What does God have for us this year?
I’ve been praying about what to write in this post…. what will encourage you (and me) for 2018? Something fresh and new? Or, something tried and true that needs to be rehearsed yet again? Some combination of both?
As I was journaling the other day, I realized that as excited as I am about Baby Stipes making his or her arrival (literally any day now – maybe even by the time you read this post!), there is still a part of my heart that anxiously prepares for disappointment. And I was a little bit shocked by that. I know several couples who have lost babies late into their pregnancies or delivered stillborn babies, and though I have absolutely no reason to think that anything is wrong, part of me still wonders, “What if that’s how this ends?” My pregnancy has been really healthy, and yet, my heart asks, “What if…?” Doesn’t that seem crazy?
I think loss, pain, and grief can change the way we experience joy. Not necessarily in a negative way – you can probably argue that it actually adds to eventual joy, but it does change your perspective. The other day I was thinking about how we might share news of Baby Stipes on social media… while we’ll be so happy to share the news, I find myself wanting to find a way to share our joy and somehow provide context for it.
In the midst of the good things, I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that we have done NOTHING to deserve this gift, that we know that the ability and the privilege of having a child isn’t a “right” that we can lay claim to. It makes for a strange tension in my heart: absolutely wanting to rejoice in the good thing, but also wanting to rehearse that I believe God is good even if we weren’t getting the “thing” we asked for. Because I need that reminder. Almost as if loss, pain, and grief from the past demand that reminder.
Have you ever felt this way? Does this line of thought make sense anywhere outside of my brain?
I remember feeling the same way about getting engaged and married. I was 30 when I met Cody and he really came out of seemingly nowhere. I had been navigating singleness and trying, however feebly, to lean into the Lord when it just plain sucked. So when He brought Cody along, I was grateful. Joyous! But it felt so weird to be happy and excited after such a hard season of singleness. I felt like a traitor to the single version of myself, to be excited and embrace the new season God was providing, but on the other hand, wanted to acknowledge that God did it! That a prayer I had prayed had been answered!
So what does it look like to celebrate well, truly giving thanks to God for a thing He has provided, while also remembering the absence and longing for that thing? To put things into perspective of the actual big picture of eternity and God’s sovereignty?
I don’t know. But I think it’s important to do both. Somehow. Some way.
Does it mean a social media post announcing the arrival of Baby Stipes needs to include a “nod” to previous loss and grief? I don’t know. Maybe. Or maybe my own heart just needs to feel and acknowledge the tension and then offer genuine, heartfelt praise to God for how He sustained us in the past and for what He is now providing.
I heard Natalie Grant’s song, “More Than Anything,” for the first time the other day and found myself tearing up in the car. Yes, I am 39 weeks pregnant and experiencing allllll the hormones, but I think there’s more to it than that. The song is about trial and heartache and longing for God to change things, but wanting to want Him more. The chorus says:
Help me want the Healer more than the healing
Help me want the Savior more than the saving
Help me want the Giver more than the giving
Help me want you Jesus more than anything
I think this song is about more than just trial and heartache. I think this chorus is an anthem for joy, too. If God does indeed allow us to bring a healthy Baby Stipes into the world, I still want to want the Giver more than the giving. I want to rejoice in what He does, but I don’t want to be satisfied with the gift alone. With the healing. With the saving. I want to want the Healer. The Savior. I want to want Jesus more than anything. In pain, yes, but also in joy.
So, maybe this is the theme I need to explore in 2018, more than anything: That regardless of the circumstances this year may hold, I grow in longing for Jesus more than anything. Like the apostle Paul, I want to say:
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:8-9
But I want to say it and mean it with my whole heart. I want to look back at 2018 and see tangible growth in my heart and in my posture toward Jesus. To actually long for Him more than I do for the things He does, gives, heals, or saves.
What is it that you want more than anything right now? Are you waiting for something? Are you seeing an answer to a prayer you’ve earnestly prayed? In either circumstance, will you long for Jesus the most?
As we begin again this year, let’s ask for His help to want Him more.