When my husband Zack and I got married back in 2011, we had no idea what God had in store for us. We knew what he had planned, of course.
We would have the ideal marriage. Date nights every week, no arguments, an everlasting honeymoon phase, and a house full of fun, rambunctious (but well-behaved) kiddos.
Little did we know that our story would be one of devastating losses, grief, and seasons of seriously questioning God’s goodness to us as we began to face years of unexplained infertility, three miscarriages, and to this day, there are still no clear answers.
It has been a long journey, but God has been so faithful to give us peace, comfort, and even joy in the midst of our unfulfilled longings.
As the days slowly ticked by, they were often filled with tears, prayers, and questions. I wrestled with God’s plan and asked Him “why?!”
This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. Not even close.
But as I struggled and mourned and battled with my emotions, I was also deeply comforted by the same God who promised to never leave me or forsake me.
In the midst of my sorrow and grief, I knew God was with me. I knew He cared about me and loved me. And even in the midst of my confusion and pain, He was restoring my broken heart to a place of wholeness once again.
Psalm 18:2 was my anchor during that time: “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
I KNOW I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO HAS WRESTLED WITH DISAPPOINTMENT AND UNFULFILLED LONGINGS.
Each one of us faces this in our lives at some point or another. It’s part of being human in a fallen and broken world.
Maybe you’re wishing you had a stronger marriage. Or suffering from ongoing physical health challenges. Or longing for a family member to know Christ. Maybe you’re wrestling with the body and looks that God gave you. Maybe you’re hoping for children.
We’re all on a unique journey and it looks different for each one of us. The question isn’t “will I experience disappointment?” but rather, “how can I still find joy in the midst of my disappointment when it strikes?”
Throughout my marriage, God has been teaching me a lot about finding joy in the midst of disappointment and unfulfilled longings that I didn’t see coming. I have learned that true joy and real suffering can exist at the same time.
I want to share with you the 3 biggest ways that God has helped me to find joy in the midst of my struggles, and I hope these truths will equip you to find true joy in the midst of yours as well, whatever they are.
1. HUMBLY SUBMIT TO GOD’S STORY FOR YOUR LIFE.
Discontentment and friction often arise in our hearts when we forget who holds the pen to our story. When we look around and begin comparing our story to others, we lose sight of the fact that God has every person on a different path.
His timing is not the same for all of us. His plan is tailor-made for our individual journey and for our greater good.
I wrestled with this deeply as I would watch friends and family easily get pregnant all around me while I was struggling to carry a pregnancy past 6 weeks. God gently worked in my heart and reminded me through His word that my life story is His to write.
My life story is different from everybody else’s and God has a good plan for me, even if it’s not the one I would’ve chosen for myself.
I had to remind myself of truths from His Word like, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me…” (Isaiah 46:9b). And “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever…” (Psalm 138:8). Surrendering the reigns of our story to God is the first step toward true joy.
2. TRUST THAT GOD’S PLAN IS FOR YOUR GOOD.
We live in a time where “good” means getting what you want. The “good life” is focused on personal happiness and making all of our dreams come true.
But God’s version of good is the complete opposite of this.
God knows that true and lasting satisfaction can only come from becoming more like Christ and by loving God more fully. Our circumstances are not the defining factor of our joy and hope.
God’s version of “good” might look like allowing challenging circumstances into our lives that serve to remind us of our need for Him.
Psalm 119:68 says, “You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.” And Ephesians 2:10 reminds us, “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
Even in the midst of the most trying circumstances, we can find true joy in our relationship with Christ.
3. SERVE GOD WHOLEHEARTEDLY RIGHT NOW.
Many of us struggle with the weight of our disappointments so much that they become a barrier keeping us from moving forward. We begin to view our identity and life through the lens of our unfulfilled longings rather than our identity as a child of God.
God wants us to lay our desires at the foot of His altar and offer them as a sacrifice of worship to Him. He wants to use us to build His Kingdom in unique ways right now. Regardless of my season of life, I can serve and honor the One who created me.
GOD HAS A UNIQUE AND BEAUTIFUL STORY FOR EACH ONE OF OUR LIVES.
His story is tailor-made for each of us and will look different than those around us. Sometimes our story is filled with joy and celebration, and sometimes it’s filled with tears and grief.
But no matter what comes our way, we can confidently put our trust in the Lord because He is the author of our story.
My story didn’t go the way I planned. But it is going according to God’s plan. And He has decided to bless Zack and me in ways that we never would have imagined by opening the door to international adoption.
We now have two amazing boys from Ukraine who call us Mama and Papa. These little ones have warmed my heart and brought me a joy that I can’t even begin to describe. I’m overwhelmingly grateful for the family God has blessed me with.
But even my sweet little family can’t bring me ultimate joy. Because my truest source of happiness is found not in my earthly family (precious though they are), but in my eternal family. In my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
True joy and fulfillment don’t come from getting what you want but from surrendering your entire life to what God wants and trusting that His plan is truly good.
When we fully trust God to write His story for our lives, we can look around and genuinely celebrate what He is doing in the lives of those around us.
We don’t have to compare and despair, but rather joyfully celebrate His gifts and blessings that He gives to others.
Our hearts will be most content when we remind ourselves that we are not on this earth to build our Kingdom but to build God’s.
And each of our unique life stories and journeys is a beautiful part of God’s greater and grander plan. The journey isn’t over. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know the One who holds my future.
And in Him, my heart finds peace and rest.
Kristen Clark is married to her best friend, Zack, and is the newly adopted mom to two precious boys from Ukraine.
She is co-founder of Girl Defined Ministries, author of several books, including Not Part of the Plan: Trusting God with the Twists and Turns of Your Story, and is passionate about promoting the message of God-defined womanhood through blogging, speaking, mentoring young women, and hosting Bible studies in her living room.
In the end, she’s just a fun-lovin’ Texas girl who adores all things outdoors and is an unashamed dog-lover who snuggles with her little maltipoo whenever she can.