A story of God’s faithfulness while living in the gap between what I expected and what life ended up being.
“God will give you the desires of your heart.”
I’ve heard this about ten thousand times in my life, mostly from well-meaning Christians trying to be encouraging. As if to say, of course, it will get better, of course, God will give you these good things; He loves you, doesn’t He?
But He still hasn’t, so where does that leave me?
When I first met my best friend, we were freshmen in college. We were both painfully single, both of our dads were sick, we were both far away from family for the first time in our life, and both of us were working part-time jobs trying to make ends meet.
In the years since then, her dad got better; mine is in an urn. She married the man of her dreams; I live with a roommate and an elderly dog. She got her dream job, and I’ve had 4 or 5 part-time jobs over the last few years trying to make ends meet. She’s got a wonderful, loving family, and I see mine about one weekend a year.
Which leads me to the question; where does that leave me?
I have wrestled with this idea of “life in the gap” between where we thought we would be and where we are. My head knows that envy and jealousy kill our joy, but my heart just can’t help but compare.
Because it looks like God has been a lot more faithful to her.
After my dad died, there was about a year when I was just wrecked with jealousy. I was so bitter against this sweet friend of mine, who had been so good and faithful to me. I knew I shouldn’t be, and I knew I was in the wrong, but I couldn’t stop. Which just made me feel worse because I had grown up hearing that envy and jealousy are sins. So I felt guilty and ashamed. I was caught in a spiral.
In reality, all of these bitter feelings were coming from a place of hurt and abandonment; it felt like God had shown up for her over and over again and left me high and dry. It felt like He must love her more. I felt so small and insignificant like there must be something wrong with me for Him not to show up for me. Like I just wasn’t enough. I was running and running, doing everything “right.” I was reading my bible, in counseling, praying constantly, and journaling.
Searching, trying to be enough for God to close the gap.
Finally, one day I cracked and confessed these feelings to my friend. She said something that absolutely infuriated me at the time but that I’ve gone back to over and over in the year since.
“Think about how hard it must be for God to see you like this with how much He loves you. He must have an incredible reason for it.”
There was another day when I was a crying mess at work. I told one of our pastors on staff that I just couldn’t understand why God would do all of this to me and why He felt so far away in my darkest moment. I had lost my dad and grandfather, both of whom I lived with growing up, within a few months of each other. I was supposed to get $100,000 life insurance, but we ended up getting nothing because Dad’s death wasn’t considered accidental. I had gotten Covid, then bronchitis, then pneumonia. I was living in a dark basement by myself at the time. I was working the opening shift at a coffee shop and then coming to work at the church. I was absolutely exhausted; the future seemed to be on such shaky ground, and the more I cried out to God, the further away He felt.
I told him all of this, how lost and abandoned I felt, how it felt like God was a million miles away when I needed Him most. He said, “Well, God doesn’t do anything to be mean, so what is He trying to teach you?”
It stopped me in my tracks. What was God trying to teach me? I had been so focused on how small I felt and how sad I was it hadn’t even occurred to me that God was trying to teach me something. I was so focused on how abandoned and wounded I felt I hadn’t stopped to think that He may have an “incredible reason for it,” as my friend said.
That night my prayers shifted. Instead of praying and begging God to show up, I started asking Him to help me see how He was working. Instead of asking Him to give me the same things He had given my friend, I started asking Him to help me be content without. Instead of asking God, “why?” I started asking God “how” He was going to use this.
As I sat on my kitchen floor (and cried) and reflected, I had this image in my head. I’d been on this long journey through the wilderness and wasn’t sure what was on the other side. But it had been a hard day of fighting through the woods. I come across a clearing with a campfire ablaze. God comes out from behind me; I hadn’t seen Him, but He had been there the whole time. He sits next to the fire with me and says, “Sit for the night.” I didn’t know what was to come, and I didn’t even know what I was fighting for, but I knew I was exhausted from the journey thus far. And I had the choice to keep fighting or to sit, rest in His presence, and trust God.
I realized I had put all of these qualifications on what God’s faithfulness meant, and because it didn’t look like or feel like God was doing what I thought a loving God would do, I couldn’t understand where He was. But in reality, He had been there the whole time. He was always in control. He was always walking with me, even when I couldn’t see it. That’s what walking by faith is: trusting Him and His faithfulness even when you feel alone—trusting His light when everything looks dark.
I had always heard of God’s faithfulness in relation to weddings, babies being born, promotions, and life going right. We feel God’s faithfulness when the gap gets smaller, so that’s when we talk about it. But the reality is God is just as faithful no matter how big the gap is. God is just as faithful no matter how much we can feel it.
We can trust His goodness and love when we’re standing at the edge of the gap and looking across a giant canyon. When He doesn’t give us the desires of our heart, we have to remember He doesn’t do anything to be mean, and we can trust Him. We can sit and rest in His presence even when we don’t know what the future holds. We can sit in His presence for today.
Even though I wish He had given me everything my heart desires, He still hasn’t. But He is still faithful. Through my wilderness story, He has taught me to trust Him, just as He did with the Egyptians wandering in the wilderness. He has given me just enough for each and every day, just enough to keep crawling back to Him. Just enough to continue to put tomorrow in His hand each and every day.
He is good, kind, and faithful.