“I give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify Your name forever.
For great is Your steadfast love toward me;
You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.”
This is my story.
In January, my life was breaking apart in ways I’d never imagined and it was at that point, while reading Anne of Green Gables, I read this:
“When I left Queen’s my future seemed to stretch out before me like a straight road. I thought I could see along it for many a milestone. Now there is a bend in it. I don’t know what lies around the bend, but I’m going to believe that the best does.”
-Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables
Those short sentences were a vague echo of my own heart. There was a drastic bend in my road and the only hope and sustenance was in God’s sovereignty and supremacy. He was painfully teaching my heart to lean into all the hurt and betrayal and sorrow in order to see Him as better than comfortable circumstances or realized dreams.
He made my heart believe what has always been true: He cannot be false to His faithfulness and He is unfailingly good to His children.
With an inkwell of grace, God has authored a story unlike anything I would have written for myself. As 2017 melted into 2018 and now as 2018 creeps up on 2019, there have been so many plot twists and bends in the road. So much stripping and emptying.
And so much filling.
“You have filled my heart with greater joy.”
About this time last year, I was in a pit of darkness and misery unlike anything I’d ever experienced or have experienced since.
Most of my days were spent crying, struggling to perform basic tasks, and lying in bed for hours, unable to function well and feeling anything but joy, rest, or peace.
Turmoil was everywhere.
The roars of the enemy and my selfish heart were consuming.
That season was the hardest thing I’ve ever endured. There was more hurt and despair than I’ve ever known and more tension and distress than almost anyone around me knew.
And it was only the beginning.
But it was the beginning of the end.
2017 would end in darkness and 2018 would start out, in a lot of ways, even darker.
As I look back on the beginning of this year, there isn’t one area of my life that’s the same as it was in January.
Everything has changed.
Things with church.
Everything is different.
Everything except one thing:
Jesus is still better.
“The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.”
He is unchanging.
Because He holds fast to me in love, I am still alive.
Because He is the joy of the world, my heart is full.
Because He is the propitiation for my sin, my soul knows true peace.
Because He is the everlasting Rock, my heart knows security.
Because He is the light of the world, there is hope in my darkness.
Because He is not too good to be true, my fear is lifting.
Because He is the strength of His people, I am empowered to worship.
Because He is the stability of our times, I am safe.
Because He rescues rebels, I have life.
Because He provides for all our needs out of His abundance in Christ, I shall not want.
Because He was wounded, I am healed.
Because He was abandoned, I never will be.
Because He is good, my days are lived under a canopy of grace too rich to fathom.
Because He loves me, I am His.
“One’s heart may break but it breaks into the hand of the Almighty…”
When my life was broken in every way, He held my pieces.
But He wasn’t just holding them. He was at work in the hurt, the hardship, and the humiliation, reassembling that fragmented life into a masterpiece of mercy beyond anything I could have dared to ask, seek, or imagine.
Sometimes (like now, for example), I can only cry from the sheer weight of glory and goodness, from the tangible love of a Father—pressed down, shaken together, running over, and put in my undeserving lap—too gracious for my heart to comprehend.
“And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends.
And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” -Job 42:10
This is my story.
In every area of my life, God has given more than I’ve ever had. Over and over, He has not just met my needs but abundantly lavished mercy and grace in every conceivable context. Like Job, the Lord has given me twice as much as I had before and He has done so by giving me more and more of Himself.
Proving that He alone is the Satisfier of the hearts He created and that He alone can hold the title of “Best Gift Giver,” He has flooded my life with more joy than I have ever known by continuing to expose my enormous need and His gracious provision for it in Christ Jesus.
My cup and life overflow.
And Jesus is better.
He is still all I need and crave, but He’s teaching me to reject fear and embrace the joy of this year, this moment, these people, these gifts, and to lean into goodness because in leaning into the goodness, I get Him, the Giver who really is better than even His best gifts.
“If peace of conscience be so sweet here, what is eternal peace! If a little joy here be so pleasant and comfortable that it makes us forget ourselves, what will be that eternal joy there! If the delights of a kingdom be such that they fill men’s hearts so full of contentment that ofttimes they know not themselves, what shall we think of that excellent kingdom! So by way of taste and relish we may rise from those petty things to those excellent, which indeed are scarce a beam, scarce a drop of those excellencies.”
So, 2018 is finishing the way it began:
Learning to lean in because Jesus is better.
“Just as my mother would be offended if I declined her offer of an inheritance, so God is offended if we refuse to believe that He is merciful and loving enough to give us good gifts, in spite of ourselves.”
The Lord knows how and when to make our paths straight and He knows how and when to navigate us through the bends He designed for our joy. He is completely trustworthy and completely good.
May He be glorified according to the measure of the magnificence of His character.