I’ve had this post in the works for some time now, but I was reticent in posting it because I thought it could be ill-received, especially given its timing (summer = wedding season). But I’ve finally wrest it from my pride and I think I can say, like Nadia Bolz-Weber, that I’m writing from a scar instead of a wound.
I don’t know who reads these posts, and I don’t know if I should be so open and candid and vulnerable in an open, public forum, but if sharing how I feel will encourage just one other person, then it will all be worth it (not to mention that I’ve also reached a point in my life where I care little about the opinions others have of me. I’m not ashamed of my story, hence the candour). Sometimes ego has to die so that others can be encouraged. Sometimes someone (or Someone) has to be crucified so that others can be saved.
So here goes:
I am not at all happy with my life at present. There are many reasons for this, but let’s just say that scrolling through posts on Facebook – engagement announcements, pregnancy reveals, baby photos, exciting employment news and exam result proclamations make some days more excruciating than others.
I’m not a hater. I’m not jealous (although there used to be a time when I couldn’t honestly say that). Some years are harder than others, but this year has been harder than most. I think I’ve been a good sport though. I congratulate my friends. I celebrate their achievements. I’ve sent cards. I’ve liked and commented on the photos. I’ve attended their weddings and baby showers. I’ve participated in the bouquet tosses. I am really, genuinely happy for the milestones achieved in their lives. I tell them so. And some of them have gone through so much to be where they are and so, having been a witness to their trials and tribulations and life journey, I can’t help but share in their joy and pride. I couldn’t call myself a friend if I didn’t. But I’d be lying if I said that I did not have the one lingering question in my head: “When is it my turn Lord? I’ve prayed so long… Have you forgotten me?” With every life event, there seems to be a tumultuous tussle– a tug-o-war of sorts — between genuine happiness and deep-seated hurt.
I know for a fact that I’m not alone, and the knowledge of that fact is the place from whence I’ve summoned the bravery to write this post. I’ve spoken to girlfriends who have deactivated their account during wedding season, or who delete their Facebook profile because they can no longer pretend that they are okay. Many of us are tempted to withdraw and isolate ourselves. Some of us are ashamed. Some of us are embarrassed. I write this post to say that we need not be.
I don’t write this for those of you who find it easy to be happy for your friends at all times and on all occasions, or those for whom there is no internal scuffle between self and others. That’s great. Kudos to you. Maybe one day I shall be like you. This, however, is for those of us who struggle. This is for the person whose friend calls them to say that they got a job while they themselves are sitting at home unemployed, tired of going to job interviews and getting no job, having to call Service Canada every two weeks. This is for the person who didn’t get hired back by their firm while all of their friends did. This is for the person whose friend calls them to be the maid of honour at their wedding but they themselves are still single, or worse just broke up with their long-term boyfriend. This is for the person who is always a bridesmaid but never a bride. This is for those of you who prayed for your friends to find spouses, and they all did, but you’re still a spinster. This is for the person who hears stories of getting healed from disease but they are still sick. This is for the person who has suffered a miscarriage or struggles with infertility but still has to paste on a smile and feign enthusiasm while they attend baby showers, baby dedications and christenings, walking through the baby aisle at Target wondering if they’ll ever have a chance to shop for their own child. This is for those of you who not only feel left out, but left behind as people progress and pass you on the journey of life. I write this for those of us who find it hard to be happy for others when we are hurting ourselves.
Although it is difficult to be happy for others when you’re hurting yourself, I write this to encourage you and others and tell you that God has not forgotten you.
For one thing, if God is blessing others, that means He’s still in the blessing business. It means that He still hears prayers and it’s good to know that He hasn’t stopped. I’m encouraged in particular because of two weddings that took place over the past few weeks. I watched the wedding of one person who was single for quite some time, and yet within the span of eight months she was engaged and married. I have another friend with whom I would often commiserate about the single life. She told me that on one occasion she was so tired of being single, and her father told her to go out and buy the pants that she hoped her one-day husband would wear and hang it up in her room as a reminder of what she was praying for. Instead of buying pants, she decided to purchase a particular cologne that she liked. Fast forward a few years later and this summer she got married. What’s more, when they were dating, she noticed that her now-husband wore the same cologne she had purchased years prior.
These weddings stand out to me because they remind me that if God is blessing my neighbours, that means He’s in the neighbourhood, and perhaps it’s just a matter of time before He stops by my door – or your door for that matter. And yet, I sense that there may be some of you for whom God seemed to be in the neighbourhood but He also seemed to have somehow misplaced your address or skipped your house altogether.
If it’s any consolation, we are not the first people to believe that God has forgotten us.
