Sorrow, Disappointment and Leaving the Valley

She had bounced out of bed that morning and sprinted across the house to tell me the news, “It’s morning time!  And I feel all better!”

I scooped her up in a hug and felt her forehead.  The day before, my three-year-old had spent all afternoon on the sofa, mostly asleep, periodically waking to chatter cheerfully and then drifting back into dreams moments later.

Now here she sat on my lap a day later, placing a headband in her hair and showing it off so I could tell her how pretty it looked.

And she said, “This is what I’m going to wear to the birthday party.”

That’s when I had to tell her the news.  Yesterday while she had been sleeping away the sickness, we had slipped out the door quietly for the birthday celebration.

And she had missed it.

I broke it to her as gently as I could, explaining how she had been sick, reminding her of other special days.

Yet, disappointment is full of sorrow, even when it makes sense, even if you understand why it all happened, even if you know there will be other days and other opportunities, even when you’re deep down truly okay.

Still we feel the sadness over loss.

For a three-year-old, it’s missing out on a birthday party because of a fever.  She covers her face with her hands, crying to me as I comb my hand through her hair and gently pat her back because she “really wanted to go.”

For us, it could be that or so much more.  It’s disappointment in ourselves and the mistakes we make, so much foolishness, words that we speak without thinking, sins, habits, failings, misjudgments and mis-steps.

Or it could be disappointment in God for not sticking to THE plan (AKA “our plan”) or for the deliverance that delays or seemingly doesn’t come.

Or maybe it’s disappointment with others and how they’ve let us down or wronged us or hurt us in ways we carry as scars long after the initial injury.

Disappointments can’t be erased completely.  My girl missed that party and there’s no conjuring it up again or transporting through time to relive the moment.

So it is for us.  The past is the past and there it is.

Yet, God is a redeeming God: Redeeming our circumstances even when it’s our own foolish fault for being in this ugly mess….reminding us of His perfect plans far surpassing our imperfect schemes…renewing our hope even when all we see at the moment is hopelessness.

This is what God promised to do for His people in the book of Hosea, as they wallowed in this disappointment—knowing it was their own disobedience that led to captivity, feeling hopelessly lost and uncertain about the future.

God said:

Therefore, I am going to persuade her,
lead her to the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.
  There I will give her vineyards back to her
and make the Valley of Achor
into a gateway of hope.
There she will respond as she did
in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came out of the land of Egypt.
(Hosea 2:14-15 HCSB).

valley2

That Valley of Achor is something we know; all of us have walked those paths of shadows.  It means “Valley of Trouble,” the lonely walking beneath the mountains, barely touched by light, unable to see over the peaks, feeling oh so very far from rescue or escape.

Yet our God so gently promises to take that Valley of Trouble and do what our transforming, redeeming God always does—make it “into a gateway of hope.”

After all, He knows the pathway out of disappointment.

He knows what encouragement our hearts need.

He knows sometimes we need to sob for a moment and express the sadness and then move on with our day, looking for new joy rather than dragging along that regret like a chain holding us captive to the past.

He knows we may need to shake that burden of shame, recrimination and regret right down off our back and to just let…it…go already.

Yes, God can transform whatever valley of trouble or disappointment you find yourselves in.  He is indeed always a God of Hope (Romans 15:13).

But we have to look up to see the change. 

If we’re trudging along with our eyes fixed on the ground of the valley, we’ll never see it become a Gateway of Hope, never see that there’s a way out, never notice that suddenly it’s beautiful and freeing and maybe not the end of the world it felt like just a moment ago.

Valleys always look like endless valleys until we look up and notice we’re free.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Weekend Walk, 04/14/2012

Hiding the Word:

This morning when I awoke, I didn’t know what verse to choose to meditate on this week or what inspirational and insightful message to share with you all.

I was a blank.

I was blank as I served up breakfast for my children, blank as I washed up the kitchen and switched over laundry, blank as I showered, blank as I drove to and shopped at my church yard sale.

Then, on my second sweep around the gym full of recycled treasures, I discovered a tiny, Christmas-colored box almost hidden on the table amidst china and craft supplies.

This was treasure indeed, Scriptures in a cardboard box to last me a whole year and to remind me to pray for the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes that we package up and send out to children around the globe each Christmas season.

On the very first card in my box, Franklin Graham has a message that reads:

“As you commit verses to memory your heart becomes like a treasure chest filled with verses that can bring you comfort, strength, inspiration, courage, and refreshment.”

Amen to that, Franklin Graham!

So, in the Spirit of Operation Christmas Child and the Samaritan’s Purse organization, here’s our verse for the week:

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
1 John 3:18, NIV

Weekend Walk:

In His Time
Originally posted 04/15/2011

Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom”
Psalm 90:12

The day has finally arrived!  I’ve iced cupcakes, wrapped presents, and filled goody bags for my daughter’s fifth birthday party.

