Several years ago I came home from our national pastors’ conference knowing that it was time to try for a fourth child. I had been arguing about God with this one for a while, but something had shifted, and I had felt a clear nudge: NOW. There followed a constellation of “coincidences” that confirmed that we should go ahead at this time, and before long we had a positive pregnancy test.
A new dream was on her way!
But that dream didn’t last. The 12-week scan had only bad news: my womb was empty. That little bittie had died weeks ago, but my body hadn’t realised yet it yet.
I was crushed.
I was mad.
I had some raw moments before God: YOU told me to do this! This was YOUR idea! And YOU couldn’t even come through on the thing that only YOU could control?!
Those days in between the bad news and the miscarriage you’re waiting for (while still hoping for a miracle) are terrible. There’s no prettying it up. I did find something precious of God in that space though: not only does he meet me at the bottom, when my dreams have landed in disappointment, but he sits with me throughout the fall.
It’s a mature faith that doesn’t let disappointment drive her from the Father into bitterness. Instead it draws her into his embrace, and there we find comfort and soon we’re able to dream again.
It’s easy to think that people of great faith are always living in the fulfilment of their dreams; it’s victory every day for them! But the heroes of faith are muddling their way through struggle; even the highlights from Hebrews 11 show us that. Have you noticed the group at the end of the hall of faith though? Check out Hebrews 11:36-38; they were not living the dream. Instead, they were mistreated and murdered, but they were still heroes of faith—even better, the writer of Hebrews claims,
“the world was not worthy of them”Hebrews 11:38
Outwardly it looks they were defeated, but these “failures” are amongst the “great cloud of witnesses” in Christ who are cheering you on (Hebrews 12:1)—and they get that it’s hard sometimes.
John the Baptist, the one whom Jesus declared was the greatest of anyone ever born (he beat Abraham, Moses, Elijah and David to that spot!), even he faced disappointment. Stuck in prison, knowing he’ll be murdered soon, he sends a messenger to Jesus: “Are you the Messiah? I thought you were, but things are not working out how I had dreamed.” Jesus responds by reworking John’s expectations, aligning them with the better plan of the gospel (Matt 11:1-19, Luke 7:18-28). But it’s not all gentle rebuke: there’s a note of compassion for John’s disappointment when Jesus says, “Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me” (Matt 11:6, Luke 7:23).
More than just the emotional pain it causes, disappointment can cause us to stumble when we give it more meaning than it should have.
Disappointed dreams do not disqualify your faith. They don’t mean that God loves you any less, that you didn’t “have enough faith” to make the dream come to pass, or that the dream is over. Maybe you heard him wrong, maybe you pinned your hopes on an outcome that he never promised, but you can still trust his heart and his intentions towards you.
Kōsuke Koyama explains how the Christian God never actually offered us a ”protection-from-danger-religion” or a “happy-ending-religion”, instead he promises us that we can trust him even in the wilderness (See this post).That’s what faith really is.
Faith doesn’t insulate you from disappointment, it leads you to one who is with you in it, and who will lead you through it to dream again.
For me, it took another couple of years, a couple more miscarriages, a diagnosis, a miracle, some confused doctors, and a rough pregnancy, before that promised fourth daughter arrived. I still grieve for my June-baby that never arrived, and all those little bitties that I couldn’t hold on to. Ultimately, however, I am grateful for that time in my life. I wouldn’t ask to go through it again, but there are some things of God that you can only discover in the night season.