Have you ever wanted something so much that it crushed you when things fell through? Does that loss of your aspiration hurt and confuse you to the point of questioning God and his plan? ♦
Abraham felt it. Isaac did too. Jacob and Esau both felt the pain and anguish, as did Joseph and Moses and Joshua. Countless others never mentioned in Scripture no doubt felt the disappointment of loss and defeat. Frustration at falling short of aspirations or faced with a losing hand and subsequent consequences.
What about us? It doesn’t necessarily feel better to know that others have gone through the same defeat and failure, coming up short in goals and dreams that are shattered before them. It’s different when it’s you, or your children.
We’re told to “be strong and courageous” and “wait upon the Lord” or “let not your heart be troubled.” What consolation is that when the long set goals are crushed, defeated or ruined before us and we’re left to deal with the loss, pain, regret and despair?
Pretty depressing, yes. But in the end, it’s often a great story. With time and wise perspective it can often be a tale of His hand, His providence, His restoration, His tapestry that plays out beyond what could have been imagined.
Our lives in a broken and fallen world are really tales of light and dark. A Christian life is a tale of goodness and light, of blessings and joy, of the turning of crushing losses to glorious victories. Throughout our whole lives. It’s all in one’s perspective and teachable temperament, and faith in a larger story that puts the immediate loss in God-sized context.
Even if an All-American medal and National Championship are on the line.
“She’s Going to Win the National Championship!”
The NAIA Championship Marathon race was well under way in St. Louis, Missouri. Our daughter, running for Westmont College in Santa Barbara, was pulling ahead at mile 7 and leading by a literal mile at mile 15. We were tracking her at various points around the course and realized that at each additional milestone she was going to achieve her marathon race goal of 2 hours and 50 minutes and win All-American status and the personal title as NAIA Marathon National Champion.
Our joy was pure and complete. We deduced that God was completing a perfect story after her skiing accident at age 9 that almost took her life at Lake Tahoe 13 years earlier. What else could it be? Wasn’t God so good?
And she had worked so hard. She missed the previous year’s Nationals due to a nagging injury. She twice missed out on achieving All-American in Cross Country Nationals due to various circumstances beyond her ability and talent.
It was all set up to be a great story. A great testimony to hard work and diligence. It was a set up to failure and disaster.
At mile 16 her coach told me that she wasn’t going to make it. I couldn’t see it – he could. It was an extremely humid morning and she had competed in the 10K finals two nights earlier. In those conditions, she was getting seriously dehydrated. He calculated it would catch up to her shortly. It hit her by mile 21. Though ranked #2 in the nation going into these NAIA finals and leading the race by a significant distance, my daughter was now faltering and weaving. Her wise coach decided to stop her to avoid serious body damage through dehydration. He grabbed her to stop, she fought back, deliriously thinking she was only 400 meters from the finish. She collapsed on the asphalt.
Accompanied by a friend, her brother and us, her parents, my daughter was taken by ambulance to the hospital where she stayed the rest of the day getting fluids and recovering. That was her last marathon.
A dream shattered, indeed – for all of us. Left to wonder what happened, and why.
5 Keys to Handling Losses
When setbacks happen, disaster strikes, losses hit home, dreams are shattered, I believe there are 5 keys to help deal with the pain, disappointment, confusion and even bitterness toward others and God. Of course these apply to all types of personal defeat and losses:
- Resist the Urge to Connect the Dots – There is a natural tendency in us to try to find purpose and reason for occurrences and circumstances. This is often pure speculation and folly.
- Admit and Confess to God Your Pain, Fear and Anger – Let God know your struggles in an honest venting of hurt and emotions. Like a good Father, He can handle it.
- Ask in Prayer for Peace, Comfort and Vision – Request through prayer His peace and comfort for your aching, even broken, heart, mind and soul. Ask for His perspective and eyes for vision to see what doesn’t seem to make sense.
- Surrender Your Heart, Mind, and Soul – God is in control. Let Him have your life in full, relinquishing all of yourself in headlong retreat to the fortress that is your refuge and renewed strength.
- Thank God for Your Life – Upon surrender we can be thankful to merely be alive in the hands of the Father who loves us and knows best. Be literally grateful for what has transpired.
It’s been over 6 years. That friend who jumped in the ambulance? Two years later he became my daughter’s husband. Lisa and Jacob now have 2 beautiful children. Last month, four months after giving birth to her second child, she ran and won 1st place female in a local Half Marathon in 1 hour and 26 minutes. Better yet, she loves the Lord, is in full peace and gratefulness for His hand and plan for her surrendered life. She’s written about this whole college racing episode in a memoir note, A Pending Dream.
We learned much that day in St. Louis. A difficult yet powerful lesson of God’s hand in life, in the good, bad and painful. It is His hand, not ours. He reigns, we don’t. Our dreams are human and short-sighted; He operates on another dimension that we often can’t fathom. It’s not always a happy ending in the short or long run. It is however a pathway to intimacy and a peace-filled life with the wise and omniscient good Father.
Have you surrendered your shattered dreams and losses?
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28