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Turning Disappointment into Thanksgiving

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We’ve all felt disappointment. That sinking feeling when things didn’t work out as we had hoped or because our expectations exceeded the actual outcome. It’s a very real feeling that can cause us to experience a large spectrum of emotions: sadness, despair, grief, frustration, anger, thanksgiving.

 

Thanksgiving???

 

Yes, you read that right. We can feel thankful in our disappointment. But how? Why?

Isaiah 55:8 reads, “’My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the LORD. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.’” Our thoughts are nothing like God’s. Isn’t that powerful? In our simple, human mind we can devise all sorts of ideas and plans; we can piece together the perfect storyline for our future and then we expect that God will follow through with our plans because they sound pretty awesome to us. But how silly is that? If we know that God sees everything and has a beautiful plan for our life, why do we keep expecting to write our own story?

Now don’t get me wrong, having expectations can be good. I’m not saying we need to drop all of our expectations in life, but I think we need to examine WHAT our expectations are. Are we expecting to always get our way or are we expecting that God will do amazing things in our life in HIS way? Are we expecting that we’ll be perfect in everything we do or are we expecting to do our very best and then receive grace and help for the rest? The bigger our expectations the more we can find ourselves fighting to stay on a path that may not be where we should be walking. But how do we examine that and determine where we need to be?

 

Prayer.

Stillness.

Reflection.

 

Pray and ask God about how He wants to use you within the situation. Release your need for control of the situation – because, let’s face it, when we expect a situation to have a particular outcome we are essentially trying to have control – and pray that He would give you peace. Search for the goodness and celebrate those things. Then be still and wait to hear what God has to say to you. I know that this is a struggle for a lot of us, myself included; in the busyness of life, it’s hard to sit quietly and wait, but we are told that “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14). It’s in the stillness that God can work.

It is also in stillness and reflection that thanksgiving flows. When you sit quietly for long enough to REALLY see the situation you’re in, you’ll likely begin to notice the amazing way that God has His hand in it all. Instead of seeing what you don’t have, you begin to see all that you DO have. When you lose your job you really are being given a fresh start and new opportunities to disciple. When your physical capabilities become limited you are being given a chance to focus on more inwardly things. When a relationship isn’t working you are being given a chance to learn about yourself and reflect on your contribution to relationships. We can reflect, learn, and grow within every disappointment we experience and be thankful for what we have learned. Every trial and disappointment is a blessing – it’s all in how we look at it.

I love the view that Norman Vincent Peale has about disappointment. He writes, 

“When disappointed, try loving God all the more. Carefully analyze yourself to make certain you are thinking and living in harmony with His spiritual purpose. It could be that you are off the spiritual beam. Instead of dwelling upon the word disappointment, think of it as ‘Hisappointment.’

What you regard as a disappointment may actually be a wonderful new appointment or plan for your life, namely, His plan. Always take a positive view toward disappointment. It could be that through disappointment you are being shown another way or being led toward something different. If you have tried sincerely and prayerfully, and things have not gone well, then look upon disappointment as an opportunity to ask whether you should move under God’s guidance in another direction.”

Thanksgiving within disappointment: it’s not easy but it’s acknowledging that God knows best. So have confidence, my friends. Do not be discouraged but rather encouraged that the path you are walking will take you to places far better than what you can imagine! Be thankful that we have a God that loves us so much that He won’t always give us what we ask for because He has much greater things in store for our future. Find freedom in the surrender of your expectations and joy in the stillness of His presence.  

 

Five Years!

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     My name is Shari Zindler, also known as “Survivor Girl Shari”, and I am celebrating 5 years cancer-free in February!

     Six years ago, in April of 2010, I was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer (IBC). IBC is a rare and aggressive type of breast cancer, which doesn’t show up in a mammogram, spreads quickly, is often mis-diagnosed and has a less than 50% survival rate.

     Thankfully, my diagnosis came quickly - within three and a half weeks - and I was already stage III. I credit my GP with saving my life. He acted quickly, took it seriously and fast-tracked me through all kinds of testing. The following is an email I wrote to my network of prayer warriors, two days before I was diagnosed:

I have been thinking a lot about peace lately - and experiencing it too. As many of you know, I had a double biopsy last Thursday morning. I will get the results by the end of next week, so I am in a waiting game now.

