I grabbed my chest while tears slipped down my cheeks in an unending stream. The pain in my heart wasn’t physical. But the stabbing emotional hurt was so intense I could hardly breathe. My hands were shaking. My eyes were wide with fear. My mouth felt paralyzed.
My life had gone from feeling full and whole to being obliterated beyond recognition.
I’d been hurt plenty of times in my life. But nothing like this.
After twenty-five years of marriage partnership, I had no choice but to tell my husband, “I love you. And I can forgive you. But I cannot share you.”
Never had I felt more shattered and alone. And then, adding more salt to the wound, people started talking. I’d kept this hell I was walking through private, telling only a few friends and counselors. They were tender and helped me in ways I’ll never be able to repay. There are some really good people on this earth. But others weren’t so understanding or compassionate. And now realities and rumors were crushing me. I was experiencing the death of my “normal life.” But people don’t have funerals for “normal.” I was dealing with extreme grief from losing the person I loved the very most in this world. But instead of visiting a gravesite and mourning a death, I was visiting the rumor mill and being devastated by all the theories and opinions. My pillow was soaked with tears of which only I knew the real source. Not only was I dealing with deep personal pain, but I was experiencing firsthand the way broken people sometimes contribute to the brokenness of others.
We live in a broken world where broken things happen. So it’s not surprising that things get broken in our lives as well. But what about those times when things aren’t just broken but shattered beyond repair? Shattered to the point of dust. At least when things are broken there’s some hope you can glue the pieces back together.
But what if there aren’t even pieces to pick up in front of you? You can’t glue dust.
It’s hard to hold dust. What was once something so very precious is now reduced to nothing but weightless powder even the slightest wind could carry away. We feel desperately hopeless. Dust begs us to believe the promises of God no longer apply to us. That the reach of God falls just short of where we are. And that the hope of God has been snuffed out by the consuming darkness all around us.
We want God to fix it all. Edit this story so it has a different ending. Repair this heartbreaking reality.
But what if fixing, editing, and repairing isn’t at all what God has in mind for us in this shattering?
What if, this time, God desires to make something completely brand-new? Right now. On this side of eternity. No matter how shattered our circumstances may seem.
Dust is the exact ingredient God loves to use.
We think the shattering in our lives could not possibly be for any good. But what if shattering is the only way to get dust back to its basic form so that something new can be made? We can see dust as a result of an unfair breaking. Or we can see dust as a crucial ingredient.
Think about a plain piece of ice. If the ice stays in a cube, it will always be just a square of ice. But if the ice melts it can be poured into a beautiful form to reshape it when frozen again. Dust is much the same; it’s the basic ingredient with such great potential for new life.
Of all the things God could have used to make man, He chose to use dust.
Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. — Genesis 2:7
Jesus used the dust of the ground to restore a man’s sight. Jesus said,
‘While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ After saying this, He spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. — John 9:5-6
And after the man washed in the pool of Siloam, he went home seeing.
And, when mixed with water, dust becomes clay. Clay, when placed in the potter’s hands, can be formed into anything the potter dreams up!
Yet You, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, You are the potter; we are all the work of Your hand. — Isaiah 64:8
“Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.” — Jeremiah 18:6
Dust doesn’t have to signify the end. Dust is often what must be present for the new to begin.
Think about how much of an end it feels like when someone dies. No matter how well we take care of ourselves and those we love, no matter how good we are, no matter how mature in the faith we become, we will not escape the reality that death is certain and our lives will be reduced to dust. Genesis 3:19 tells us that from dust we came and to dust we shall return. That can certainly make us step back and wonder, What is the point of all this? In the end, we all die, decay, and decompose into dust. But for those who believe in Jesus Christ as the Lord of their lives, this isn’t the end but the beginning of a transformation we all long to experience. Physical death is the only way to start the process of receiving our heavenly bodies that will never wear out, decay in any way, or ever be reduced to dust.
For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in Heaven, an eternal body made for us by God Himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God Himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee He has given us His Holy Spirit. — 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 NLT
Remember God’s declaration in Revelation 21:5 about Eden restored? “I am making everything new!” Death is but a passageway at God’s designated time for us to finally escape this broken world full of imperfections and be welcomed to the Home we’ve been longing for our entire lives. We don’t determine when this is, but we don’t have to fear death as an end. It’s another beginning.
Yes, in the restored Eden there will be no more death. No more crying. No more broken hearts or broken circumstances. No more shattered realities. No more dust. What a redeeming thought: that the shattering of our physical bodies leads us to God’s renewal, where we will experience no more shattering, physical or otherwise.
When I wrote my last book, Uninvited, I felt I had wisdom to share on the very painful subject of rejection. God had helped me make so much progress with the painful rejections of my past that I felt certain I could help others. I pictured my reader sitting knee-deep in rejection’s grief, feeling less alone because she could sense me there with her. She could rely on the fact that my teachings weren’t good-sounding theories but hard-fought-for truths. She would know I’d felt the depth of her pain, so she could trust there was hope for her healing as well.
