“Let go of the life you imagined for the life God has ready for you.”
How many times have you heard, or read, some version of those words?
It seems like there’s this image of simply letting go of the hopes, dreams, and visions you hold close to your heart, releasing them into the wind like balloons, and stepping serenely into a totally different reality.
What happens when it feels impossible to trust that Jesus has something better in store?
What happens when letting go doesn’t feel like gaining anything at all, but, simply, loss?
Letting Go of the Life I Envisioned
2019 was a crash course for me in letting go of the life I envisioned for myself. That life included living close to my parents and my mom being available to help with my two young kids or do fun things together.
Instead, although my parents’ address is just ten minutes away, they’ve spent most of their time over the past year living across the country in southern Arizona, caring for my dad’s aging parents. It has been a hard adjustment as I learn to mother and try to navigate all that being a mom to two young children (with one on the way!) entails without the support I thought I’d have from my mom.
I also always imagined living near my brothers, who I expected would get married and have families of their own. I love to think about my kids growing up with cousins and having big family dinners every Sunday a la the Braverman clan in Parenthood.
In reality, both of my brothers live on the west coast, and my older brother and I haven’t talked in a year-and-a-half, which is a blog post for another day. Neither one of them will likely ever move back to the Midwest. My husband and I chose to settle here, where we both grew up, in part because both our families are close by. I never imagined that mine would slowly, for all intents and purposes, move elsewhere.
Although my husband became a police officer in 2017 and started on night shift in November of that year (and stayed on night shift all throughout 2018), this past year was the year that I finally realized that this truly is our reality for the foreseeable future. A completely non-traditional schedule, never having him home the same day each week. Taking two rowdy kids to Mass by myself because he works every other Sunday, eating dinner by myself half the nights every month, rarely sleeping in the same bed because of the opposite sleep schedules night shift requires.
2019 was also marked by the rollercoaster of trying to conceive our third child, and feeling so deserted and ignored by God. Month after month of praying intently to get pregnant, being sure I was, then being devastated when I discovered I wasn’t. I had always envisioned our kids being two years apart. I had to mourn the loss of the family spacing I had planned, and accept that God’s timing was better than my own.
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Reconciling Disappointment and Hope
How do we, as Christian women, reconcile the desire to follow God’s will for our lives, while also feeling the very real grief of letting go of the life we envisioned for ourselves?
Without a doubt, God has our best interests at heart, and wants nothing but good for us. We are His beloved daughters. And yet, sometimes the good He desires for us—the outcomes He is orchestrating for us—are entirely invisible from our human perspective. We’re left with our unrealized dreams or shattered hopes and nothing to cling to but the faith that He is who He says He is and that He will not leave us here.
Mourning the life you envisioned for yourself—whether you find yourself far from family, facing a health crisis, in a struggling marriage, parenting a difficult child, longing for friendship or whatever it may be—is true grief and it is a hard season to walk through.
He Knows the Plans He Has
But take heart, sister. God truly is holding you in the palm of His hand. He meant what He said in Jeremiah 29:11:
For I know the plans I have for you’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’
We can rest in those words, knowing we are wholly and completely held in the arms of the One who keeps the whole universe intact.
Practical Steps to Take in the Midst of Mourning
But knowledge and behavior are two different things. So here are some concrete steps you can take if you find yourself in a season of mourning lost dreams or unrealized hopes as you cling to the faith that God will provide something better than you could have ever imagined.
Feel your feelings.
Feelings are real and valid, and stuffing them down or pretending they don’t exist isn’t going to help anything. There’s a fine line between letting yourself feel what you feel, and dwelling on those feelings or making decisions from an emotional place. It is okay to feel sad, angry or disappointed when things don’t turn out the way you hoped. It becomes dangerous to stay in that place of sadness, anger, or disappointment because it can quickly spiral into despair.
Journal your feelings, talk to your spiritual director or counselor or a trusted friend, and let there be an outlet for how you’re feeling so you’re able to move on.
Ask Jesus to open your eyes to the blessings that abound.
Even in the midst of incredibly hard seasons, there is so much goodness to be found. Maybe it’s someone bringing you a meal that you didn’t expect, a handwritten note from a friend, someone sending you $5 on Venmo for a coffee. Maybe it’s a new relationship that’s able to grow stronger because an old one faded away.
In my experience, when I pray that Jesus would open my eyes to specific ways He’s blessing me, even in the midst of my heartache, He always answers.
For instance, my mother-in-law also lives just ten minutes away, and my relationship with her has grown so much with my own mom being far away a lot. I have had to rely on my mother-in-law so much more, and it has been such a blessing to see that relationship blossom in a way it might not have had my mom been here instead.
Find solace in Scripture.
There are so many verses in the Bible that speak to disappointment, despair, grief, and even anger at God. You are not the first person to feel this way, and God is not disappointed by your feelings. In His goodness and love, He gives us wisdom in His Word that we can turn to even in the hardest seasons. What a gift. Do a Google search for “verses when you’re disappointed” and meditate on a couple (or just one!)
He Makes All Things New
For so many of us, life does not look at all like we imagined. Maybe in minor ways, maybe in major ways. But we can all cling to the hope we have that God is in the business of making all things new, and that His will for us is better than anything we could have dreamt up ourselves, even (and especially) when it doesn’t seem like it.
Have you ever had to mourn the life you envisioned? What helped you cling to hope in God’s plan?Mourning the Life You Envisioned #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Valerie Keinsley is a wife to a police officer and mama to two little ones living in central Indiana, where she and her husband are currently doing a massive renovation of their 116-year-old home. She loves WWII novels, decaf chai lattes, and trying to keep houseplants alive. She is striving to find and name beauty in the midst of the mundane, and loves to share her “good lists” on instagram. You can find out more about her here.