Most of us can recall a time where God gives us something we think will be the end of us, only to find out later that it was the exact thing God used to strengthen our faith—or give us a better portion than we could have hoped for. Maybe it’s the break-up with the person you were certain you would marry. Yet years later you meet another person, one more suited for you and better than you could have hoped for. Maybe it’s the dream job that fell through. Yet after another unlikely interview somewhere else you get the job you never even thought to dream of. God works like that, doesn’t he? Because he is sovereign, and we are not, his hand is in the details we cannot even see, let alone attempt to control.
When God withholds something from us, his purposes are always to give us something better. Of course, we may not perceive it as better at the time, or even in the immediate future. But he is good and we are not. He is wise and we are not. He can see infinitely into the future and we strain to see what is standing right in front of us. This is why we can trust him. I know for myself, some of the darkest moments of feeling as if God has completely abandoned me have turned out to be the moments where I ultimately saw him working in ways I could never have imagined. In the desert he is working to bring water to his thirsty children. In the storm he is our strong refuge who gives us a rainbow on the other side. He does not forget us, even if we feel forgotten sometimes.
For most of my adult life I have lived away from my family. I never thought much about it except on the occasional birthday or holiday when other members of my family were gathered together to celebrate and I was left to experience the party by telephone many miles away. I missed them, but I never thought I would live near them. My life didn’t lend itself to living in their proximity and I was okay with that. When Daniel and I got married, we appreciated the forging of a new family that came with living in a city away from both sets of parents and all of our siblings. It was good for us. When we moved to Arkansas we had a church, friends, and a whole lot of time with each other that made transitioning all the easier. Again, I didn’t think much about my life away from my parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews. I cherished the moments I got with them on holidays, but was content with where God had us.
Then we had twins.
There is something about becoming a momma that makes you long for your own momma, you know? Maybe it was the fact that I was pouring every ounce of energy, sleep, and whatever leftover adrenaline remained on two very tiny, dependent baby boys. I just needed my mom to come rub my head and let me take a nap on her. In God’s kindness, my mom came a lot to help in those early months of the twins’ life. But in the interim periods between her visits to help us I noticed a recurring pattern in my own life.
When it got hard I would threaten to pack up with the twins and move to Florida. If we had a dollar for every time I said I was going to do that in that first year I’m pretty sure we would be rich by now. Some of that particular threat was rooted in my own tendency towards escapism, but some of it was rooted in the fact that for the first time in my adult life I really, really missed being around family. Of course I missed them before this time, but this was different. As I watched my little boys grow up right before my eyes my heart broke knowing that our parents and others would only be able to experience this wonder through pictures and the occasional Skype call.
But there was something more serious in my cries of despair. I was missing the treasure of hope that God was literally laying at my feet nearly every week.
During the entire time the boys were in the NICU (five weeks) our church family brought us meals and gave me rides to the hospital. Because I had a C-section, I couldn’t drive up there every day and Daniel had to keep working, so without the rides I would only be able to see the boys once a day for a couple of hours. Many women in our church sacrificed their time to pick me up, drop me off, and pick me up again two hours later. They gave me rides to the store to pick up essentials we were missing. They brought us meals so I could rest when I wasn’t at the hospital. They were our family in the absence of blood relatives.
As the time has progressed and I am in a different season, my missing of my family has only intensified. But again, we have not been left alone. When Daniel travels, friends come to help me with the boys and keep me company. When we miscarried a few months ago, many women brought us meals as we grieved and recovered.
Yes, we miss our family. Yes, we wish our boys could grow up around our parents and their aunts, uncles, and cousins. But in their stead the church has become our family. They have cried with us, rejoiced with us, and served us like we were their own. If we had received the desires of our heart, namely the seeming ease of being around our own parents, we would have missed this beautiful picture of God’s family being joined together through Christ in our own lives.
God knew what I needed in those days of despair over missing my family. He could see what I couldn’t, that the church was my family. These people who he sent his son for were (and still are) my own through Christ’s blood. And I love them like my own family.