I wrote the book. I turned it over to the editors. I checked that assignment off my list. Life moved on.
And then I found out about my husband’s affair. Life as I knew it stopped. It turned upside down. All the best parts were shaken loose. The more I tried to grab hold of what was falling down around me, the more I realized my utter lack of control.
As I described at the beginning of this chapter, I’d been hurt plenty of times in my life, but nothing like this.
Things crashed. Things broke beyond repair. Things went from being whole to being reduced to dust. I crawled into bed. I willed the world to stop spinning. I wanted everything to pause and stop hurting me. But nothing did.
And that’s one of the most devastating realities of dust times in our lives. We need the world to stop spinning for a while. We need things to pause. We need the celebrations to cease long enough to let us work through our grief. We need people with expectations to stop e-mailing us. We need our schedules to clear.
But my calendar didn’t get that memo. It didn’t magically erase all the things I’d agreed to do when life felt predictable and whole. Including this book I’d written on rejection. It was due to be released in six months. But there was one final step required: I had to read through the entire manuscript one last time.
I remember getting the final page proofs of the book in the mail. They came to my house, delivered by a truck that rumbled and rushed down my long gravel driveway. The UPS man dropped the package at my front door. He rang the doorbell. He hopped back in his truck. And then he was off to his next delivery.
To that delivery man it was just another day.
Little did he know he was delivering life back into a soul hanging on by a thread.
I opened the envelope, and there it was — my book to help the world deal with the very feelings now pulsing in my heart. Why, God, would You let me write this book when You knew I was clueless about the devastation marching in my direction? I’m the biggest fool for picking this topic. After all, I should have known I’d be attacked in the very area I was writing about. And You could have stopped me, God. You could have stopped this whole thing.
I felt so very empty as I spread the pages across the rumpled covers of my bed.
I had nothing to give anyone. And yet, I was about to stand before the tempest-tossed world like the Statue of Liberty promising my own version of a fresh start: “Give me your broken hearts, promises not kept by others, and your fears tangled with tears yearning to breathe free. I will be a light by which you can find God’s hope past the heartbreak of rejection.”
When I’d first written Uninvited, I had been excited about talking to others about healing from the rejections of my past. But how in the world could I possibly talk about rejection when I was feeling so devastated by such a fresh wound?
I stared at the typed-out words strung together page after page. I wanted it all to go away.
The book. The rejection. The timing of it all. Yes, especially the timing. It seemed like such a cruel twist of irony. And what was so very crazy is that in the months leading up to this devastation, the one thing I kept hearing God say to me was, “Trust My timing.”
But it was the timing that seemed so very confusing. It was the timing that fed this intense awareness that no matter how well I plan things, I can’t control them. No matter how well I think I know the people in my life, I can’t control them. No matter how well I follow the rules, do what’s right, and seek to obey God with my whole heart, I can’t control my life. I can’t control God.
But here’s the good news: even when we follow in Eve’s footsteps, when we try to take control and make assumptions and misunderstand God on every level, He still has a plan. A good plan. A plan to make something from dust.
And eventually we will understand that God hasn’t denied us the best. He’s offering us the very best by offering Himself. He is our only source of perfection on this side of eternity. And He sees a perfect plan for our dust.
We may be afraid of all the disappointment of this broken world. But God isn’t afraid. He’s aware. So very aware of His ultimate plans and purposes. It isn’t to keep us from getting shattered. It’s to keep our souls connected, so deeply connected to Himself.
And let’s be honest, if we weren’t ever disappointed, we’d settle for the shallow pleasures of this world rather than addressing the spiritual desperation of our souls. We don’t think about fixing things until we realize they are broken. And even then we don’t call in the experts until we surrender to the realization we cannot fix things on our own. If our souls never ached with disappointments and disillusionments, we’d never fully admit and submit to our need for God. If we weren’t ever shattered we’d never know the glorious touch of the Potter making something glorious out of dust, out of us.
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Excerpted with permission from It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way by Lysa TerKeurst, copyright Lysa TerKeurst.
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Maybe your world has been shattered into dust. Oh, I have been there, friend. Maybe the unthinkable happened and you’re in deep personal pain… far more than you could ever have imagined. As Lysa said, often we want God to fix it back to what it once was, but what if He wants to create something completely new? Do we need to be in control? Or can we trust God is offering the best of Himself to us? Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full
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When the hardest moments of life have you doubting everything, how do you recover? When God's timing seems questionable, His lack of intervention hurtful, and His promises doubtful, where do you turn?
Lysa invites us into her own journey of faith and, with grit, vulnerability, and honest humor, helps us to see our lives in the context of God's bigger story. Whether we're dealing with daily disappointments or life-altering loss, we can find unexpected strength as we learn what it means to wrestle well between our faith and our feelings.