the things they expected, or asked for, their prayers were still answered. Nothing hurtful was given, but the blessing they most needed, in the place of something they had asked for, that would not have been good for them, but to their hurt.” (Ellen White, Prayer p 100)
"In the future life, the mysteries that here have annoyed and disappointed us will be made plain. We shall see that our seemingly unanswered prayers and disappointed hopes will have been among our greatest blessings. God never leads His children otherwise than they would choose to be led, if they could see the end from the beginning and discern the glory of the purpose they are fulfilling with Him." (Ellen White, The Ministry of Healing)
“Yes, the Lord will give what is good.” Psalm 85:12
If you are journeying through dark times of disappointment and heartbreak, here are some of the resources that have helped me: