When Life Doesn’t Look The Way You Think It Should


Life Isn’t Fair

We packed up everything in the middle of the night.  Pulled the girls out of their bunk beds and quietly left Flagstaff and our Labor Day weekend vacation in the middle of the night.  7 year old Reese was struggling to breathe.  We needed to get out of the altitude quickly.  Sometimes, life isn’t fair.

Our three older girls had plans to make pancakes and eggs with their cousins in the morning.  Olivia and her new neighbor friend had planned to play a game the next day.  Those plans were stripped bare suddenly when we peeled them away from their bunk beds and the cousins that night.

On this particular night my heart was aching.  One more time, they had to miss out on something they looked forward to because their medically fragile sister needed immediate attention.

The reality of raising a child with medical needs is it’s just really hard sometimes. I’m sure that’s obvious to most people.   But we also worry a lot about the siblings.  We worry about how to give them enough attention, how to make them feel important, we worry about them growing up bitter and angry.  We worry about having the time to teach them all of the important things.  Also, we worry about worrying about them.

It’s difficult to the mall, take a trip to Hawaii, or even run out to get toilet paper without scheduling it.  It’s just the way it is.  The siblings sometimes pay a great price.  Life is not as carefree as I wish it were for them.  

They worry about their sister dying. And I hate that they worry about that. 

We were driving back to Phoenix that night in the quiet darkness.  Nobody else was on the road.  My heart really hurt for them.  And I was really worried about Reese.

Olivia teared up as she said, “I didn’t get to say goodbye.”  

“I’m so sorry you guys. I know you had plans.  Thanks for getting in the car,” I told them, choking back my own tears.   

They were great sports about it, but all I could think was it’s really not fair.

After a minute of silence, I heard Faith whisper, “Thanks for being a great mom.”

“What do you mean?”

It was kind of the opposite of what I felt and what I was expecting.  Pulling children out of bed in the middle of the night didn’t seem like it qualified me for such praise.

“Thanks for doing whatever it takes for Reese.”

Not what I expected.  I was expecting disappointment and maybe some complaints from a 15 year old.  But I got to see unselfishness and understanding.  And also some gratefulness and compassion.  Those were hard-won after years of living a life watching her sister struggle.  It was a life changing moment for me.

Can the worst thing actually be the best thing?

A few days later, while driving 13 year old Mia to a rehearsal, I peppered her with questions about her childhood.  

“Would you say it has been awesome…good…or just OK?”

[Can you tell I’d been worried about them since our middle-of-the-night drive?  Yeah, just a little.]

“I’d say it’s been awesome.”

“Oh really????”  [huge mom smile]

“What would you say has been the best part of your childhood?”

Without hesitation, she answered, “When Reese was born.”

[Mom’s mouth hanging open, speechless, amazed at God, really]

That part really got me.  The thing I thought would be the hardest thing for her turned out to be the best thing.  That blows my mind.

Is God Actually Good?

I listened to an interview with an author I admire the other day.  In it, he recalled how his best selling book came to be.  It had been a really difficult year for them.  They’d lost everything financially, he was working 3 jobs to try to rebuild, and Christmas was coming.

His wife asked him to write something for their kids instead of trying to buy gifts.  He said she was thinking he’d write 4 pages.  Instead, he wrote a book, took it to Kinko’s, printed 15 copies, gave some to his friends and the rest to his kids.  Subsequently, his friends sent it to a publisher and it’s sold 20 million copies since.  

What really stood out to me in this story, even though he didn’t say it directly, was that the book wouldn’t have been written if God hadn’t allowed him to lose all of his money.  He wasn’t an aspiring author.  He never planned to publish the book.  But God allowed a painful, difficult situation in order to move him toward something bigger.  

I think this speaks to who God is.  He really is good.  He really is love.  That’s actually who he is, not just what he is like.  So we can know that everything that he allows to happen to us will turn out to be good for us.  That is just who he is.  That thinking changes all of our thinking.  It has changed my life.

When every thought is framed with the truth that God is actually working things out with goodness in mind, and he actually is involved in my life, there is absolutely nothing that can shake me.  The truth is, if we really believe that God is good.  That God is who he says he is.  Then whatever happens in our lives, whatever disappointments, devastations, discouragements, we can choose to look at them as something God is allowing in our lives for some good purpose.  Hang on and find out what the goodness is.  Aren’t you at least totally curious to see how your painful stuff turns into good?

It Can Still Be Good

You know what?  Just because life doesn’t look the way you thought it would doesn’t mean it can’t be good.  And sometimes those things we think are the hardest are the very things that are pushing us toward our destiny.  Refining us toward unselfishness.  Teaching us to overflow with compassion and love for other people.  I wouldn’t have designed my life like this.  I wouldn’t have chosen the pain.  But in retrospect, seeing all the ways that my pain has allowed God to work out beautiful things, I would not change one thing.  The most beautiful things in my life came as a result of the things I thought would be the worst.  It overwhelms me as God unveils pieces of his mysterious ways when I least expect it.  Hold on for the good stuff.