This time of year has always been tough for Joe. And every year I better understand just a little bit of his struggle. Instead of having a mother to honor and cherish, he only has memories of the abuse he suffered under a mother’s care. A stark reminder of what he never had and what could have been but was not.
It’s that feeling of missing a limb that he never had, the I just want to know what it must feel like, to have that. Then the, what is wrong with me, that God didn’t see me fit to bless me with something so basic? And knowing that you can’t go back. No matter how much healing Joe has experienced, he can’t get a do-over. He’ll never know what it’s like to to truly be a child. He’ll never know a mother’s love.
Is Joe’s longing for that missing limb wrong? The desire to have experienced that kind of relationship? The desire for a carefree childhood free of fear and pain?
Certainly not. The desire to have a loving mother is a wonderful and healthy desire. Just like the desire to experience a fulfilling marriage, or to experience the joy of having a child. All of those loves we can experience are beautiful gifts from God. Some of the Lord’s very best blessings.
However, to be born into a family where we will be always be loved, or to have the family of our dreams… it’s just not something God has promised us, although those are all good things. Scripture is full of broken, messed up families. People fail us miserably.
But God does tell us to rightly order our desires. To seek Him first. To find our greatest joy in relationship with Him. And all these things things will be added unto you. The healthy, joyous relationships we can experience in this life are additions. Overflows of the greatest love He has first given us.
I’ve been witness to Joe’s healing over the years and part of that has been him rightly ordering those desires. He knows his desire is not wrong, but it can’t be His first and only desire. The– if only I had- cannot define him. Period. He hasn’t lived his life trying to fill that void of the never-had and what-could-have-been with bitterness. His healing has been has found in Jesus, trusting Him fully. Believing that He has a plan. The Lord gives, the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord. The whole of my life is, and will always be, in His hands. As Paul David Tripp writes,
The objects of most of our desires are not evil. The problem is the way they tend to grow. and the control they come to exercise over our hearts. Desires are a part of human existence, but they must be held with an open hand. All human desire must be held in submission to a greater purpose, the desires of God for His kingdom. This is what Christ expressed in the Garden of Gethsemane when he cried, “Not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42).
How easy is it for any of us to only focus on what we don’t have and what could have been? It’s a hard, hard mentality to overcome. I struggle with that too in other areas of my life. Letting one right desire eclipse what should be my greatest desire, to know God and please Him. Everything else follows that.
Joe has also risen above the if-only-I-had with looking at all-I-do-have. As much as he can be overcome with suffering, Joe is just as overwhelmed with all of God’s goodness in His life. I’ve seen Joe graciously carry both pain and gratitude simultaneously. This really hurts, but God is still good.
Joe never, ever expected to have a functional, happy marriage that we now share. He never thought he’d amount to anything. He never even bothered to dream of being a father. So when he looks around at all God has given him, He sees it all as blessings, not entitlements. He knows to take nothing for granted because everything on this earth is passing away.
The blessings on this earth are so temporary that we can’t put our faith in them or expect them to satisfy. But the love of God never fails. And when we trust in that unfailing love of God, we have everything we need and desire.