I’d been asking some version of that question for months, but now I was on my knees late at night, burying my face into the sofa to keep my sobs from waking my family as I screamed it again. “Where are you, God?! What do I do with this? I want my good life back!”
In a ten day period of time, one of my children had been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, another had disclosed being the victim of abuse, and my husband’s angry, irrational behavior had intensified to the point that I was wondering if he had a neurological disease of some kind. We were facing enormous financial pressure, and our home was not a safe place due to my husband’s choices.
Confused, terrified, and feeling crushed under the weight of a life that was not going according to the “happy Christian family” plan that I had envisioned, I felt paralyzed by fear and abandoned by God. I had sought my whole life to serve God; how did I end up here?
When a random conversation made me wonder if Dr. Larry Crabb had written any books that I hadn’t already read, an internet search surfaced Shattered Dreams, just when I needed it most. Little did I know then that 2010 marked a crossroads for our family, and Shattered Dreams would be the signpost helping us to continue on the narrow road that leads to life.
I was certainly no stranger to the truth that God uses pain redemptively in our lives. I had spent my late teens and most of my 20s battling a serious autoimmune disease, and I had experienced His faithfulness through that season. I had also lost my third child and found His presence deeply sustaining amid my grief.
However, reading Larry’s words about the life of Naomi and how God uses the loss of lesser dreams to open our hearts to a greater dream, one in which He is our deepest desire and joy, brought both relief and terror. God was up to something! But what if it wasn’t restoring my dream for our home?
My hands didn’t open easily. After all, “God hates divorce,” right? Surely He would restore peace to our home?
And yet, slowly, a new dream took root: regardless of my husband’s choices, I could choose life. I could hope in God. I could love well. My children and I could find peace in spite of circumstances that we would not have chosen.
The outcome that I had feared and done everything I could safely do to avoid would actually become the pathway to experiencing God’s grace at a deeper level, not just for me, but also in the lives of my kids. In our suffering, we felt our need of God at a whole new level, and He faithfully provided for us.
When I read Shattered Dreams that first time, I wrestled with the idea that God would allow good things to be lost in order to open our hearts to make Him my greatest joy. As I recently re-read Shattered Dreams, I was struck by how different my focus is today.
I had walked alongside victims of abuse for several decades, but now I do so from a completely different perspective. I don’t try to minimize the loss or cheer up the sufferer. Instead, I wait with the one who is grieving, trusting that new life is being born from the ashes, but I don’t try to manufacture that for them.
Because shattered dreams aren’t the end; they are a doorway to hope. And joy really is on the other side.