The night before I had my biopsy, I was feeling a little nervous as I had no idea what to expect. Ryan and I were reading from the book of Philippians. I have been mostly calm during this whole process, and have been thankful for God's peace touching my life. So when he read the following verses, I was again struck by the idea of peace.

Phil 4:6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
(NIV)

I was particularly drawn to the phrase "transcends all understanding." It really is something that is hard to grasp and explain intellectually. It really is either there or it isn't. And it is not a passive thing; it's an active thing, GUARDING my heart and mind. That sounds like something I want on my side! So many times I have had people say to me, "wow, you're so calm," "you seem at peace," "I wish I had peace like you do." Well, you know what? It's not about or from me - it's from God. So many times, I have failed to give the reason for my peace, and yet it is written right there in the Bible. It is the peace of God, and it comes and stands guard over my heart and mind, when I bring my concerns to Him and lay them at His feet.
...
So when you notice peace in my life, don't clap me on the back or think how 'together' I am (SO not the case). Rather, give a little nudge of thanks to God instead.


     Two weeks later, I began six months of chemotherapy, followed by a mastectomy, including removal of 14 lymph nodes, 12 of which were cancerous, then five and a half weeks of radiation, which left me with essentially a second degree burn. This was followed by painful tissue expansions, including a rib fracture, and many reconstruction surgeries, which have not ended up being that successful to this day. I have also struggled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder about eight months after my treatment. It is very common for people to feel lost and scared, to wrestle with feelings they have pushed aside. I ended up getting some counseling and also going away on a personal solitary retreat for two nights to the Mark Centre in Abbotsford. I faced all my demons and poured out my anger, fears, and sadness to God. This became a turning point in my healing.

     My kids, Josh and Talia, were nine and 11 at the time, and they became the reason for me to “keep on, keepin’ on.” It was my deep heart’s cry and prayer that this cancer journey thrust upon us would be a faith builder in my kids and not a faith destroyer. I am so thankful that God honored that. One of the hardest things I had to face was what would happen to them if I died. God very tenderly and specifically assured me that He had them in His hands and that they would be okay no matter what. He asked me to trust Him with their lives.

     Yesterday, I spent the day reading through my journal and emails from that time, shedding some tears, and feeling deeply thankful for the love and care Jesus has shown us through the amazing network of friends and family that supported us. As I started on this journey almost six years ago, I was on seven different church prayer chains and had an army of people coming alongside of me and my family; from helping us move two weeks after I was diagnosed, to cleaning my house, bringing meals, driving me to chemo, taking my kids out on fun dates, coming over and hanging out and playing Rockband so I would feel normal, and everything in between. I truly felt the power of people’s prayers and support, especially when the going got tough. Here’s another example of something I wrote in one of my email updates from that time:

“We are thankful for our friends, families, and our faith that God is good, He loves us immeasurably, He hates cancer, and He is sharing this journey with us too – providing peace, strength, and even joy in the midst of it. We couldn’t get through this without you. It makes a huge difference to my healing and outlook to know that at times like this, when the tears fall and my strength falters, you are there holding my arms up while the battle rages around me. You are the Aaron and Hur’s in my life.”

Exodus 17:11-13 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset.  So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

     Here is an excerpt from my 2010 Christmas letter written just after my surgery. Chemo was done, and radiation was about to begin:

I have been thinking a lot lately about joy – not the ‘put on a happy face’ kind. I mean joy that cannot be contained and gushes forth in a wave of thankfulness and sometimes tears – happy tears as I tell my kids. It takes you by surprise and makes you feel truly alive in that moment. But you know what else I have found? That joy goes even deeper and becomes even more surprising when you are in a tough or painful place. Through some tough times in my life, I have come to believe that the heights of our joy are closely tied (in a supernatural God-way), with the depths of our suffering.   Great loss, pain, and darkness are birth places for joy and thankfulness, if we are open to it. This has become true for me this past year as my family and I have waged war on cancer.

     This journey that has led me here now - marking five years since the end of my cancer treatment. It has been a crazy ride, replete with tears, joy, pain, peace, fear and moments of profound beauty too. My story is not over yet, as I have been living with the chronic pain of rheumatoid arthritis for 12 years now and I am likely heading for knee replacement surgery soon. But I know who walks beside me and strengthens me for whatever lays before me, that He uses my brokenness, and that my hope and peace is found in Him. Truly, I cannot imagine facing cancer or any other difficulty without Him.

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