When Life Doesn’t Turn Out Like You Planned

It is not an uncommon thought. I know that I am not the only one that has experienced this epiphany. Often in life there comes a moment of realization, whether through crisis or failure, or some other life event, that we realize “this is not what I thought my life would look like.”

I started this blog when my father-in-law was nearing the end of his life. I saw it as an outlet for writing down the thoughts that were swirling in my head. I wrote with the idea that by processing the passing of a good and godly man, my words might possibly be an encouragement to someone else going through a difficult time. I kept up my writing because it was therapeutic for me, and because I hoped to benefit others along the way.

There were a few. I am thankful to know that I was able to hear from some who were encouraged or inspired. Not every blogger gets that, and I certainly didn’t always write in a way that would ask for feedback. I did allow comments because I always wanted to be available to answer a question or be of some further help. Though it might not have read this way, my goal in writing was that my words would reveal the hope that I have found in knowing Christ.

Then life got hard. I struggled to see myself having anything to offer when life took a jarring turn. I lost any confidence I had in writing, or in my ability to be of any benefit to someone else. I was shaken and discouraged. How could I write?

Discouragement comes from all kinds of places, doesn’t it? We all face times or seasons of disappointment or discouragement. Often it comes from circumstances beyond our control, but if I’m honest, the most guilty culprit is my own heart. I have allowed pain and struggle to weigh down me down. Life threw me some curve balls and they left me paralyzed and feeling alone.

Only I’m not alone. And neither are you!

God has been faithful to walk beside me and remind me that He will carry the burden if I will only surrender it to Him. He sees. He knows. And He is Sovereign. My heart belongs to Him, so I will trust Him even when I don’t know what He is doing.

In 2020, before CoVid even hit, I felt compelled to choose the word, “surrender” to focus on. What seems an obvious spiritual discipline became an act of obedience that sustained me. The Christian life starts with surrender. When we give our lives over to the will of the Father, we are saying, in effect, “I surrender my life to You, God.”

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.”

Matthew 6: 9-13

When we utter the words, “thy will be done”, it is easy to gloss over the true impact of them. Surrender says that when I mouth the words “thy will be done” I am confessing that I am willing to accept whatever it is that God brings –or might allow in my life. The good. The bad. And the hard. God is Sovereign over all of it.

We can choose to rest in the fact that God is Sovereign–or fight against it.

Did God know what I would face in 2020 and the two years that followed? Of course He did! He knew that many of these circumstances would be out of my control–and He also knew that I would have to choose to surrender it all to Him if I didn’t want my faith to be shaken.

In 2021 my new word for the year was “abide”. Without forgetting the word surrender, I moved forward with a vivid realization that surrender would be something I needed to do for a lifetime–and on a daily and even a moment-by-moment basis. It became a spiritual discipline that would need to preface any other act of obedience.

Surrender is a vital spiritual discipline that precedes any other act of obedience.

Abide was a term that came out of John 15’s imperative that we recognize that nothing we do in this life will be fruitful if we are not resting, trusting, and staying close to Jesus. And staying close to Jesus got me through 2021.

By the end of that year there was no doubt that I would soon be burying my father. Dad was in end-stage kidney failure and was hanging on to life by a thread. Trying to help my mother navigate those days of watching him go downhill were excruciating. Dementia had robbed her ability to fully comprehend what was happening, and her grief was constant.

When the first January rolled around, and a new year started, I found myself grasping for a new word to focus on for 2022. I was reading in the book of Isaiah when this verse seemed to jump right off the page and into my heart. It was as if God was speaking directly to me:

“Do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you; I will help you;
I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10

How do I know He wanted that verse for me? Because His Word is alive and active and penetrates hearts. And it was planted deep in my grieving heart that day. He reminded me that He was not just going to get me through the hard–He was going to help me and He was going to hold on to me with His righteous right hand. Don’t you see? He still speaks! This is what 2 Timothy 3:15-16 means when it says that God gave us Scripture so that we would have everything we need to prepare us for whatever life brings.

God was faithful and merciful to the end. He walked with me and He held me up when I thought I couldn’t take another step. He revealed Himself in ways that I would have never seen if it hadn’t been for the hard. Read that again.

God revealed Himself in ways that I would have never seen if it hadn’t been for the hard.

I thought that maybe it was fitting then, for me to write the final chapter of wateringcanblog. To say goodbye to this friend that got me from the death of my father-in-law to the death of my own father. When I first started this blog, I really could not have known what would come of it, or that I would continue for so long. Though I have considered ending it, God has reminded me that He is at work in this world and as long as I am willing to tell His story, someone out there might need a fresh reminder of His love and His presence.

Thank you to the ones who have encouraged me along the way. You remind me of why I write. Thank you for letting me in and for hearing my heart. I pray that somewhere along the way, you will see Jesus through my writing.

8 replies »

  1. I’m so thankful you’re going to continue your blog. I enjoy it so much. I thank you so much for your transparency, and for your desire to show that every one of us can get weary from the “things” of this life. You are definitely an inspiration to many.
    Love Isaiah 41:10!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh Debbie! I am so thankful! You have blessed me as well–I know that God planned all along for us to use our life experiences to help others, and if I can do that in some small way, I am grateful!💕


  3. your blog has been a joy to my heart and a saddness sometimes both at the same time i am walking down a similar path and it was a comfort to see someone else perspective and God word if i am totally honest I have also asked God why this or why me but I know he has a reason and I have to trust that i am on and stay on his path. I thank you for sharing you thoughs and faith blessings debbie woolsey


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