Abraham probably believed God had forgotten him and Sarah after waiting 25 years for the promised child. Joseph, who seemed typically upbeat, probably had to force a grin each time he saw another prisoner leave the cell. John the Baptist had spent his life being the voice crying out in the wilderness, preparing the way of the Lord. He recognized Jesus in the womb and recognized Jesus when he baptized him. But he soon found himself in prison, soon to be beheaded, and, with faltering faith, asks, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” (Matt 11:3, NLT). In fact, deducing from these stories, I’m not sure one can have an authentic relationship with Jesus without having gone through a period of feeling forgotten. Even Jesus, on the cross, said “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” We all know that Jesus wasn’t utterly forsaken, but Jesus felt foresaken nonetheless. Thank goodness feelings are not reality. And yes, although His Father had foresaken Him at that moment because the sins of the world were upon Him, He wasn’t cast off forever. Thank goodness we will not have to go through what He went through. The Word says that “He will never leave us nor forsake us” (Deut. 31:6).
I will say that it is important to recognize the legitimacy of your feelings and to truly feel your feelings, as opposed to pretend that they are not there. You do yourself a disservice if you dwell in denial. Sometimes it’s necessary to pull back and withdraw — but I would advocate this only as a defense mechanism as opposed to withdrawing out of shame. You have nothing of which to be ashamed, and not the least your feelings about a situation.
So take heart. I’ll admit — I used to feel a twinge of jealousy when yet another person got engaged or another person seemed so far ahead in their career and I’m just sitting here with no man, no money and no car. But what has helped me is to remember the uniqueness of my story. Your story – our story – is unique and particular to us. And because our story is tailor-made for us, and perfectly crafted for us with our purpose and temperament and character in mind, it makes no sense to lust after the story plot of another person. And because our story is perfect for us and us alone, we need not be ashamed or embarrassed. Our story is still lovely, as are the stories of other people. It’s just that it’s distinctive. It’s different. We can own it and claim it and be proud of it unabashedly because it’s still good. It’s just as good as the story of others. God only writes good stories. We will each have our joys on this journey. We each will partake in sorrows. It’s just that these joys and sorrows will occur at different times for different reasons and for different people.
That’s why we must rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn (Rom 12:5). We are called to share in the sufferings of each other and the suffering of Christ (Heb. 13:3). I rejoice with my married friends because this is the time God has appointed for them to get married. It doesn’t mean that I will not get married, and, truth be told, I may not. It simply means that it’s their time to get married, so I am happy for them. And when it’s my time to get married, I hope that they will be happy for me. Likewise, this may be the “set time” (Gal. 4:5, Gen. 17:21, 18:14, 21:2) for you to have your child. There’s no need to be sad or jealous, because my story is just as good as yours. So I will rejoice with you because this is the time for you to have your child and it’s a happy time.
Imagine if Cinderella and Snow White were friends. It wouldn’t make sense for Cinderella, in the cinder and ashes, to be jealous of Snow White because Snow White has a stepmother who doesn’t make her clean whereas Cinderella’s step mother hates her. What Cinderella doesn’t know is that Snow White’s mother wants to kill her. At least Cinderella’s stepmother wants Cinderella alive to clean soot. When we peer into the lives of others – especially on Facebook — we don’t see or understand the whole story. Heck – we barely understand our own story. So it makes no sense to be envious.
Likewise, it wouldn’t make sense for Snow White to be jealous of Cinderella because Cinderella gets to go to a ball. The thing is, on their own, viewed individually, they both have good stories. They both get to marry a “Prince Charming.” It’s just that both fairy tales have different events, and they both meet Prince Charming in different ways and at different times, but that doesn’t make one story better than the other.
Please don’t believe the lies of the Devil – that God doesn’t love you, that God is withholding something from you, that God has forgotten you, that God doesn’t care. The fact of the matter is God loves you (Jer. 31:3). God does not withhold any good thing from those who love Him (Psalm 84:11, Matt. 7:11, Psalm 34:9, James 1:17). God does not and has not forgotten (Psalm 77). God does care.
Don’t look at your whole life through the prism of this one somewhat depressing season and count your life as a write-off. It’s a season. It’s just one season. Life is filled with seasons. Admittedly, some are quite long. However, seasons, by their very nature, change. It’s important to see this season as part of a greater picture – a grand metanarrative – that God is writing. And life down here is not all about weddings, babies and jobs. These seasons of forgotten-ness refine our character, give us a testimony to share, draw us closer to God and make us more like Christ, so that when we go to heaven, we’ll actually “fit in” and like it there.
You can be happy for others when you’re hurting yourself because hurt doesn’t last always, your friends need you to be happy for them, and there will come a time when you will be happy again. This too shall pass. Your story is just as good, and you’ll want others to rejoice with you during the good parts. So rejoice with others during theirs and trust God. You are not forgotten.