I've experienced a disappointment this week, but DINO — Discouragement Is Not an Option. Why should you and I have Dino-like joy in spite of disappointment?
- Disappointments create endurance. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (James 1:2)
- Disappointments create patience. being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, (Colossians 1:11)
- Disappointments create understanding of the Scriptures. For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)
- Disappointments create empathy. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Cor. 1:3-4)
- Disappointments create faith. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:11-12)
- Disappointments create hope. Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.” (Isaiah 49:23b)
- Disappointments create kinship with Christ. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. (2 Cor. 1:5)
- Disappointments create greater glory. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:6-7)
I was in my third month of expecting my fourth child when I had a very disturbing dream. I dreamt that I miscarried in very vivid detail. I remember looking in the mirror the morning after, feeling satisfied that all was well. I had seen my doctor several weeks before and he said I was fine.
A short time later, however, that dream came true. How good of God to prepare me for one of the toughest times of my life using a dream. The OB on call reassured me that bleeding could be perfectly normal, but in my heart of hearts, I knew it wasn’t. Not for me. At the hospital, the ultrasound technician confirmed that my baby had stopped growing four weeks previously. There was nothing to do but go home and wait for the loss to be complete. I didn’t feel comfortable doing anything surgically. I had driven myself to the hospital and my husband had met me after we got someone to watch the kids. I felt completely alone when I got behind the wheel and turned on the radio. The lyrics playing on my favorite Christian radio station were, “When you feel like you’ve lost it all, Jesus will still be there.”
I was comforted and really thought that knowing for sure I had lost a baby would be the worst of it. It wasn’t. The next several weeks brought excruciating pain as I miscarried at home alone, a hormonal roller coaster that made PMS seem refreshing, and painful questions about God, relationships, and the future. Even while in the middle of the valley, I knew that I was there for a reason. I called my editor and asked to write a pamphlet for Lutheran Hour Ministries called “Losing a Baby Without Losing Hope.” My experience and the process of writing opened my heart to so many women I knew who had miscarried. I even called a friend who lost a baby years before and apologized for not being as sensitive as I should have been.
One of the recommendations I made in the pamphlet was to find a way to memorialize the baby. I knew I wanted a Christmas ornament, but I hadn’t yet chosen one when I spoke at a church on the subject of grief and loss. (As an aside, that speech happened to be scheduled the day after 9/11.) I was given a gift as a presenter–an angel ornament. I am comforted looking at that ornament every year as I decorate the tree, but I really look forward to seeing my angel in heaven one day.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
My dad changed dramatically when he retired. He had worked his entire life and he was truly happy when his time was his own. He quit smoking after five decades and spent lots of time fishing and spoiling my youngest brother. It was heartbreaking, when it seemed my dad had a new lease on life, to learn that he had COPD. He eventually required full-time oxygen.
I had a hard time watching my father, who had never been afraid of anything, have panic attacks when he couldn't breathe. Traveling and any activities that required him to walk became nearly impossible. At one point, he developed pancreatitis and was given a 50/50 chance of making it. He survived, but I had been warned. My dad was mortal.
Warning or no, I wasn't prepared the evening I got my mother's phone call telling me that my dad was near death once again. I cried and cried and kept saying, "I'm not ready. I'm just not ready." I had recently developed a habit of asking God to communicate with me through His Word. I begged God to let my father live. I loved him so much and I wasn't even sure of his salvation. I opened the Bible randomly and read from Isaiah 38:16, 18
You restored me to health
and let me live.
For the grave cannot praise you,
death cannot sing your praise;
those who go down to the pit
cannot hope for your faithfulness.
I was absolutely convinced that the Lord had heard my prayer and was giving my dad more time. I wasn't disappointed. My dad recovered. He had to move to a nursing home to get the care that he needed, but he never complained. He seemed to enjoy teasing the nurses and staff. I used the extra time with my dad to write him a letter explaining the Gospel and expressing my hope that he had received Christ as his Savior.
During a visit following my letter, my dad said, "Let's talk about what you wrote." He told me that he believed in God and had been baptized in infancy. I still had my doubts. My dad was a humble, generous man, but he had never said anything about God. Was it just because he was quiet? Or did he lack an authentic faith?
My dad and I had a routine. I called him at the nursing home the same night every week. On occasions when I had something else planned, I almost always forgot to call him until the next day. Dad was never upset when I forgot to call, though I always felt awful. I knew he looked forward to our talks. I did, too!
One evening, I realized that I was supposed to be at church the next night, which was my regular night to call Dad. I decided to call him right then. I joked with him that I was really on top of things this time and hadn't forgotten until it was too late. We did the usual chit chatting. I told him about our new mini-van with the remote control door. I said I was walking around like the Queen of Sheba, expecting every door to open for me at the touch of a button. He laughed. He told me that a pastor had come and talked with him for a long time. My dad said, "And you know what? I agreed with everything he said." I was so happy to hear that. I was sure that the pastor had shared the Gospel with my dad and my dad once again affirmed that he believed.
The next evening I was getting ready to go to my church meeting when my mom called. My dad had had a heart attack, she said. They didn't think he was going to make it. In that moment, I knew he wouldn't. When I returned home from church, I got the phone call that confirmed it. My dad was gone. Although I felt ready in comparison to the previous time his life was in danger, I still felt like someone was trying to rip my heart from my chest. I am so thankful my husband was there to hold me up.
Even in my grief, I recognized how loving a God I serve. I'm fully convinced that He moved me to call my father a day early and made sure that I knew my father's salvation was secure. The Lord continued to comfort me as I attended a memorial at the nursing home where he lived. The staff seemed more broken up than I was! Today I continue to be comforted with a vision of my father living in perfect health and peace with the Father of us all.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)