She has been asking me when this day would come every single morning for 9 months.  I’d show her on the calendar how far she had to go and she would sigh and whine with frustration.  Her birthday simply would never come.  She would never ever be five years old.  Everyone would always be older than her. Surely she would stay four years old indefinitely.

I’ve held her as she sobbed out tears of disappointment only one week ago because her birthday was just too far away.  Seven days was an impossibly long time to wait.

I, on the other hand, feel as if this day has come so quickly.  How is it possible that my gorgeous, brilliant, quirky little one has been with me for five years?  For these past few months, I’ve been telling her to wait, just wait, it will come and it will arrive sooner than she realizes, but those words felt empty and meaningless to her.

Impatience weighs heavy in this house.  My older girl has been telling every stranger in town, “Hi, my name is Victoria.  I’m almost seven.”  Sometimes, she even pads her age a bit and tells them she’s almost ten or almost 12.  And so I lean down and whisper to her that her birthday just happened; she’s still eight months away from even one more birthday, much less four or six!

“Mommy, I want to be in kindergarten.  Mommy, I want to be in first grade.  Mommy, I want to wear point shoes in ballet.  Mommy, I want to be a teenager.  Mommy, I want to be old enough for a house of my own so I can have a dog.” Even my baby toddles around after older sisters trying to do the same “big girl” things they do.

No matter how old they are, they always want to be older.  I try to tell them truth—that one day they will pay bills, and go to work, and care for sick children, and will long for the preschool days when they worried only about show and tell and their snack choice for the day.

Please enjoy this moment right now, I beg.  Please don’t let it pass by you unnoticed and unvalued because you are too busy looking ahead to the next step.

And I have been there.  I have trekked across a college campus and longed for graduation.  Married and been asked by family when we’d have a baby.  Had a baby and contemplated what it would be like to have older kids, and sleep, and no diapers, and no need for babysitters. Worked a job and longed for retirement.   Always too busy thinking about later to actually enjoy now.

Solomon told us “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heaven . . . He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11, NIV).  No amount of rushing or anticipating or worrying will change God’s appointed seasons in our lives.

I love to visit Colonial Williamsburg and walk the gardens surrounding the palace and I long to stroll through the local botanical gardens and enjoy the color and scents and hovering butterflies in a place of beauty.  But, if I travel there before they are ready, before the flowers have bloomed and while the bulbs still lie dormant beneath cold earth, I would see death, not life, brown dirt instead of the brilliant hues of tulips and daffodils.  “He has made everything beautiful in its time,” and so we must cultivate, plant, and tend as God calls us to so that we can enjoy life in its proper season.

Of course, sometimes we feel as if the season we are in has lasted forever and that surely God will never release us to newness and fulfillment.  We remain dissatisfied with the now He has given us as we dream about the future we imagine.

And what happens, then, if the next season bears no resemblance to the goals and dreams in our heart?  I know a couple who planned retirement with excitement and anticipation, but the reality wasn’t travel, relaxation and golf.  No, it was stroke and poor health and a future not at all what they had envisioned.  They can’t go back and enjoy the time before caregiving and doctor’s appointments.  It is now a season past.

In Psalm 90, Moses challenges us to keep the proper perspective about our life’s circumstances.  He says, “A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night . . . Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures . . . Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:4, 10, 12, NIV).

We all feel stuck sometimes and without hope that we’ll ever overcome our difficulties.  My mom’s greatest advice was to remember that “this is only a season and won’t last forever.”

There were struggles and stresses that consumed my thoughts in the day and kept me awake at night, now long since resolved and in the past.  Sleepless nights with a newborn, a teething infant, terrible twos, potty training, juggling college and work, unemployment—all seasons that seemed interminable when I was in them, but now appear so brief as I scan back over my life history.  Even our entire lives, the seventy or eighty years Moses thinks we have on this planet, constitute so little of the human history God has witnessed and walked through.

So then, we ask that God “teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  It is wisdom indeed to realize that the circumstances we are in are a passing season and hope can carry us through to victory. A new season will arrive at just the right moment and it will be beautiful in its proper time.

But, it is also wisdom to number our days, making each one count.  Not letting a single calendar square go by without us valuing it for what it is–this is our life in the here and now and God is present in it. What would it look like if we lingered here in this place, finding the beauty God has created in this time rather than straining to see what lies ahead?  It would be a life of glorious contentment and peace, restful and unrushed as we take the time to look, really look, at the beauty all around us in the reality of our now.

Even in the difficult times, we learn to see the beauty in dirt turned over, weeds pulled, seeds planted—the work God is doing in our lives this moment, the beauty of Him active in our lives, cultivating our hearts in this season, knowing that in His own perfect timing He will bring forth growth, shoots of life, and a harvest plentiful.  So much beauty all in His time.

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.