Upside Down

Just so you know, I wish I could take away every disappointment that nips at the edges of your happiness and sits heavy in your heart. Big and small. A past hurt or a present heartbreak. I wish we could get together in the comforts of my white kitchen with dishes in the sink and laundry on the table needing to be folded. I’d offer you some warm slice-and-bake cookies and whisper, “I get it. Let’s chat.”

I could share my stuff, and you could share yours.

We’d probably cycle through stories of the smaller craziness of life first. Like the time my makeup got mixed up with my daughter’s. No big deal, I’m flexible enough to use hers. The lighting wasn’t very good where I was doing my makeup, so it all looked fine.

Until later at the office.

I walked into our brightly lit restroom and just about keeled over. My. Eyebrows. Were. Purple! That was no eyebrow pencil I’d used hours earlier. It was purple eyeliner. People had been interacting with me all day saying not a word. Gracious.

Or the time I convinced myself that the really adorable shirt on sale could fit me. I mean, I knew the tag said it was two sizes too small, but where there’s a will there’s a way. Right? Well, not so much. I got stuck. My arms were up and too far committed when I suddenly realized I couldn’t move. My face was covered with the body of the shirt; therefore, I also couldn’t see. My little muffin top was the only thing free as a bird as I was forced to walk out into the store blindly and squeak out, “Um, I need a little help.”

Why do these things keep happening to me?

Once we’d had a laugh together, we’d get to the deeper issues. The bigger disappointments. The harder things to process.

And we’d both agree this isn’t how it should be. This life between two gardens is confusing and complicated. Dust is messy.

We don’t even like to touch dust, especially if it’s made up of the shattered pieces of our own hearts.

Thankfully, we don’t have to. We can hand it over to God — the One who forms our dust into something we want but never could have made for ourselves.

We’d nod in agreement at this thought.

I’d then share a couple of verses that have really helped me. But I would warn you, the first might not at all feel good at first glance. But it’s better to wrestle with Truth than wallow in turmoil. So, I would turn to the book of James, chapter 1. I’d recite verses 2–4 from memory, which should reassure you. I’ve personally wrestled through turmoil with this Truth more than just a time or two.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. — James 1:2-4

I’d confess I like these verses until I don’t. They are easy to pull out when your worst issue is that the drive-through coffee joint got your order wrong today. They frappeed your latte and waylaid the start of your workday. Grrrrrrr. But then you put a little Jesus on it and felt way mature as you considered some joy up in there.

But what about those other things we walk through? The ones that hurt too long? Or disappoint too deeply? Or feel devastatingly permanent?

To slap some “we should be joyful about this” verses on top of the hard things feels cruel. Like a bad joke about something excruciatingly painful. It’s just too soon for that kind of nonsense.

That’s why I’m glad these verses don’t say “feel the joy” but, instead, “consider where some glimpses of joy might be even in the midst of all the hurt.”

I’d share with you about my friend Angie. Maybe we could even call her in. She’s a beautiful soul held together by equal amounts of belly laughs and serious sorrow. Her baby Audrey went from womb to Heaven in a matter of minutes. There would be no tea parties with her sisters. No secrets shared with her best friends. No birthday parties or Build-A-Bear outings with her daddy.

Just a sweet legacy that she fulfilled her assignment here quicker than most and got to make all those memories with Jesus. But her momma weeps for her still. Angie’s arms ache to hold her, and her eyes long to see Audrey grow. It was just before Audrey’s ninth birthday when I got a text from Angie that a painting I’d commissioned an artist friend to do for Proverbs 31 Ministries took her breath away. Angie had seen it on social media, and it looked so much like she imagined Audrey looking now at nine. There were details in the painting that the artist could have never known to include except through divine inspiration. Angie wept at the sight.

The problem was that the painting had already been sold.

So, her husband, Todd, and I contacted the artist who, with even more precision, created another original for Angie. Just before Todd surprised Angie with a visit to the studio to get her treasure, I sent Deann, the artist, a note to scribble on the back from me. It read,

Dearest Angie, Audrey isn’t forgotten. And neither are you. God wanted you to have a picture of your beautiful nine-year-old daughter to assure you she’s good. You will see her again. But, until then, here she is. Beautiful. Whole. So proud of her mommy. God shows up in amazing ways. Today it’s through Deann’s paintbrush.

I love you, Lysa

At this point in our conversation, I’d pull up Angie’s Instagram and show you what she wrote in response. It so deeply comforted me. Her words gave me such hope in the midst of my own heartbreak. Because sometimes when you can’t find your footing with your own faith, you just have to go stand on someone else’s for a while.

She wrote:

The kindness of the Lord is more than I can begin to comprehend.

Genuinely, one of the best days of my life. I will never, ever forget the way Lysa wrote a dedication on the back for Audrey… and Deann’s brushes painted life into my angel.

I’m overwhelmed. So many tears of gratitude.

❤ Thank you, Lord… I’m going to post more photos so y’all can see it better — it is so, so spectacular. I’m completely in awe.

She said she was spilling tears of gratitude. Dare I say that’s one of the best descriptions I’ve ever heard of what it is to consider the presence of joy in the middle of an unimaginable disappointment?

She gets it.

To live is to love. To love is to risk pain. To risk pain is to live. It’s what it means to truly be human. As fragile as dust. The breaking of us. The making of us. The building up of our faith.

Tears are the truest connection we have with others, and trust is the truest connection we have with God. Angie’s tears of gratitude touched a deep part of me and helped me to think with a heart of gratitude and trust as I wrestled with my own tears.

And doesn’t it all come down to that? Trust. Trading our will for “Thy will,” because we know He will.

Excerpted with permission from It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way by Lysa TerKeurst, copyright Lysa TerKeurst.

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Your Turn

We can’t escape disappointments and hurt, even devastation that turns everything we held dear to dust. But, we can remember that we can trust God to make something beautiful out of that dust. We can choose His will over our own. Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily

Hear from Lysa about the book

Lysa TerKeurst

Lysa TerKeurst is president of Proverbs 31 Ministries and the New York Times best-selling author of Uninvited, The Best Yes, Unglued, Made to Crave, and 16 other books. Lysa was recently awarded the Champions of Faith Author Award and has been published in multiple publications such as Focus on the Family and CNN online. Additionally, she has appeared on the Today Show as one of the leading voices in the Christian community. Each year, Lysa is a featured keynote presenter at more than 40 events across North America, including the Women of Joy Conferences and the Catalyst Leadership Conference. She writes from her sticky farm table and lives with her family in North Carolina. Connect with her at www.LysaTerKeurst.com or on social media @LysaTerKeurst.

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