What would be the greatest gift you could ever receive?
This question was posed to us during a Sunday School lesson a few weeks ago. Most of us at the table knew the ‘right’ answer, but for the sake of discussion and getting to the heart of the matter, we began to share our desires. Someone mentioned the salvation of their children, another the ability to know the future. But what has stayed with me these weeks later is the answer from a friend at the table:
“Whatever it is that I don’t want.”
Strange response, right? The greatest gift you could receive is that thing that you don’t want?
I’ve never written out a list of things that I don’t want from life, but if someone asked, I could probably list a few things right away. However, I have made lists of things I do want. Dreams of traveling the world, getting married, making a difference in the world, good health, beautiful, smart and obedient children.
You dream about your life, writing a beautiful story full of pleasant circumstances, comfortable and positive outcomes. But sometimes your dreams shatter, the things you had hoped for don’t happen or they turn out differently than you had expected. You miscarry a baby or learn that you’ll never have that baby you long for. A loved one dies, you receive the phone call no one wants to get, your child is diagnosed with a disability, and for a long time you stare at the broken pieces wondering how you will ever survive, often questioning God’s goodness and purpose.
Shattered dreams don’t always look like disability, death, or tragedy. I often find them in my everyday. When I make a plan and it gets spoiled. If a child wakes up sick in the middle of the night when I was just hoping for one night of good rest. When a friend doesn’t respond in the way I had hoped or my car breaks down or I stub my toe on the bed. These might seem small in the grand scope of life, but in that moment it feels like everything has fallen apart.
Because no matter the depth of our pain, the immensity of the loss, or even how great our faith might be, when our dreams shatter we know that God could have prevented the brokenness but he didn’t. And we must wrestle through our questions about him as we live among our broken dreams.
The truth is that the pieces might never get put back together. Your life will forever be marked by that loss. But over time, and by the grace of God, you begin to change. You start to see beauty in the mess and the upside down nature of the Kingdom of God becomes a wonderful reality.
How to be low is to be high, to feel utterly satisfied and yet still hungry, how the pathway to joy is one of sorrow, how loss is gain. And this mysterious gift of shattered dreams awakens your soul to realize the greatest gift in life is Jesus. Not what you thought you wanted from him, but the delight and satisfaction that come through abiding in his presence.
This is abundant life.
And this is what having a son with Down syndrome has taught me.
Those things that I might not want for my life are often the things that God gives me because he knows they will be the pathway for me to draw closer to Jesus. He allows the shattering of my dreams in order to push me deeper into the arms of Jesus.
This is a great and mysterious gift indeed.
I wanted to leave you with an excerpt from the book Shattered Dreams, by Larry Crabb. May it encourage your heart today in your own path of walking through the pieces of broken dreams.
His suffering became a doorway into God’s heart. He shared God’s pain in His great project of redemption. Suffering together for a single cause made him feel closer to God. A new thought occurred to him. ‘I will join with whatever forces are opposed to the root of this unpleasantness. I will ally with goodness against evil. I will not wait to see more clearly; what my hand finds to do, I will do. But I will stay close to the spring. My soul is thirst. A pleasant life is not water for my soul; whatever comes from God–whoever God is–this is the only true water. And it is enough.’ The man worshiped God, and God was pleased. So God kept the water bubbling up out of the spring in the man’s soul. When the man didn’t drink every morning from that spring or return every evening to drink again, his thirst became intolerable. Some things in his life got better. Some things stayed the same. Some things got worse. But the man was dreaming new dreams, greater dreams than a pleasant life. And he found the courage to pursue them. He was now a man with hope, and his hope brought joy. God was very pleased. So was the man.