Written by Mackenzie King, Australia
I thought that my decade-long of singledom was drawing to an end. I thought, with a warm glow, that finally, I can tell everyone that I am seeing someone. But I was so very wrong.
For a good half year, I had been trading messages with someone I had just gotten to know. Wisdom gleaned from dating sites and friends had me convinced that he was interested in me—otherwise, why would he be messaging me every day? Surely, there had to be an interest of some sort involved, right?
“He might ask me out any day now,” I thought. Alas, around that same time, the world was preparing to hunker down in isolation for months on end in a bid to curb Covid-19. But I was undeterred. “Maybe something would happen after all of this [Covid-19] blows over. Meantime, we could do fun things online.”
Sadly, I was so wrong. While the messages continued every day, there were no signs of him keen on doing anything with me. Invitations to do fun things online were met with lukewarm responses, or “I’ll get back to you”, while I waited and waited.
Then one day, the truth came out. He’s seeing someone, and they have been chatting online. I took to the news in the only way I could—I sat on my couch and cried for a good half hour, and the tears continued all throughout the night, my pillow drenched in hot, salty tears.
Disappointments (with the person, and with God) and the feelings of betrayal (could have told me earlier!) raked through me. And before I knew it, I slipped into a dark tunnel of sadness that gnawed and pinched at every fiber of my body.
In part, the news was so devastating because I had also spent the earlier months—when Covid-19 wrapped its claws around my plans—grieving over the loss of overseas holidays, attending friends’ weddings, and various sporting activities.
The following days, weeks, and months were difficult. There were days I found waking up incredibly difficult, and when I did, I was in a hot mess with tears spilling down my cheeks, the mere memory of the betrayal enough to tip me over into the pit of despair. I sat in bed, fists balled up in frustration, wondering when I’d ever be okay, and if wounded hearts will ever heal.
It was hard to see it then, but yes, things do get better. And those dark, dark months showed me how incredibly faithful God is, and how He hadn’t left me to languish all by my lonesome self.
If you’re going through a time of hurt and confusion right now, unsure when things will look up, and feeling like the entire world is pitted against you, I hope the little takeaways I have picked up along the way will be of encouragement to you.
1. God’s “no” to our prayers is ultimately for our own good
Throughout my life, I had almost always equated answered prayers as a “yes”. How often do we say, “Thank God for answering our prayers” when our prayers are answered the exact way we want it to be. For instance, the offer of a job at a certain company, the arrival of a much-longed for child, or a glowing health report.
So, yes, while I did pray over the whole thing, adding what I deem to be God-approved words, such as “Your will be done” (when I actually really meant, “My will be done”), God had the final say, which was “no”, and I was crushed.
However, I have learned that God’s “no” doesn’t come out of a heart bent on withholding good things from His children. Scripture says “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). Grappling with God’s “no”s can be mind-boggling and confusing, and even though I knew that God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8), it didn’t stop me from having a sulk.
In this instance, God was saving me from a potentially disastrous relationship. But there’ll also be times when God’s “no” seems to make absolutely no sense, and when that happens, we can cling onto the promise from Romans 8:28 that “in all things God works for the good for those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose”.
Upon reflection, we were very different people with different interests and values, and I was constantly second-guessing my every move made and word said for fear of appearing “less than” in his eyes. In the long run, this would just spell for a very miserable relationship and a very miserable me. So in hindsight, I’m glad God said “no” (even though it doesn’t feel like it’s for my own good at this point).
2. God is with us in our hurts and disappointments
There were days when God felt so far away. Where was the God who promises to be near to the brokenhearted, who binds up all their wounds (Psalm 34:18)? I felt like King David, crying out to God who seemed so distant and silent, ”Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble” (Psalm 10:1).
Then I came across author and pastor Tim Chester, and his book, Enjoying God. In one of the chapters, Tim wrote:
I wonder if you sometimes think Jesus sits in heaven looking down on your life as much as you watch the television. Getting bored? Where’s the remote….maybe you imagine Jesus with a bank of screens showing the lives of all his people, and occasionally He glances at your screen without much interest.
Tim then pointed readers to Luke 7:11-17, about a widow who was grieving the death of her only son. In a culture where men were sole-breadwinners, having first lost her husband and now her son, she was about to be pushed into the edges of poverty. When Jesus saw her, his heart went out to her (Luke 7:13).
“Think about that phrase for a moment: his heart went out to her,” Tim wrote, “The Jesus who saw the widow in Nain is the same Jesus who sees your distress. His heart goes out to you just as it did to the widow. And Jesus says to you through his word and by his Spirit, ‘Don’t cry’.”
Of course, that only brought out a fresh flood of tears from me. Except this time, these were tears of relief, knowing Jesus saw my sadness and His heart “went out to me”. God isn’t silent and uninterested; He was with me in those long nights, saying to me, “Don’t cry”, and He’s saying the same thing to you too.
3. God is the source of all my hope—and He never disappoints
Even as I sat in my mucky, gross pit, I knew God is the source of all my hope. But the glorious hope that everyone talked about felt more like a weak spot of sunlight straining to reach my damp, dark spot.
But I needed God’s hope to shine in my world, so I went on a hope-hunting Scripture. I highlighted Hebrews 6:19, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure,” circled Colossians 1:27, “which is Christ in you, the hope of glory”, and underlined Isaiah 40:31, “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles” to my list.
Eventually, my eyes fell on 2 Corinthians 4:17-18:
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Slowly, I felt the darkness that had me in its grip for so long crumbling away. Yes, my current hurts and disappointments are very real, and these feelings must not be brushed away. However, these troubles are only temporary. I imagine myself bringing these hurts to God’s throne, in all His glory and splendor, and they’ll run away for cover like the cowards and bullies that they are. And God will reach out His hand and wipe my tears, saying “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
Our circumstances may be unfair, our hurt might be latching itself steadfastly to us, and our pain seems happy to overstay its welcome. But can I encourage you (as hard as it might on days) to fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), who keenly feels our hurt and pain (Hebrews 4:15) and listens to our cries for help (Psalm 22:24). Because in the light and glory of God, everything we are suffering on earth will have to flee for cover.
In the words of author and pastor John Hindley in his book, Dealing with Disappointment:
God will not send you a message to cheer you up. He will not merely remove your memory of disappointment. He’ll come to you, and He will use His hand—His divine and wounded hand—to stroke the tears from your battle-smeared face.
And this is the hope of my eternal God that I am clinging on to.